A true demonstration of faith and devotion. Such words describe the three days (May 5-7) of the 51st Pilgrimage of the Vincentians to Aparecida (Brazil). In every activity, at every moment, in every prayer, thousands of Vincentians were moved, sang, danced and, above all, prayed to the Blessed Mother. The theme chosen for this year could not have been more in line with what was seen: “Mary, renew our vocational commitment to the poor”. In the Mother’s House there was no shortage of prayers and expressions of love for her and for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP).
According to the individual responsible for the Organizing Committee of the Pilgrimage, the First Vice-president of the National Council of Brazil (CNB), Elisabete Maria Castro, when speaking about the fifty-first Pilgrimage stated: we are referring to an intense weekend, full of spirituality, encounters and reunions. Aparecida was visited by tens of thousands of Vincentians reviving and reliving their charism, renewing their commitment to the poor. We saw Vincentians from all over the country with the same objective of living, thanking and asking for the blessings of the Blessed Mother. Still amazed by the experience of the 51st Pilgrimage, we look forward to the good fruits that SSVP will reap. Our great desire is that all that was lived, heard and shared can be put into practice within our Conferences so that we have a stronger, more united SSVP, in search of our goal which is to serve our Lords and Masters in a better and more efficient manner.
The program began on Friday, May 5, on the Rosary Road, with the recitation of the Rosary. Along the way, five children dressed up as Our Lady of Aparecida, the Miraculous Virgin, the Mystical Rose, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Fatima accompanied the pilgrims during the prayer led by the CNB Spiritual Advisor, Father Emanoel Bedê. At the end of the event, the thousands of Vincentians turned on the flashlights of their cell phones and aa amazing light show took place in our very midst.
On Saturday, the activities began with the Way of the Cross on the Hill of the Cross, which was filled with Vincentians. Babies, children, youth, adults, seniors and people in wheelchairs walked through the 14 stations illustrating Jesus’ Calvary. To the sound of the Ozanam Band and the preaching of Father Emanoel, what was seen was a demonstration of faith and love, charged with the emotion of the pilgrims. This year, nine young people dressed up as Our Lady of Aparecida, handed out yellow rosebuds to the pilgrims. This gesture produced tears in the eyes of many pilgrims. The participants, unlike other years, were able to carry the cross up the hill. This participation began in a very special way: little Vicente, 10 years old, who came from Londrina to Aparecida, was determined to start the walk and said excitedly: I will climb the whole hill without getting tired and I will carry the cross as far as I can.
The program continued with the opening of the “Exhibition of the 150 years of the SSVP in Brazil”, at the Event Center “Padre Vitor Coelho de Almeida”, which brought together objects, such as the first minutes of the first Conference, relics and photos of the history of the SSVP. The Exhibition was organized and conceived by Elisabete Maria Castro, Maria Margarete Santos, Rodrigo Rodrigues Pereira, Rogério Torres Carpanez and Samuel Godoy da Silva. “To participatein the 2023 Pilgrimage celebrating 150 years of SSVP in Brazil is to remember a history written over the years by thousands of Conferences, members, associates and benefactors who made and perpetuate the legacy of love, service and charity to the poor in Brazil. This Exhibition wants to show us, through each and every one of the exhibits, the greatness, importance and richness of the human and sacred values of the SSVP Brazil in the great Network of Charity dreamed and initiated by Blessed Frederic Ozanam. Márcio José da Silva, President of the CNB, stated: This exhibition is intended to encourage and guide us so that our United Works, Councils and Conferences not only redouble their concern, zeal and care for the poor in their regions, but also strive to set up preserve and make know to other Vincentians and wider population the history and beauty of the SSVP, which exists to “serve in Hope.
CCA is SHOW!
Children and teenagers from the seven regions literally put on a show throughout the entire pilgrimage. The talent show captured the attention of parents and visitors who were at the Event Center during the afternoon. In total, 180 children and teens participated in the Talent Show in 26 performances. In addition to the usual presentations, the novelty this year was “Se Vira nos 51”, in which the children had only 51 seconds to perform.
On Sunday, the crowning of Mary during the Regular Celebration was also the responsibility of the Children and Young Adult Conferences (CCA). And once again, the children presented a spectacle of beauty, creativity and emotion: 35 “Virgin Marys” ” occupied” the stage for the coronation, which was acted by another child and also animated by the sound of the CCAs.
