The much awaited 50th national pilgrimage of the members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida (Brazil) took place between the days of July 8-10. During those three days, this largest Vincentian event brought together thirteen thousand people as the Marian Shrine: Sunday there were about ten thousand, the event center Padre Vitor Coelho was filled to capacity with some nine thousand people during the celebration of the Eucharist.
With the theme: under the Mother’s cloak: cultivate the mission of caring, the pilgrimage brought together thousands of people who participated in the various activities with much enthusiasm, faith and devotion to Mary. Elizabete María Castro Bete, First Vice-President of the Brazilian National Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and one of the organizers of the pilgrimage stated: After two years of the pandemic during which time there was no pilgrimage, this weekend was an opportunity to rediscover the Shrine. It was wonderful to see so many people, young and old, whole families united together in giving witness to their faith. There were representatives from every region of the country and many people traveled for days in order to be present for this celebration.
The participants were moved by various activities. The celebration began on Friday with praying the Rosary led by Father Emanoel Bedé who was accompanied by a young woman who represented Mary. The rosary concluded with a burst of color in honor of the Blessed Mother.
The Saturday schedule was intense. The day began with the Way of the Cross and thousands of members of the Society participated in this event. Animated by the musical group, Vincente’s Soul, the people walked along the path that led to Jesus’ death on the cross. The preaching of Father Emanoel set the tone and also presented a challenge to the pilgrims: to look for ways to revive the Vincentian charism and thus, change one’s way of acting. Music, prayer, preaching and reflection gave witness to all who viewed this gathering of pilgrims. Fifteen individuals, dressed like Frederic Ozanam, distributed water to the pilgrims (thus giving witness to Frederic’s call to serve those in need).
The afternoon was dedicated to an Exposition about the fifty years of this event. The historical overview included several panels that narrated the history of the pilgrimage throughout all these years … the T-shirts from the various years were on display.
During the afternoon there was also a Talent Show that included participants from the Children and Adolescents Conferences of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. There were 16 presentations, which included the participation of 110 children and adolescents from the various regions of the country. The participants danced, sang, performed and ultimately revealed that the future of the Society in Brazil is in very good hands. The public was invited to reflect on Ozanam’s teachings and on the Vincentian responsibility with regard to service on behalf of the poor.
In the evening there was a presentation of the Ozanam Cultural Festival of Vincentian Youth, accompanied by Vicente’s Soul musical group. The young members of the Society were very animated, reaffirmed their charism and sang and danced throughout the night.
Sunday was the time of the feast day celebration … a celebration prepared with much love and care, and included the solemn entrance of carvings of Our Lady, Saint Vincent and Frederic Ozanam, dances, a tribute to various individuals who made significant contributions to the history of the pilgrimage and then a presentation by Eduardo Marques about the theme of the Pilgrimage: Under the sacred cloak of the Mother: cultivate the mission of caring! One of the most applauded moments was a presentation on the heart of Mary by the young people of the Society… a presentation that touch the participants.
Julio Marques, Vice-President of the International General Council for South America, spoke about the joy of participating in the pilgrimage after a two year pause and highlighted the importance of the ministry that is done by the members in the respective Conferences. He also emphasized the fact that we are presently experiencing some difficult times. People are hungry and unemployed. These situations demand the presence of the Society. The young founders of the Society knew how to respond during a difficult period in French history; now we challenged to respond to the present situation in an effective manner.
Márcio José da Silva, President of the National Council in Brazil, invited the pilgrims to be thankful for the mission that has been entrusted to them and thankful for being able to participate in this pilgrimage. The theme of this pilgrimage reminds us of the need to be caring, to take care of ourselves, to care for others, to take care of our brothers and sisters, to take care of our neighbor. Caring is a concrete gesture of love, a gesture of charity. It is in this spirit that we leave our homes in order to come to the home of Our Mother where we pray together, give thanks, offer praise, celebrate, and commemorate these fifty years of pilgrimage. Throughout these years many individuals have experienced a profound change in their lives, have lived moments of intense prayer, have met together as men and women, brothers and sisters, people on a common journey. How much joy have we experienced during all these events: the way of the cross, praying the rosary, song and dance and so many other events! Without a doubt this is one of the largest Vincentian gatherings in the world and we gather under the sacred mantle of our Mother in order to renew our commitment to cultivate the mission of caring for one another. We come here each year not only to touch with our feet this sacred ground that nourishes our faith and devotion to the Virgin, but also to renew our vocational commitment to reach out to the encounter with those persons who are most poor.
The president went on to say: The fact that we are here together on pilgrimage as members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul means that we are willing to respond to the call to participate actively and weekly … I repeat weekly … in home visits to families assisted by our respective Conferences. We must be present and participate actively and weekly in the meetings of the Conferences and their other activities. We need to have the courage, enthusiasm and determination to move into deeper waters. We must not be content with simply distributing the basic food basket, which is so necessary for many families. We must also consider bold actions that transforms and improve the living conditions of those who depend on the food in those baskets. It is necessary and urgent to think about changing the structures that generate poverty with actions and projects that bring human, financial and social dignity to the poor whom we help, so that our help is liberating and does not cause dependency.
The pilgrimage concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Father Emanoel and accompanied by various priests. Throughout the pilgrimage Father Emanoel reminded people about the fact that the church is established for the poor and ought to be lived with the poor … those words gave a true lesson of charity to the participants. Another member of the Society narrated the history of the Society in Brazil and some young members made a presentation about devotion to Mary in Brazil.
Reflecting on this very special event, the president of the CNB said: This is an unforgettable moment of faith, of devotion to the Mother of God, of dedication. For two years we have waited for this event and today some thirteen thousand people from all over the country have come to Aparecida. It has been a beautiful celebration, exceeding all expectations!
The President then announced that the pilgrimage would take place next year: May 5-7, 2023. Let us maintain alive in our hearts the joy of this pilgrimage and next year gather together and offer homage to our Blessed Mother.