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From atheist to missionary sent to one of the world’s most faithless countries: meet William Rocha

The young man had an experience with God in 2007 during a mass dedicated to the sick, in Fortaleza, Brazil. In January 2020 he is to travel to Sweden, a country with an 85% atheist population.

William Rocha parte para a Suécia em 2020 | Foto: Arquivo Pessoal

“When I was younger I formed a mindset in which neither God, nor angels, nor saints, nor life after death existed. Nothing! I believed that life was just this one and that was it.” This life decision turned William Rocha into an atheist leading a dissolute and ungodly life. Things changed when the youngster received an invitation from his aunt to visit Shalom during a Mass in honour of the sick, presided by Father Antonio Furtado.

William shares that he was motivated by his aunt to close his eyes and while doing so he proposed a challenge. “God or whom those call God, prove to me that you exist. If I do not see, I will not believe”. Without even knowing, the young man had just said a prayer. He opened his eyes and observed people merrily praying, singing, arms raised, and praying in tongues.

A young man who does not believe in God

The surprise came at the end of adoration, when a prayer minister proclaimed that in the place there was a young man who did not believe in God. He was at the back of the space, on the left hand side, next to the chapel. “My young man, God is at this very moment telling you that He does not need your faith for Him to exist”, William recalls how the word of wisdom was proclaimed that night, in 2007, at the Evangelisation centre Shalom of Peace, in Fortaleza, Brazil.

William seen in the middle, during his Life in the Spirit Seminar.

That proclamation made the young man question himself, seeing how he was placed exactly where the prayer minister had said. Soon after, the priest who was carrying the Blessed Sacrament approached him, traced the sign of the cross and placed his hand on William’s shoulder. “At that very moment, I felt something different, I was immediately reminded of my childhood and my time in the catholic school that I attended”, describes William.

Overtaken by emotion

At the end of the Mass, the then student began to rationalise and question the experience which he had. A week later, his aunt invited him to Mass yet again. William accepted the invitation and during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament he heard the following proclamation: “There is a young man here today, sat in the middle, near the image of Our Lady, who before coming here shared with someone that they did not believe in Our Lady, in her purity or her virginity. But, my son, she is indeed Virgin”.

William was overtaken by emotion, especially when once again the priest approached him with the Blessed Sacrament and touched him. At the end of the Mass, with his mind powered by logic and doubt, William began to question that experience. That is when he decided to attend the Mass for the third Thursday, this time without speaking or saying anything to anyone. He sat behind a tree, almost hidden amongst the crowd of almost five thousand people that gathered there.

At the end of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament an inexplicable encounter occurred. “The priest who had already passed by where I was, out of no where, turned around, and without stopping or touching anyone, moving the chairs out of the way to exactly where I was. At that moment I was crouched behind the tree. The priest came and prayed for me. At that Mass, I believed that that bread was Jesus Christ”, testifies William.

Bags packed and ready to establish a new mission

After that remarkable experience William engaged in the Shalom Catholic Community, attending a prayer group, and began to trail a path of spiritual growth. In 2011, the young man completed the Shalom Vocational Path, the following year he went on mission to Maceió, Brazil, as a Postulant member in Life Community.

In 2013, he returned to Fortaleza as a second year Postulant member of Covenant Community. Currently, William is a Master in Translation Studies and has his luggage packed ready to establish a mission of the Community in Sweden alongside two other young men, Cenildo da Costa Filho, from Curitiba, Brazil and Luis Gonzaga de Lima, from Santo Amaro, Brazil.

The world’s most atheist country

The Divine Providence is rightly sending William to the most atheist country in the world, having a percentage of non-believers reaching a total of 85% of its population. In Sweden, only 2% have declared themselves a catholic.

“My expectation is extremely high. I cannot wait to get there and to live this missionary experience. I am aware that we are going to have a lot of difficulties with the language, the cold climate, the small number of faithful members in the Catholic Church. However, I rejoice in knowing that we will cultivate new friendships, get to know new people and be a part of their lives” shares the youth.

William will be travelling to Sweden in January 2020. “Our mission will be located in Stockholm, but in the meantime we will live in the city of Uppsala, to be able to learn Swedish and to study religion and culture, while getting to know the people and undergoing a period of adaptation” explains William.

The young men who will establish the Shalom Mission in Sweden

The request to open a mission in Sweden came from Cardinal Arbielius, Archbishop of Stockholm made to the Founder and General Moderator of the Shalom Catholic Community, Moyses Azevedo. The discussion first occurred at the World Youth Day (WYD), in Poland and was made formal by the Cardinal in 2017, when he sent a formal request letter to the Founder of Shalom Catholic Community.

“I had been consulted about going on mission to Australia, but it didn’t work out. So when the possibility of opening a new mission in Sweden came up, the Shalom International Assistant, Father Cristiano Pinheiro contacted me and I sent a request letter. My request was accepted, and now in January, I shall go out on mission” shares William Rocha, the young man who went from atheist to missionary sent on mission to the most non-religious country in the world.

 


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