Demand for education in the Christian faith from people in Brazil has paved the way for the transformation of one of the country’s most historic Church buildings.
The Benedictine monastery in João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba state in north-east Brazil, is being developed into the Archdiocesan Formation Center, with help from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need through a grant of just over $32,600.
An update on the work’s progress was given to ACN earlier this month during the visit of Archbishop Aldo Pagotto and Monsignor Neuredo Henrique, from the Archdiocese of Paraíba. The monastery, founded in 1596, ranks as one of the oldest colonial buildings in the country. The adjoining church was built in the 1724.
The church authorities worked closely with government officials to ensure the heritage of the monastery was not lost as part of the building work. Now that these issues have been resolved, redecoration is underway and the work is due for completion by the end of October.
Archbishop Pagotto stressed the need for the formation center in the local Church, especially for the laity. An ACN report following the archbishop’s visit stated: “Archbishop Pagotto emphasized an increase of enthusiasm for formation to enable the faithful to have a deeper experience of God.”
Part of the Formation center has already been completed and is home to the diocesan propedeutic seminary – where the candidates for priesthood are prepared for one year before entering the major seminary.
These studies are led by a priest from Comunidade Doce Mãe de Deus (Community of the Sweet Mother of God). This is a 20-year old community that grew out of Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which brings together laity, clergy and religious for pastoral work and evangelization.
Fifteen young propedeutic students started formation in the diocese this year, after a rigorous selection, nine of them will be going forwards to study at the Major Seminary. ACN has given more than $19,600 in aid for the formation of 34 major seminarians during 2009.
The monks closed the monastery in João Pessoa in 1921, but its building has been used by several Catholic groups since these. Prior to its renovation the Monastery was used, among other things, by liberation theology groups who promoted radical left-wing parties.
Archbishop Pagotto wants to take advantage of the renovation to use the building for religious formation and to strengthen the new evangelization.
The Church in Brazil is one of the highest recipients of ACN aid. Last year, the charity provided more than $6 million to help the Church there.