By Ona Kiser
First, we want to thank you all for your generous support of this new project, Friends of Campos. Our plans for helping out with some infrastructure projects got set aside as the pandemic wrecked the flow of support from the parishes that normally sustains the seminary. Thanks to your charity we were able to make several donations to help keep the seminarians in food and soap.
The seminarians are on summer break now, visiting their families. The new school year starts up at the end of January (the school year runs January to December here). God willing, I’ll be heading out for a visit shortly after the feast of Candelária (February 2). That’s also the feast day of the patron saint of Brazil, Our Lady of Aparecida. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen everyone in person!
We were happy to celebrate the ordination of Father Kelvin in December (see previous post): a joyful conclusion to a rather difficult year. There were also a few minor news stories from around the region:
The end of the school year is a time for public presentation and defense of monographs by the students finishing philosophy (the end of the third year). The successful presentation and defense of the monograph is required to continue on to theology. In the photo, Eduardo Salomão takes the stand. His monograph was about Natural Law in the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. He called the subject "awesome but difficult" but said he found the preparation rewarding, especially as the subject is very current.
A calf auction was held recently in Bom Jesus. The sale raised funds to help pay for the new solar panel installation on the Saint Joseph’s Home for the Elderly, affiliated with the Apostolic Administration. I have sometimes purchased raffle tickets for calf raffles, just on a whim, but have yet to win a calf. I live in the city, so a calf is not much use to me, but if I ever do win one it will make a good story. Brazilian cattle are super adorable, with big eyes and floppy ears.
I’ll just add a special mention of two of the oldest residents of Saint Joseph’s: Eliza, who is 108 and Maria de Lourdes, who is 110! Here they are in their Christmas wish list photos which the sisters posted so area residents could bring gifts.
Happy New Year! God repay you all for your continued prayers and support.
December has brought us a new priest, Father Kelvin, who was ordained on December 12th, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Due to the renewed outbreaks of Covid-19 here in Brazil the ordination was held semi-privately, mostly attended by Kelvin’s family. Dom Fernando, bishop of the Apostolic Administration, was one of several clergy in the Administration who were recently afflicted with Covid and he was still in quarantine on the scheduled date (though he had a relatively mild case and has now recovered).
Dom Antônio, an auxiliary bishop from the archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro was kind enough to substitute. He proved a good student, too, learning the old rite in two days of training. He was reportedly overjoyed to do the ordination.
Following are some photos for your enjoyment. Please do continue to pray for us here in Brazil!
Brazil maintains some fragments of formal manners such as I’ve never encountered in the United States. One is asking a blessing from superiors. It may be done by children asking the blessing of their parents in the morning or by children lining up to ask their school teacher’s blessing in the morning. I’ve been asked for my blessing by my godchildren, and even by children on the street in traditional communities. I’ve asked elderly ladies for their blessing and received, in all solemnity, “May God bless you” in return. It’s one of many gracious gestures that seem like drops of beauty in a world that tends to informality, hurried interactions, and disrespect.
Another, often done in conjunction with asking a blessing, is kissing of the back of the other person’s right hand. While this is a ritual gesture in the traditional Mass, it is also normal when meeting clergy on the street or at the parish, at least in the more traditional communities. In fact, it spills over again into the greeting of superiors in general, with the formal asking of a blessing from ones mother, an elderly lady, grandpa, a teacher, a religious superior or other paternal figure often accompanied by a kiss to the back of the right hand.
Another delight is the use of formal address not only with superiors, but also among equals. I’ve discovered this custom in convents, seminaries and monasteries (sometimes even in those that do not celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass). It, too, is something that seems to bring a dignity and graciousness to what would otherwise be banal activities, from passing the salt, sir, to reaching for a pen, ma’am. In Portuguese this formality is conveyed by a use of the third person instead of second person: “Would the lady like more water? Might the gentleman pass me the salt?”
All of this may seem fussy. I initially found it so strange that I scolded some young people at church for speaking formally to me. To my astonishment they begged me to allow them to keep the custom, as it was for them a small gesture of dignity and beauty in a world full of ugliness and disrespect. With time I’ve come to see it as part and parcel of the cultivation of a life filled with thoughtfulness and consideration, an awareness of social structure, and an honoring of the dignity of guests and superiors. In fact, I find it just as apt when addressing people least likely to be treated with any dignity at all: figuring they could use a drop of courtesy more than most of us.
I do wonder what will happen to the hand kissing, a gesture that has been quite suddenly suppressed by the fears around covid, here at the end of the year 2020. It’s strange to see Brazilians in general greet each other at a distance, making awkward nods or bows which fail to convey the enthusiasm of the more usual greetings of hugs and kisses. That said, the verbal politenesses are not susceptible to germs, so have some chance of carrying on, God willing. And in daily life the attempts at new kinds of greeting seem to be losing traction, with girlfriends and moms slowly reverting to their usual kisses, and men to their handshakes and back-slaps.
