By Tanya Connor
The first Brazilian priest ordained for the Worcester Diocese says he’s found the United States to be the fulfillment of his dreams – and a place to find a team. And he says he always had a higher goal than priesthood.
Shortly before his June 20 ordination at St. Paul Cathedral Father Mateus Souza told The Catholic Free Press how he got here, what he found here and where he hopes to go.
After his ordination, which family members could not get visas to attend, he celebrated Mass for them in Brazil, he said. He returned to the Worcester Diocese a couple weeks ago and is stationed at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford, in ministry to the Portuguese/Brazilian community. Though he was born and reared in Brazil, he’s also got a connection to Portugal, since his mother is half Portuguese, he said.
Speaking of his journey to the priesthood, he said: “Everything started in 2004. I was trying to figure out what I would do after high school. I didn’t have any clue. I started to pray about it, asking God what he wanted me to do. Even if he wanted me to be a priest, I would say, ‘Yes.’ But give me a sign. Through prayer and participation in the parish, I decided to join the seminary.”
But he had to wait two years, until he graduated from high school, he said. During that time he attended retreats and vocational meetings the Diocese of Marília held.
Like his parents, but unlike most of his peers, he was already active in his parish, he said. He was a member of the liturgy committee and a lector, eucharistic minister and youth minister.
He left home for the first time for a preparatory year for seminary.
“It was an amazing experience,” he said. “I think it was just eight of us.”
After getting his bachelor’s in philosophy and taking two years of theology, “I decided to take a leave of absence,” he said. He said he always felt he would like to study somewhere else, especially the United States, even though he had no connections here.
“I just love it,” he said of the American language, culture and music – and drama and movies. “Those ones that make you cry at the end … a nice story.” He said Brazilian music has a different rhythm, and he likes it too.
His former spiritual director, who was studying in Chicago, told him about the theology in the United States.
“I love the United States and now I know they have good theological colleges,” thought the aspiring priest. “Maybe I could put the two things together.”
He talked to a priest who was studying in Boston and had returned to Brazil for a visit. The priest told him the Worcester Diocese had a large Brazilian community in need of priests and had Colombians preparing for priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.
Father Souza said he applied for the Worcester Diocese, had a Skype interview with Father James S. Mazzone, director of the Office for Vocations, and was accepted. He arrived in August 2012.
“It was beautiful,” he said. “It was everything I dreamed of – the weather, the snow – I had never seen snow before – the leaves changing, going to a baseball game. You have to see my car. I have stickers on the back – Red Sox!” He said he has been to many games at Fenway Park and wants to go to a Patriots game.
In Brazil, soccer is popular, Father Souza said, but he’s not a soccer fan.
“It’s kind of religion; in Brazil you have to have your team,” he said. “Now I know what it is to like a team. I watch games all the time.” (Red Sox games, that is.)
Father Souza said he studied English for a year at Clark University, living at Holy Name of Jesus House of Studies, then was sent to St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore.
“It was two great years,” he said. “My first year my assignment was hospital ministry” – Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore. “Hospital was always a friendly environment for me, because my parents worked in a hospital for many years. My mom was a secretary and my father was a security guard.”
Speaking of what hospital ministry does for patients, Father Souza said, “It’s just a visit, but it means a lot for them.”
Many people say they want to be a priest, he said. “I always had a higher goal. I want to be a man of God. It never ends. It doesn’t stop with ordination.”
How can he be a man of God?
“Listen to the Lord and allow him to do what he wants in my life,” he said. “It’s a task of listening and letting him take over. Even my process of coming here – something was bringing me here.”
“Oh yeah, I believe so.”
Speaking about adoration, he said, “I think the best way to listen to God is through the holy Eucharist.”