Provincial Visit to Brazil Custody

confraternization 2

The Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., Minister Provincial, celebrates Mass with the friars of Convento e Paróquia São Sebastião, in Araruama, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil (on March 31, 2016)

Photo of Friars, Postulants, and Apirants for whom Fr. James celebrated Mass in Portuguese at our Church of Saint Sebastian in Araruama on 31 March.

Friars, Postulants, and Apirants for whom Fr. James celebrated Mass in Portuguese at our Church of Saint Sebastian in Araruama


Over 100 lay associations of Catholic families, living in voluntary poverty, engage themselves in the Church’s social mission. In Araruama, Friar James visited with Anderson and his wife Aparacida (pictured with their six daughters and neighbors) who oversee a therapeutic farm for the rehabilitation of youth with alcohol and drug abuse problems.

Rio de Janeiro - 3 April 2016 (4)

Fr. Cláudio Vieira Pereira, OFM Conv. and Fr. James at the cloister of the Poor Clares of Rio de Janeiro, whom they visited on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Petropolis - 2-3 April 2016 (34)

On Divine Mercy Sunday, the Minister Provincial celebrated Mass in Portuguese for the nine postulants and aspirants at our Custody’s St. Bonaventure Formation House (Convento e Casa de Formação São Boaventura) in Petrópolis, Brazil. He was joined by the Custos (Custódio Vicar), Fr. Ronaldo Gomes da Silva Pároco, OFM Conv.

Excerpt from an April 6, 2016 letter to the friars, by Fr. James:
Having returned yesterday from our Custody in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I can happily report that Our Lord’s Easter Rising is being mirrored in the upbeat accomplishments of Rio’s new Vicar-Custos (Ronaldo Gomes da Silva Pároco) and his administration… My week with the Rio friars affirmed their resilience on several levels – fraternal, economical, formational, canonical, administrative, and apostolic.  A spirit of optimism prevails, as next year’s Custodial Chapter looms.
The year 2016 marks the 70th Anniversary of the Order’s presence in Brazil… Rio stands as the first implantatio Ordinis in all of South and Central America, where we now have fraternities in 15 countries.  The Order will convoke a Congress in July to commemorate the Order’s 70th Anniversary on this continent.  Preparations for the Congress are well underway.  The Custos and his Definitory are working with the Assistant General for FALC (Federación Conventuales America Latina) to cover every detail.  There will be 80 invited friars from all over the world converging on Rio, including the Minister General and his General Definitory.  The friars took me to the Regina Coeli Spirituality Centre, where we shall be hosting the Congress.  The facility is simple and homey, with a welcoming Mother Superior (“Irma Aparecida”) whose heart is as big as herself.  Our Franciscan Congress will take place less than a month before the Rio Olympics.
…Since the friars were celebrating the Easter Octave, they organized a fraternal day of relaxation at “Leisure Island,” a resort owned by one of the parishioners in Araruama.  We had the whole park to ourselves for swimming, boating, enjoying the small zoo replete with flamingos, black swans, toucans, araras (macaws), ostriches, and peacocks.
…After years with a dearth of vocations, the Custody is now enjoying a resurgence of new vocations.  The recent decision of the new Vicar-Custos and his Definitory to re-open the formation house in Petrópolis is proving to be farsighted.  We now have 9 aspirants and postulants in Petrópolis.  I celebrated Mass for them on Divine Mercy Sunday.  During their one year of aspirancy and three years of postulancy, our students attend the Catholic University in Petrópolis,… the former “Imperial City” of Brazil… the students often use the formation community’s single computer to access websites of the Order.  Among their favorite discoveries was a photo of Bishop Gregory Hartmayer (of Savannah) throwing out the pitch at a Georgia baseball match.  (Bishop) Gregory now has rock-star and sports icon status among our Brazilian aspirants and postulants!
At one point during my visit, (Friar) Ronaldo took me to meet a gentleman named Anderson who founded a lay Catholic community.  The commune, named “Divina Cruz,” comprises several families, who live in voluntary poverty, and engage in farmwork and therapeutic care for young adults fighting addictions.  Anderson and his wife Aparecida have six daughters.  Prayer, work, community, charity, service, and poverty are the hallmark of their Catholic lives. Joy radiates.
…In terms of future development and financial solidarity, the friars have been seeking ways to exercise good stewardship under the careful scrutiny of the Custodial Bursar (Pároco e Ecônomo Cust), Friar Ariel who has a fine working relationship with the Province Treasurer.  One of our financial initiatives includes the Order’s property in Andrelandia, where we now have paying tenants renting some of the facility of our former St. Bonaventure College and Seminary.  For some years the friars were absent from Andrelandia.  In the past three months, we have undertaken the re-establishment of our presence at the site, with an experimental “hermitage” fraternity.  The local folks in Andrelandia have been thrilled to welcome back the friars.  They have an enormous esteem for the late missionary friar from Massachusetts, Fr. Martin de Porres Ward, OFM Conv.  I had no time to visit Andrelandia on this trip, but heard all about it, and shall stop there during my canonical visitation later this year.
…On my last day in Rio, two of the friars and I visited with a benefactor businessman, to discuss future development projects that have some realistic possibilities.  The friars are trying to work towards financial self-reliance at the same time as they are discerning the needs of the local Church, and ways in which our Franciscan charism can be put at the service of the greater community.  To say that I was impressed by this visionary outlook would be an understatement.
No visit with the Brazilian friars would be complete without their taking the Minister Provincial to visit the Poor Clare nuns in Rio.  The legendary Mother Pacifica has been the Abbess there for 46 years.  She still rules the roost, albeit with a velvet glove… Before I left, the nuns said a prayer together – and sang – for all of the friars of the Custody and Province.  With the likes of Mother Pacifica and the Poor Clares supporting us, is it any wonder that the Friars of Rio are on the upswing?
Your brother James ~ 6th April 2016