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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Friday

Redemptorists in Brazil celebrate 80 years

Baltimore Provincial Patrick Woods recently traveled to Brazil to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Campo Grande Province. Several American Redemptorists from the Baltimore Province continue to serve there, and according to Father Woods, their legacy is a visible one:

“They couldn’t stop the long passes from Sheridan to Crotty. He would throw the ball so hard and fast and Crotty would score easily.”

Perhaps, you may think I am speaking about my beloved Jets or the upcoming Super Bowl. Actually, I was standing on the second floor balcony of the rectory at Aquidauana, Brazil. I had the honor of hearing the senior missionary in the Congregation (I can’t believe there could be another man in the Congregation in his late 90s saying four Masses on a weekend).

We were overlooking a large concrete basketball court. (Father) Giles Gardiner was reminiscing with (Father) Ed Faliskie and myself. He told us that (Father) Pat Sheridan had built the court and organized a fabulous basketball program for the young people of the town. Occasionally, the Redemptorists would take on some of the older players, and Pat would win the rebounds and fire the ball down the court to (Father) Vin Crotty for a lay-up.

Giles pointed to a mountain that looked to be four miles away and told us about a mother who gave birth to twins in her village home. One lived, but the other was still-born and the mother’s life was in danger. He told us that the Redemptorists had the only Jeep in town, so he drove up to the home and brought the mother to the hospital. Her life was saved.

As I listened to this story that happened maybe more than 50 years ago, I could still hear the sadness in his voice for the lost child, but a joy that the mother had been saved. He pointed into the distance and told us that he and others would go out on horses for a month at a time to visit the people and bring them the sacraments. The priests would bathe in the rivers and wash their clothes and stay at the homes of anyone who would offer hospitality.

As he told us those stories, it was as if he were a young priest in his first days again. He has the heart of a missionary and we can be so proud of him and our Province that has brought forth such heroic men.

When I saw (Fathers) John Hennessy, Bill Tracy, Giles Gardiner, and Dick Blissert (the longest serving Americans in the Campo Grande Province) being called up to the altar and receiving a long, standing ovation, I was filled with pride.

When I heard the stories of Fathers Mohr and Hild and the challenges they faced as the first two pioneers to go to Brazil in 1930, I was amazed at what they had done. Seeing the Redemptorists’ churches, the rectories, the schools in the State of Mato Grosso, was to know we were walking in the steps of zealous and bold men. To see so many young priests and brothers was to know the mustard seed our men had planted has grown to be a great tree of life.

After I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan, I wanted to thank a World War II veteran.
After seeing the movie Backdraft, I wanted to honor firemen.
After seeing the movie Rocky, I wanted to congratulate all the underdogs of the world.
After seeing the movie Field of Dreams, I wanted to have a game of catch with my dad.
After seeing the movie Invincible, I wanted to meet Nelson Mandela.
After visiting Mato Grosso, I praise God for the all the foreign missionaries of the Baltimore Province both past and present.

For more information about the missionary work of the Redemptorists, click here.

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