We didn’t anticipate this year’s economic upheaval when we launched Friends of Campos. But not a few months later here we are, with parishes and Church institutes barely keeping their heads above water. Economic hardships have affected nearly every sector, many small businesses have closed, and many people have been out of work, at least temporarily. The funding and direct donations of food the seminary in Campos received from the parishes dropped by two-thirds, leaving them low on food and basic cleaning supplies.
We asked your help and your response was immediate and very generous. We are all very grateful for your heartfelt outpouring of support.
The rector of the seminary, Father Marco Antonio, recorded a short thank you. Gabriel and Eduardo, both in their third year of philosophy, spoke in English on behalf of their colleagues and put together the video as a personal thank you to all of you.
May God reward you all for your charity.
When a joyful Brazilian man from Campos entered our monastery in Norcia years ago, we had no idea it would be the beginning of a lasting, rich friendship with his home city. Often he shared stories of a land that modernity had left in peace, a land with material challenges but spiritual abundance. Processions and pilgrimages went on for days and men and women attended daily Traditional Mass as normal routine. It is hard to imagine a place where the Faith lives on in a real way as if never interrupted.
On my first visit to Campos flying up the Brazilian coast in a small plane from Rio on Azul airlines, I could see from the air that the land itself was mostly “modern”. Tall office buildings, bad traffic, and poor sanitation dotted the landscape. Most of the people on my flight were oil rig workers. Helicopters met them at the Campos airport -- the size of a small American gas station -- to take them out to the rigs. The area had all the trappings of a modern industrialized society including those no one wants to mention: boredom, restlessness, ennui.
Yet unlike much of the modernized world, this otherwise ordinary region drinks from a river of life which flows through it, clear and pristine. In the western and northern hemisphere we are used to traditional parishes sparsely scattered throughout the country with at most one per city. In Campos however, a whole diocese exists of more than 30,000 faithful who live a life where the traditional liturgy is seamlessly interwoven into the daily fabric of their lives. One town alone can have three churches, a nursing home and shrines for pilgrimages in the countryside.
Residents take modern medicines, talk on modern cell phones and drive modern cars (although some could use newer ones!), but they can still appreciate the words, Introibo ad Altare Dei as an invitation into the supernatural dwelling place of God. Little did I expect on my first visit to hear the consoling and resounding response of 1500 faithful exclaiming, Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. Thus my first visit to Campos several years ago brought me much joy. In unassuming ways the whole diocese, called canonically an apostolic administration, reminds the visitor of what we have lost but also of what is still possible. It brings hope…
Prior Benedict Nivakoff, OSB
Since our last update Madre Lúcia, who had been hospitalized with Covid, passed away. Due to the health restrictions then in place her religious daughters were not allowed to attend her burial, though a priest was permitted. The sisters have since elected a new Mother Superior, Mother Maria José, who formally took her position on July 26th.
During the end of July Brazil also lost a beloved bishop, Dom Henrique Soares da Costa, of a diocese in the state of Pernambuco, who was a respected friend and support to traditional Catholics. He had preached the annual clergy retreat of the Apostolic Administration just two years ago.
Brazil’s love of festivities is charming. Even in the simplest or most rustic of parishes birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and so on are opportunities for special prayers and blessings, followed by group photos, cake and soda.
The library in the new wing is really developing nicely: there is a reading room with individual desks and air conditioning (a rare thing!) and the books which had been stashed in every spare nook and cranny of the seminary and are being neatly cataloged and shelved. Finishing work continues in the remainder of the new wing, as does clean up of the gardens, which got a bit mangled during all the construction.
The Feast of the Transfiguration was the annual parish feast day in Bom Jesus (the city’s name means Good Jesus). The novena leading up to the feast featured Adoration, a homily and Confession. Despite the accommodation of state and city regulations regarding crowding and social distancing, people are happily attending Mass, Confession, and devotions in the parishes. This is true here in Rio, too, where the Tridentine Latin Mass is as full as conditions allow (it was moved to a larger church for the time being to accommodate the need for space between people in the pews). The lines for Confession are long, and the hardships and upheaval of recent times seems to have only inspired greater enthusiasm in many Catholics.
In an interesting development both the seminary in Campos and the convent in Bom Jesus have received generous private donations to install solar panels. Other parishes and institutes, having seen the benefit, are pursuing the same installation via bank financing. The initial setup costs are high (150,000 to 250,000 reals), but the savings are enormous. Electricity is relatively expensive in Brazil, and an institution or parish can easily have monthly bills of 5000-8000 reals. With the solar panels, the monthly electric bill drops to a few hundred reals!! The Campos region is extremely sunny all year round, so it’s an excellent place to take advantage of the relatively new availability of solar technology in the area.
I hope that, with your help, we can continue to contribute to the support of this unique traditional Catholic community. Your prayers and donations are precious, and most welcome. You are always most welcome to reach out to me by phone or email if you have any questions.
God keep you and repay you for your generosity.
It’s winter in Campos now. The ongoing pandemic and associated social and economic upheaval continue to leave their mark, even as businesses and churches officially begin to re-open. Even as the pandemic subsided in the major cities it began to spread into the secondary cities and rural regions.
