Manaus (Agenzia Fides) – During these days, in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian Amazon, is hosting the celebration of the centennial anniversary of the arrival Capuchin Friars Minor who came over from Umbria (Italy). The first four brothers arrived on July 26, 1909.
The religious came from Assisi and were sent to Solmoes, the most western part of the Amazon filled with waterways and jungle, located between Colombia and Peru. There, they worked offering assistance to the “seringueiros” (rubber plantation workers) and Ticuna Tribe, the most numerous in all Brazil. The territory covered an area of 140,000 km sq. and had a little over 20,000 inhabitants.
The impact with the climate was mortal, so much so that one of them died of yellow fever just a year after his arrival, at age 27. Two, not long afterwards, were swept away by the muddy river waters and the rest were frequently hospitalized in Manaus for treatment of infections and various tropical disaeases. During a visit to Pope Pius XI, Fr. Evangelista de Cefalonia, the first Apostolic Prefect of the mission, affirmed that the climate “two missionaries immobile per year.”
Now, in Solimoes, there are 142,000 inhabitants in an area of 133,000 km sq. (a little over one inhabitant per square kilometer), and 99 religious who have joined in the evangelization effort and in social promotion with the opening of schools, a hospital, and an infinite number of multi-purpose centers, in addition to the formation of local vocations who are now a part of the Vice Province of Solimoes, formed by 40 religious, in 8 houses: two in Manaus, one in Humaita, and the rest along the river that the indigenous people call “Rio Mar.”
The religious celebrated the anniversary with many liturgical events in the various residencies, as well as with a retreat and a reflection on the mission in one of the houses of Manaus and in the monastery of the Poor Clares, which was opened three years ago in honor of the centennial anniversary.
The work that has been carried out by the religious, amidst difficulties and adversities, will be recalled in a book that will soon be published and in a documentary produced by “Nova-T” of Turin (Italy), which is linked to the Capuchin Order. (RG) (Agenzia Fides 29/7/2009)