Catholic Free Press

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Sharing their culture

Posted By July 31, 2017 | 6:22 pm | Lead Story #2
7-28 Brazil Kids dance_1773

Brazilian youth host Young Neighbors in Action
By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press

WORCESTER – Brazilian young people shared their faith and their culture with peers who were doing service projects July 20. Holy Family Parish’s Brazilian youth group was hosting teenagers who were participating in Young Neighbors In Action.
YNIA is a week-long Catholic service learning experience organized by the Center for Ministry Development in Washington state. Teenagers from the Worcester Diocese and throughout North America do service projects here or elsewhere, and learn about justice and another culture.
For the culture night at Holy Family’s St. Joseph Church building and Msgr. Ducharme Social Center, the Brazilian youth group sang at a Mass, which associate pastor Father Adriano Lessa celebrated  in Portuguese. Then the Brazilians and Young Neighbors ate Brazilian food, heard about the Brazilian flag and a Brazilian retreat, and danced to music.
“It was amazing,” Livia Araujo, 15, a member of the Brazilian youth group, said afterwards. “Some of the Americans didn’t seem to know much about our culture. We really showed them tonight what we do, what we’re about. I had a lot of fun teaching them to dance.” She said she was surprised they caught on so fast.
“It was really fun,” said Rhaissa Duarte, 11, another Brazilian. She said she liked “how it was the Americans and the Brazilians all joining together.”
“I love this,” Mario Cicconi, 18, said of Young Neighbors In Action. He said he’s been participating with his parish, St. Gabriel, the Archangel in Upton, for four years. (Also participating in this culture night were Young Neighbors from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northborough, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Sharon and St. John of the Cross Parish in Middlebury, Conn.)
“Everyone comes together,” Mario said. “It’s a very friendly environment.…I find this a great way to get out and help people. It’s a way for me to strengthen my faith in God.” He said it brings him closer to God through prayer, and he can better focus on God with minimal distractions.
“It’s a break from your real life,” said his fellow parishioner Cameron Dunning, 17, a third-time YNIA participant. “It’s like a check for your faith.” It’s a chance to “forget about everything you need to do, embrace God and have fun while you’re doing it.”
His task as a Young Neighbor was to play with children at a Guild of St. Agnes day care site, he said.
“Some of these kids don’t know manners,” he said, adding that the YNIA participants could teach them some.
“They’re very affectionate,” wanting to hug you and hold your hand, he added. He said it was hard because the teenagers were not allowed to hug the children back, and could only hold their hands if the little ones initiated it.
Despite these limitations – for the protection of children – “I kind of found myself,” he said. “I narrowed down some of my beliefs and what I want to do. Before this I never really worked with kids. I want to volunteer more with kids.… It shows me how fortunate I am, and how much I should give to other people.”
Faith was encouraged at the Mass, where Brazilians told about the importance of the Blessed Mother, and their devotion to her under the title Our Lady of Aparecida.
After the meal, Lucas Lima, a leader of the Brazilian youth group, told the Young Neighbors that their youth group has about 40 members, but many were away on vacation.
“We have a song (that) a woman composed by the Holy Spirit,” he said of something a member of their community felt inspired to write.
The song – and a translation of its message – were shared: “‘I don’t care what you look like; come to me.’ That’s what God’s telling you guys.”
Mr. Lima taught the visitors the chant of the Brazilian youth group, which is named Exercito de Cristo (Christ’s Army). He yelled “exer” and they responded “cito,” yelling louder each time. It ends with the leader saying, “Exercito de” and listeners responding “Cristo.”
The Young Neighbors were also told about the annual Brazilian youth retreat, “Encounter of Adolescents with Christ,” for which the youth group is preparing. Many of the Brazilians were wearing its T-shirt, which says, “Jesus can rewrite your story.”
Members of the youth group and their leaders regularly prayed for this retreat in the wee hours of the morning at the adoration chapel at St. George Parish when it was open overnight, according to Mr. Lima and his mother, Sandra Lima.
Jay and Debra Guillette, of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, said they saw them there and were impressed. So impressed they continue to support the Brazilian community; they came to the Mass June 20.
“Their faith is contagious,” Mrs. Guillette said. “I want to learn Portuguese because I love these people.”

