Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ash Wednesday and Goodbyes







This past week, the brothers and missionaries took our silent retreat about 30 minutes away in a little town located behind the Church of Bomfim on the bay.  We stayed with a order of sisters who were both gracious hosts and delicious cooks.  The retreat was simple enough. The day was filled with silence and was punctuated throughout with day with our divine office, rosary, mass, adoration, and talks by Bishop, Dom Marcos Eugenio.  It was a cozy retreat center with beautiful trees and a cozy little chapel where we spent hours in meditation and prayer with our Lord and prepared for lent.  It was not always easy . . . but I believe we all grew closer to each other and to Christ through the experience as he revealed Himself to us in the silence of our hearts.  

  






The time has come for Faith and I to say goodbye to our wonderful Brazilian family!  Although we are both excited to see our families again (though we’re told of snow storms plaguing the United States? Definitely not cool) and explore what God has in store for us in this new chapter in our lives, it is a bittersweet homecoming.  We have met some beautiful people and have been welcomed graciously into their lives and into their communities.



 Faith and I were blessed to have two “farewell” parties, one with the children in alto and one with the brothers.   The party in alto was exactly that . . . a party! So many of our children and their parents and people from the parish came and celebrated with us with music and dance and delicious food.  I have never received such love and saying goodbye was one of the hardest I've experienced yet.  Although the language barrier is still present and I was not able to communicate very much with the people in the time here, I learned on this trip there are many other ways of communicating love and fellowship without using your words. 





Our farewell party with the brothers was a final dinner and also doubled as a belated birthday for faith, whose birthday fell over our silent retreat.  The patio outside was decorated with Christmas lights and Gabi and the brothers prepared dinner for us and they surprised us with a lovely 
(and delicious!) cake.  Faith and I were able to express some of our favorite memories and our gratitude for this unique experience in our lives.



It feels fitting to be returning home at the start of lent . . . today’s gospel spoke of fasting and of the true spirit of prayer and giving alms.  The lessons I have learned at a missionary and as a Catholic I plan to carry with me into this season of repentance and throughout my whole life, hoping to shed away the things that further keep me from loving God as He deserves and serving those around me as a perpetual missionary, even in my home town.  God bless you all and please keep Faith and I in your prayers, and we hope you have a very blessed lent. 



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Faith and Katie Get Ready to Say Goodbye!

Hello and God Bless! It seems as if we have just arrived but already Katie and I have been in beautiful Brazil for over five months. As we continue to work we remember every now and then that we only have a little over two week left to serve God and those around us in this wonderful mission. Brother Francis Therese spoke to us at our Tuesday meeting about the importance of staying present. As the days slip by each one becomes even more precious. Francis Therese reminded us that we must live each moment of mission as if it is our last and that each day we should attempt to give all that we are and all that we have.  With that in mind, there is still much work to be done! This week I taught my last arts and crafts class. The children made masks for carnival.



The Finished Product! 



(I gave the boy rocket ship stickers to try to make it less girly) 


They loved the project and were very attentive and well organized. We have high standards for the children in the classroom at the Magedelina House. We expect them to be respectful, cooperative and to work hard on the task at hand. The children seem to respond well to our high expectations, and each week I have noticed a slow but gradual improvement. 


The Entrance of Alto


Katie and Gabi and I continue to make stronger connections with the women at Irma Dulce House. We sit in on two classes on Wednesday and Friday mornings. The Teachers Christina, Gina and Dani are all wonderful examples of Christian love. They know all of their students by name and greet each of them with a warm hug and a kind smile. Many of their students live in the Irma Dulce Hospital and have mental and physical handicaps. Their students come in, looking a little uncomfortable or out of place, and within minutes are happy and at ease. Brother Francis Therese has been coordinating with Irma House workers and within the next few months God willing, we will have our bakery up and working and being used by Irma House, as well as aid for members of the Alto community who suffer from alcoholism. In addition, Irma House is looking into having a counselor for the children of the Alto community to speak with.


This is my last opportunity to write a blog post with the Salvador mission. This has truly been a life changing experience. The people here live their lives with eyes ever fixed on Christ. At first I was struck by the amount of time we spent in the chapel on a daily basis (about 3 and a half to 4 hours a day) and wondered  if some of that time should be spent on projects instead. But now that I have seen the impact of this lifestyle I understand clearly that my perspective was flawed. God is our top priority. Above all else we are here to love and serve him and it is because of this conscious decision, to love and serve God, that the work we do here is fruitful. We are all peaceful and joyful on a regular basis, and doors continue to open for us.  In addition to our regular prayer schedule we have now added a Rosary, and things are now going even more smoothly. When Christ is truly the top priority and focus, He takes care of the little human things. Thank you so much for all of your support and God Bless! It has been an honor serving this mission.  As always you are in our prayers! 
-In Christ, Faith 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Water Party!

We are getting desperate for snow, and have taken to even defrosting the refrigerator 
With rumors flying around from the United States about an impending blizzard, Faith and I are enjoying what sun and warmth we can get in our last month!

Chilly snapshots from Pennsylvania! 


 This week we continued our English lessons at the Irma Dulce center working on basic phrases such as “I am happy, sad, hot, cold, tired” and most importantly, “hungry”.  On Wednesday mornings we now participate in a clay/mosaics class and are able to practice Portuguese while meeting people from the Santo Antonio community.  Unfortunately I didn’t snap a photo of our clay creations, but it was probably for the best since my hands were by default covered in clay.
The Irma Dulce Center

Beautiful mass at Santo Antonio


This morning Br. Francis Therese co-celebrated mass at the local parish of Santo Antonio in honor of Irma Dulce.  Many of the co-ordinators and students from the Irma Dulce center were there to celebrate with us a lovely mass.
















