Brazil: Success Story: Two river boats for pastoral work in the Amazon region
The Catholic territorial prelature of Tefé lies in the state of Amazonas in Northwest Brazil. The prelature alone covers an area of over 265,0002 km - roughly the size of Italy - and vast sections of it are accessible only by river. The distances are immense.
Needless to say, the sheer scale of the prelature represents a major challenge for the Catholic Church, since the 14 parishes and the 520 sub-parishes lie scattered across this whole vast area, along the river banks. Until recently it took the priests and lay missionaries somewhere between two and three days just to travel from one riverside community to another. This was partly because the boats they were using were at least 20 years old and made of wood. They were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and consumed an excessive amount of fuel. Moreover, on account of the tightening of environmental laws, it was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain the necessary timber to repair the boats when they were damaged. And of course the long and arduous journeys, sometimes of several hundred kilometres, took a heavy toll on those involved. The journey to the most distant parish took up to 120 hours, or five days. The Catholic faithful in the villages also had to wait for very long periods from one visit to the next. And meanwhile, the less they were able to play an active part in the life of the Church and be given the necessary pastoral accompaniment, the more they became easy prey for the often well funded sects seeking to expand into the area and proselytise.
(A villager receives the absolution in the sacrament of Penance with the new boat in the back ground © Aid to the Church in Need)
Now, however, thanks to the generosity of the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) the prelature has been able to purchase two new, aluminium hulled boats. These have cut down the journey time by half from one community to the next, so that the missionaries can now visit the communities more frequently. At the same time they have greatly reduced the fuel costs. Each boat is 12m long by 3m wide, a veritable “floating mission station” with a kitchen or galley area and a bathroom. It has sleeping accommodation for up to 10 people and seating for up to 35 people, so that Holy Mass and other ceremonies can be held on board. Both boats bear the logo of the prelature, plus an individual religious name, so that they can be easily recognised as mission boats. In fact one of them is even named after Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN. The Catholics of the region are delighted that the Church can now come to them more frequently. They all express their heartfelt thanks to all the generous benefactors! With further help, ACN plans to fund two more similar mission boats in the near future.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929