Dom Bosco and CAIJ anniversaries

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August is a month of special anniversaries for CAIJ.   In fact it was a double celebration, the anniversary of Dom Bosco and CAIJ’s 5th year of operation in Corumba, Brazil.  Follow this link to see how the young people honoured their patron saint celebrated his legacy – CAIJ continues to meet the needs of children and young people in a community where families are easily marginalised and live in poverty.   https://picasaweb.google.com/111166451295496640324/24DeAgostoDe201302?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Pantanal Adventure!

tuiuiu pantanaljacares pantanalcapybara pantanalanaconda pantanalFinally, it was my turn to go to the Pantanal.  I had missed two opportunities earlier in the year due primarily to my fractured tibia and ankle bone which rendered the journey unsafe and impractical.  So wait I did, patiently while other volunteers ventured out to see the largest wetlands in the world.  Yes, my time had come and I was ready to see if the Pantanal lived up to its reputation.  And it did, offering so much more.  I must confess that it is not for the tame at heart or those who go green at long. boat journeys.

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But then you may consider that to be a small price to pay when compared to spotting an alligator or two, catching a piranha for dinner, discovering birds so large you may think of Pterodactylus, and if you are lucky enough you might even get to see an anaconda.  In a nutshell, that is the Pantanal´s  wild side.

family pantanalpiranha dinner pantanalkitchen pantanalpantanalBut there is more, the human element.  I was so blessed to have spent two nights with a  local farming family whose pace and quality of life inspired me anew and resonated with my contemplative side which longs for a slower pace of life, simplicity and periods of  solitude.   On arriving,  I had joked about sleeping in a ´hede´ and to my surprised at bedtime, our hosts produced a hammock so I could sleep under the most magnificent starry sky I have ever seen.  While I consider myself to be a huge fan of nature, without doubt,  the highlight, actually that should be pluralised, the highlights of my experience in the Pantanal was the time spent with the farming community – playing guitar late into the night accompanying the host on the concertina, while throwing back rounds of  local pinga and capirinhas:  sitting around the fire at 5.30 next morning sharing in the communal cup of hot herbal mate tea;  joining in and providing music at the baptismal mass celebration of six babies; receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in this Garden of Eden;  being in fellowship with several other farming families who traveled for hours to join us in the mass celebration and festa.

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pilot pantanalflowering trees pantanalbird pantanalnarrow waterways pantanalwise old owl pantanalpiranha pantanal Yes I was genuinely surprised at how akin I felt during my short time in the Pantanal.   I look forward to my return.

Feliz Páscoa – A Corumbáense Easter

Easter for the catholic church is a huge celebration.  Coming at the end of the Lenten period, when many observe praying, fasting and alms-giving, Easter becomes a joyful time to celebrate the risen Christ.  Last year I spent the Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday – at a silent retreat, with the religious order, the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, at Kairos Centre in Roehampton, London.  I recall writing in my journal  about the Greek word  ‘Kairos’ , which means “favourable time or graced moment”. Taking a couple lines from one of the convent’s posters,  I wrote “Now is the favourable time and Christ is its turning point.  Kairos time calls for an openness to the future and Kairos encourages us to let go and let God”.  DSCF5251So here I am one year later, in Brazil, experiencing Easter the brazilian way and slowly learning to let go and let God.

The week commenced with Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos), a joyous celebration of palm waving during the opening procession walk at Cristo Redentor followed by a mass with lively singing.  Holy Thursday turned out to be a special mass where the priest, as Christ representative washed the feet of parishioners. What made the service so special at Don Bosco parish was the difference in how this ritual was performed. Padre Pascal the parish priest began washing the feet of  teenagers who in turn moved into the congregation to wash the feet of parishioners.  The words, “Do this in memory of me” kept playing over and over in my mind as I watched these teenagers take up the mantle of serving others as Jesus had demonstrated.

DSCF5448DSCF5419On Good Friday, I visited the local parish with the intent of spending a few hours quietly in adoration. Surprisingly, group after group of children and young people kept coming and going every hour as part of their time to watch and pray with the Lord on this holy day of remembering His death.  By early evening, a small group of young people and leaders from Don Bosco project, CAIJ, (my place of work)  joined with other parishes for the Stations of the Cross street procession through the streets of central Corumbá.

DSCF5440DSCF5433We would stop at different homes, each representing one of the fourteen stations telling the story leading up to the crucifixion of Our Lord.  The families had set up small altar type tables decorated with flowers and adorned with devotions to their saints, Mother Mary or Jesus.   As we stopped to pray at each station-home, Padre Pascal in the lead would greet families, give a blessing and pray. So beautiful.  Motorists stopped their cars to pray stations with us.   Passers-by emerged from shops to give reverence to the occasion.  Children ran to watch the procession.  The young lad playing the part of the soldier struck the ground repeatedly with his real whip as we made our way up the steep hill; Jesus carrying his cross, falling three times to the wails and cries of the young  womenfolk.  It all seemed so real and moved me to tears.

Two hours later, we jumped into the Kombi and made our to way Parque da Independencia for an outdoor musical theatre “the story of Jesus”, performed by another group of teenagers.  The story span the life of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection.  Saturday we returned to the parish of Don Bosco for the Easter Vigil and awoke early for an Easter Sunday mass at the local parish of Cristo Redentor.  Jesus is Risen, indeed!

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Silent Retreat at Instituto Vincente

DSCF4438Definitely one of the highlights of my experiences so far in Brazil.   I am grateful for the silence in such a beautiful, tranquil setting here in Campo Grande and the enormous hospitality of the Salesians in residence.

DSCF4427The retreat centre is actually located on the site of the botany and veterinary departments of the Don Bosco University but this clearly adds to the ambiance, making it ideal for gentle walks, quiet talks, prayer, reflection, contemplation and relaxation.

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Young Leaders Day Out

DSCF4088At the end of school holidays in early February, the older youth from CAIJ were treated to a fabulous day- out at the military recreation centre, located a short distance from the Corumbá – Bolivia border.

The day started with an evaluation/reflection exercise on their experience as young leaders and ways they could improve.  This was then followed by some team building games, churrascarias for lunch, a fun afternoon in the swimming pool, some football, volleyball and hanging out in the shade.  If ever you are in Corumbá, then this is a great place to visit for rest and relaxation, and of course, to cool down when the temperatures are soaring above 35 degrees Celsius. 

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