Brazilian priest comes to U.S. to serve his people

By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press
A Brazilian priest who was just incardinated in the Worcester Diocese celebrated his 10th anniversary of ordination with a trip to Fatima and Lisieux.
Father Adriano Lessa, associate pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, said that on Sept. 7, 2007 he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, where he was born and brought up. (He spoke in English and Portuguese,  using a translator, and provided a brief write-up about his life.)

Father Lessa

Father Lessa

This June Father Lessa was incardinated in, or transferred to, the Worcester Diocese, to be a priest for this Diocese instead, because of the need here, he said. There are only a few Brazilian priests who speak Portuguese to minister to the many Brazilians in Massachusetts. The biggest concern is religious sects that are drawing Catholic Brazilians away from the Church, he said.
“The bishop called me: ‘Congratulations. Welcome. Welcome.’” Father Lessa said of how he learned that his incardination was official.
He said he was ordained in the Basilica of Santa Terezinha in Rio de Janeiro, his home parish. He used a Latin version of St. Therese’s statement, “In the heart of the Church I will be love” on his ordination invitation, he said.
Because of his connections to his parish, he went to Lisieux this month to thank St. Therese for her intercession, he said. It was his first time in France, and was part of his celebration of his 10th anniversary.
It was great to be in the land of St. Therese and walk where she walked, he said. He celebrated Mass in the crypt of her basilica, concelebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Lisieux, St. Therese’s parish, and visited the Carmel, the convent where she lived as a religious sister, he said.
His trip also included a visit to Fatima, Portugal, which this year is celebrating 100 years since the Blessed Mother’s apparitions to three children there.
“There I participated in Mass and prayed the rosary,” Father Lessa said, adding that it was an emotional experience for him because of his devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. He said it was his dream to go, and he visited on his birthday, July 5. Next time he will go for more than one day, he said.
In his biography he said that he went to Fatima “to thank Our Lady for all the graces and blessings received from the Father” through her intercession.
He said he has a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, because his family does. Rio de Janerio has a big celebration in her honor; people there are more devoted to the Blessed Mother under that title than the Brazilian Our Lady of Aparecida, he said.
In Brazil, after his ordination, his bishop sent him to prepare three parishes in the state of Minas Gerais for resident priests, he said. After six years of intense work these parishes, which used to have only one Mass a month, all had a resident priest, he said.
During that time he was also secretary to Bishop Werner Siebenbrock, of the Society of the Divine Word, who was then an auxiliary bishop and is now Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Governador Valadares.
After that, “God called me to deeper waters, calling me to come to the United States to work with Portuguese speakers,” Father Lessa said in the biography.
He said his first trip to the United States was on Sept. 24, 2012, when he came to the Worcester Diocese to serve Brazilian and Portuguese communities at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford. Redemptorist priests who had been serving Portuguese speakers there had returned to Brazil.
Father Lessa also served the Brazilians at St. Stephen Parish in Worcester. On July 1, 2016 the Brazilian community moved from St. Stephen’s to Holy Family, he said. He said the community needed to grow and couldn’t have Sunday morning Mass at St. Stephen’s, and many people didn’t like attending an evening Mass. Some don’t have a driver’s license and didn’t want to walk at night.
Father Steven M. LaBaire, Holy Family’s pastor, was very open to having the Brazilians move there, Father Lessa said.
“We decided to be part of this community,” he said, adding that they are part of the parish.
At Holy Family about 150 people attend the 11 a.m. Mass in Portuguese and about 100 attend the 7 p.m., both on Sunday, he said. At St. Stephen’s about 70 attended the Sunday evening Mass he said.
Father Lessa said he also concelebrates Holy Family’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass in English, and a Lord’s Day vigil Mass Saturdays for the Brazilian community at St. Bridget Parish in Maynard. He serves that community in their other activities too. Sometimes he celebrates Mass for Brazilians in Woonsocket, R.I., but doesn’t do other ministry there, he said.
Father Lessa gets another break soon; in August he is going to Brazil for a month, where he plans to continue celebrating his 10th anniversary of ordination.