In total, the CCAs of Brazil brought 252 children and adolescents to the Pilgrimage. Maria Aparecida Peteck, the National Coordinator of CCS, explains: It was wonderful to welcome our children so they could share their gifts at the Talent Show. For the first time, we had representatives from all seven Regions. Our children are creative. This year we did not have the theater category, which they love so much, and they found a way to put it into dance and music. We have to thank the Metropolitan, Central and Local councils and especially the coordinators, who encouraged and brought the children to the event. This year we also proposed that each Metropolitan Council bring a child dressed as Our Lady and so it happened and it was most beautiful.
The representatives of the 11 countries that attended the “III SSVP Territorial Meeting of South America” followed the three days of the Pilgrimage and all its activities. In addition, they were able to exchange experiences with 200 Vincentian presidents during the workshop “Connecting the Network of Charity,” which took place on Saturday afternoon.
The Young Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
The Vincentian Youth provided moments of great emotions, learning and integration. The Ozanam Festival brought together 14 presentations (music and dance) `of young people from the seven regions. There was baião, xaxado, forró, sertanejo, samba, pagode, axé, funk, MPB and religious music. The young people created a true cultural mix for the enjoyment of those who attended. The novelty in all of this were the “stations” that were erected in which each region presented some aspects of their culture through food, clothing, handicrafts, musical instruments, and living statues representing historical figures. There was a much creativity in bringing the participants to each corner of Brazil.
The National Coordinator of the Youth Commission, Geyson Tôrres, stated: “The Festival was prepared with much love and affection. Last year I was able to visit the dome of the Basilica and there I saw that there are pots with soil from all the States, water from the main rivers of Brazil. In other words, there is a little piece of all Brazil in the Mother’s House. It caught my attention and I had the idea of bringing a little piece of each Region of the SSVP to the Mother House. Thus the idea of the “stations” and the cultural presentations was born. We had a wonderful diversity of cultures through dance, music, food, crafts. It was very beautiful to see the commitment of our young people in preparing the “stations” and the various presentations, with so much love. There were many hands during the festival and this is wonderful, because when we come together we can do spectacular things. The young people showed their strength in the Vincentian family, whether on stage, at the “stations/booths” or in the audience.”
The Last Day
The Event Center, with a capacity for 15,000 people, was filled on Sunday with the colors of the seven Vincentian regions. The day began with the entrance of the 11 countries that had gathered during the Territorial Meeting and the Pilgrimage.
In his opening speech, the president of the CNB, Márcio, summarized: “As we remember and commemorate the 219 anniversary of the birth of Frederic, the 190th anniversary of the foundation of the Society, the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Society in Brazil, I wish to base our celebration on the four fundamental pillars of our Vincentian journey: the New Rule of the SSVP in Brazil; the mysticism of the visit to the poor; Mary, renewing our vocational commitment to the poor; and the Love of God”.
The Territorial Vice-President for Latin America, Julio Cesar Marques de Lima, highlighted in his words the greatness of the SSVP in the world and in Latin America. The President General of the International General Council, Renato Lima de Oliveira, highlighted the importance of the Pilgrimage in Brazil for the SSVP in the world and since this was the last major event in Brazil, he bid farewell to the Brazilians as President of the International General Council. He made an appeal to the participants: “When you are called to assume a position in the Society, whatever it may be, go forth and participate in the elections. There is nothing better than serving the Society and God will provide you with the ability to succeed.
The former president of the CNB, fellow member Emilia Fernandes Figueiró Jerônimo, spoke about the theme of the Pilgrimage and stressed the importance of renewing the charism in the Mother’s House. “While we are here on pilgrimage, thousands of people are being cared for by other Vincentians throughout our country. We have to strengthen our faith and not let this charism be destroyed.
The animation of the feast was provided by the band Ministério Penamar, which also presented for the first time the winning song of the Cultural Contest of the Thematic Year, “A visita”, by fellow member Heverton Alves dos Santos, vocalist of the band.
The CNB president received the first degree relic of the youngest Vincentian Blessed, Henri Planchat, from Brrother Agenor, a Religious of St. Vincent de Paul.
The Pilgrimage ended with the Eucharist, celebrated by Father Emanoel, who was accompanied by several priests and deacons. In his closing comments, member Bete announced the date of next year’s pilgrimage: March 1-3, 2024.