At the end of November, 1819, two Portuguese members of the Congregation of the Mission (Father Antônio Ferreira Viçoso and Father Leandro Rebelo arrived in Rio de Janeiro and in 1820 estabished the first mission in Caraça (Brazil). From the shrine in Caraça, the Vincentian mission expanded and slowly encompassed various regions of Brazil. Now in 2020, the members of the Congregation of the Mission in the Brazilian Province celebrate the 200th anniversary of their presence and service in this country.
From 1820 until 1970 the confreres were involved in the formation of the diocesan clergy, in the promotion of popular missions and in the education of young men and women, with remarkable dedication and selfless love to the Church.
The members of the Congregation administered various diocesan seminaries (large and small) throughout the country and thus, collaborated in the formation of some 2,600 priests. In Caraca and in various cities, the members of the Congregation organized missionary centers where teams were formed that preached popular missions. This ministry contributed to the evangelization of people and affirmed the faith of the people. In the schools and seminaries that were administered by the Congregation, a great number of young people, most from poor families, benefited socially and culturally from the education that was provided them.
As a result of the Second Vatican Council, the ministry of the confreres experienced a series of changes and entered a period of crisis: the confreres no longer directed the diocesan seminaries; the popular missions ceased; the Province experienced a great vocational crisis (many priests and brothers abandoned the Congregation and the seminaries of the Congregation were closed).
The Vincentian mission became more diversified and took on new meaning. A new configuration was achieved.
At the present time, the sixty confreres of the Province have exerted themselves in achieving a creative fidelity which has emphasized missionary service among the poor. In a very modest way the members of the Provinces are present to and in the Church in various localities and they minister in parishes, (especially in poor neighborhoods), providing retreat opportunities, formation of candidates for the Congregation, occasional minister with the diocesan clergy (retreats, seminars, spiritual direction, etc.), popular missions, missions ad gentes, formation of the laity, education of young people, collaboration with the Vincentian Family and collaboration in the promotion of social projects with the poor.
From its beginning up to the present time, the mission of the Congregation in Brazil has relied on the effort of more than 550 priests and brothers (from Brazil and from outside Brazil) as well countless volunteers who have collaborated in this shared mission. The members of the Congregation praise God for these 200 years of ministry in Brazil. With humility and renewed missionary zeal they are willing to continue their journey of mission and charity as they renew their commitment to serve those who are more poor and in need.
PFr Eli Chaves dos Santos, CM