Being a gringo I tend to take things at face value and follow rules. But things work differently in Brazil. Since priests were celebrating Masses in the churches anyway, with the presence of some cantors, the organist, the tech guy to run the video feed, and several altar servers, it didn’t seem unreasonable to let in the pious who might knock at the side door. As long as they didn’t cause a fuss and stayed behind the camera, there was nothing said and life went on as usual. I’m speaking here of my personal experience in the city of Rio de Janeiro and the accounts of several friends, but I suspect the same has been going on in most places, as it would be a very typical Brazilian workaround.
Friends of Campos, Inc. is a new US-based not-for-profit providing grants to support the seminary and the social and educational projects of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, located in Campos de Goytacazes, Brazil. The region, under the bold guidance of Dom Antônio Castro-Mayer, was a great preserve of traditional Catholic life during the tumultuous period following the Second Vatican Council. Thanks to his encouragement at that time, the region continues to be one in which traditional Catholic life and liturgy flourish.
The Personal Apostolic Administration was formally erected in 2002 by the Holy See by the decree Animarum Bonum to conserve the liturgical, doctrinal and cultural traditions of the Catholic Church, in full communion with the Magisterium. The community as a whole has thirteen parishes, six rectories, fifteen private Catholic schools, four homes for the aged, and eight associations of women religious. Some 35 priests serve in a community of over 30,000 active parishioners. The seminary takes up to 40 young men for formation, and is expanding to accept up to 80, as demand consistently exceeds the available space.
While the focus of Friends of Campos is on supporting the Seminary, which is the spiritual and cultural heart of the community, grants are also offered for projects at social and educational institutions run by the Personal Apostolic Administration around the diocese. Friends of Campos works with a local board of clergy to evaluate and select proposed projects and administer grants.
Although the area is rich in traditional Catholic culture, it is very poor materially, and even modest donations go a long way towards the needs of the community. The Coronavirus epidemic which has hit even developed countries hard, brings more difficulties to Campos which has few of the resources needed to fight the health problems and economic devastation. The unbroken Tradition of faith acts as a bulwark in troubled times, but material support - even the basics of food and hygiene - are always needed.
2020 took a sharp turn to the unexpected in February, with the growing spread of, and worry about, the new coronavirus. It has spread rather well in a few Brazilian cities, mostly those with a lot of international visitors. Friends of Campos had planned on announcing our project at Easter, and had the site already online, but by then most of the world was quite distracted by the virus, and Brazil was already in reaction mode, so we decided to leave the announcement for a month or so and see how things developed.
While most diocese closed Catholic churches quickly some, including the diocese of the Personal Apostolic Administration, kept churches open for private prayer and Confession. Around Rio, where our president lives, priests have been making good efforts to provide access to Adoration and Benediction, whether by standing in front of the Church as parishioners pass by, or attending to an outdoor altar for Adoration on Church steps, so passersby can stop to pray, or by carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession, on foot or in a vehicle, blessing people around their community. As in other communities Masses as well as recitations of the Holy Rosary, Vespers, and other liturgy and devotions are livestreamed.
The seminary of the Personal Apostolic Administration moved their July holiday up to April, in the hopes that by May things would be back to normal. Since it now appears that normal may not soon return, efforts are being made to restart the semester as soon as possible. Besides the logistics of taking care of the health of the seminarians, clergy, their families, and parishioners, there is the problem of running an institution which survives on monthly donations from the parishes, which are much lower than normal due to many people being out of work. The economic crisis caused by the shutdown of many services and businesses has affected all of the parishes and their associated social and educational institutions, too.
The projects we have featured on our site are ongoing, though in light of the current situation, priority will go to basic support for food, medicine and operational costs.
We decided that given the only increasing needs of the community, and the unknown timeframe of this tumult, we might as well move ahead with announcing our project and hope that you may be inspired to give what you can in support of this unique traditional Catholic community. Brazil’s economy being what it is, even a modest donation in dollars goes a long way, and any gift you may wish to give is most gratefully appreciated.
With great joy we report the ordination of four new young priests which took place on December 7, 2019 in Campos. Dom Fernando Arêas Rifan conferred the priesthood on Arthur José Brulher Teles Aguiar, Fabrício Luís Meira da Silve, Jean Marco Silvério de Oliveira and Mateus Mariano Costa.
The ordination Mass in the main church was packed with family, friends, fellow seminarians and priests, parishioners and visitors, all of whom were eager to kiss the hands of the newly ordained (and get their picture taken with each one) at the end of the ceremony.
The new priests celebrated their first solemn Masses in different cities around the diocese in the following days.
Please keep Father Arthur, Father Fabrício, Father Jean and Father Mateus in your prayers!
Friends of Campos, Inc.
Friends of Campos, Inc. is a US-based not-for-profit (501c3) which supports the social and educational projects of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, most of which are located around the diocese of Campos dos Goytacazes in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.