Speaking of the heat , last Friday we threw a “water party” for the children of alto which consisted of hosing down 20+ kids down with cold water with lots of jumping, screaming, and playing of soccer.  





Best wishes from us in Brazil and were hoping you stay warm wherever you are!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Beautiful Week!

I finally get to make use of dancing skills  

Hello and God Bless from beautiful Salvador Brazil! The weather isn’t the only thing heating up over here! Classes are back in full swing with a few new fun additions! Classes at Alto are going very well and the children seem more receptive than ever. This week Gabi and I practiced a new dance with the children and they all enjoyed it very much.


Gabi leading the children in dance class

During class two of our students started to get in a fight. One of the little girls made another cry and tensions were rising. Our talented teacher Luciana however intervened and did a wonderful job of making the girls confront their problems and dealing with them through having a healthy conversation. The girls seemed happy to learn a healthier way of dealing with conflict and by the end of the class were getting along better than ever.
Luciana speaking with two students

In addition to Alto we are also starting to have a strong presence at the Irma Dulce House. Adult English classes are in full swing on Thursday and Saturday mornings. The students are very happy to have us and we are excited to be part of the community. We are also taking some of the classes offered at Irma House to help build a strong relationship with the teachers and students. This week we attended an arts and crafts class and learned about the history Carnival. Working with the adults in the community is giving us a better understanding of the mindset of the children we work with.
Faith, Katie, Gabi, and Geraldine our new student 


The missionaries and I are all very comfortable and happy here. Our relationships with each other and the Brothers have never been stronger. All of the tasks we have accomplished and the time of prayer we have shared have truly bonded us. Please continue to read and keep us in your prayers! You are always in ours!


-Faith Leopold 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happenings of our Missionary Lives


 This week the girls and I gave our first English class to adults at the Irma Dulce center. There were about 15-20 students in an hour and half class. We are very excited to see how well the students responded to our teaching methods and that they are so willing to have fun while learning! 

These are our new t-shirts we were given this week to volunteer in their activities and to teach. The volunteers are called Anjos de Irma Dulce translates to the Angles of Irma Dulce.


We even made it to the Irma Dulce's facebook page! Announcing our English classes!


This is the Irma Dulce image on the back of our volunteer t-shirts. 
Now we are officially part of the team!



This past week we had the opportunity to work in different little projects. One of them was hosting a baby shower for one of the soon-to-be-mom of the favela we work at. We decorated a table with her with treats and presents for her new baby boy that is due in a month. Parabens! Congratulations!



Part of putting away Christmas was to restore our outdoor nativity scene for next year. Faith and Katie were in charge of that project. 
Here we have a few of the pieces already finished.


The girls came to the conclusion that painting is a very therapeutic experience. Sitting down and pretending to be an artist is a lot more fun than one would expect :)




We welcomed back Br. Francis Therese after spending the last month in the U.S. with a splendid dinner with friends.




And finally funny pictures of the week:

Our convents handyman, Senhor Joao, and our new guest from South Korea having a couple laughs with Faith during breakfast.


And our beloved Br. Patrick doing his favorite trick: 
balancing anything and everything imaginable on his head. 



Peace out my fellow viewers,
until next time on St. John Missions in Brazil!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Feliz Ano Novo do Brazil!

Feliz ano novo from the community of St. John!  It was such a blessing to ring in the new year surrounded by friends in Brazil.  New years eve we had a special Mass which was well attended by the community of Santo Antonio and a few familiar faces from Alto.  Mass was followed by a beautiful adoration.  It was such a beautiful and prayerful way to ring in a fresh year. The evening was ended with music, dancing, food, and fellowship downstairs.

Fireworks over the bay seen from Santo Antonio 



Archbishop Murilo of the Archdiocese of Salvador 
This week a special Mass was held on the futebol court in Alto, and was celebrated with the bishop of Brazil  and our own priests of the community of St. John.  The Mass was one imploring peace for the community of Alto in particular and the entire city of Salvador.



Two of the recent first communicants carrying up the gifts.


 In the spirit of imploring peace, this Sunday the missionaries and about 60 parishioners at Alto  in Alto walked around 10 km to the basilica of Bomfim.  With our matching tshirts and a large van carrying some of the oldest and youngest parishioners and a large speaker hooked directly into an acoustic guitar, we sang, danced, and walked out way to the famous pilgrimage site.  We were rewarded with a beautiful and charismatic Mass with the sun setting over the city.





On our way down to the Bay while the boys carry the Shrine to Mary

Posing for a group photo with Irma Dulce
Standing room only in Mass




A little history on the Church of Bomfim. . . It was constructed in the 18th century on the Itapagipe Peninsula on the highest peak.  The church was commissioned by a rich Portuguese noble in Thanksgiving to Our Lady for a safe voyage through a massive storm. Nosso Senhor do Bomfim (Our Lord of Good End) is a large pilgrimage site in Brazil, especially the Bahia region, having been the site of numerous miracles of healing.



Last but certainly not least in my book, my parents came to visit for the week.  They stayed nearby which enabled me to show them around and experience Salvador as a tourist.  Here are some of the beautiful pictures my Mom snapped on our outings.

My family reunited for a week!

Traditional Capoeira Dance




How blessed we are for our loved ones!

I hope you all had a happy and blessed New Year and we are keeping you in our prayers here :)