Even before the foundation of the Shalom Community, God inspired it’s future members to serve those most in need. Some facts still unknown to many, reveal the paths of Divine Providence that has made Shalom a vocation in aid of the poor.
First of all, it is important to keep in mind that the poor, in the view of man in the Light of the Shalom Charism, consists of every person who does not know God, everyone who has not yet had a personal experience with the Risen One who passed through the Cross. Every evangelizing action in the community aims to promote human dignity wounded by material, spiritual or moral poverty.
In this article we will highlight the action of God, taken through Shalom, in aid of those living material poverty. João Patriolino a Consecrated member of the Life Community, who today is responsible for Shalom mission in Mozambique, in Africa, will help us to complete the timeline of this remarkable journey today.
Between 1977 and 1979, Moysés Azevedo and some young people, among them some who will be at present at the founding of the community 5 years later, developed an evangelization work in what was then called Pirambu, a geographical region of Fortaleza (Brazil) marked by poverty and violence. For a long time, the place boasted the title of poorest in Latin America. Nowadays the neighbourhood is named Christ Redeemer.
In this same neighbourhood lived a Belgian missionary, Father Caetano de Tilesse, founder of the New Jerusalem Institute. Moysés, Emmir and other young people would evangelize and speak at the retreats held in the Institute. “This experience in Pirambu was decisive in directing our spirituality and our relationship with the poorest and those living in evangelical poverty”, evaluates João Patriolino. For the missionary, it was there that the seed of Shalom’s later work with those in poverty was sowed. “We already wanted to be with the poor,” he says.
Looking into the past of the Community makes us realize that the first experience of the Life Community occurred in the midst of a situation of extreme poverty. Where “Moysés plus four young people began to live in a 3 by 2 meter room and bathroom in the backyard of the first Evangelization Center, Shalom of Peace”, recalls João.
Another curious fact was the trips taken to the city of Uruoca (Brazil), 214 kilometers from the capital of Ceará, located in the northern region of the state. “It was our first trip as a New Work. mission,” recalls João. “In that city, there were many victims of the 1980s drought. We rented the bus, took health professionals to help people and food to distribute. It was an experience to touch first hand those most in need”, he reports.
In Pacajus (Brazil), the Community’s first mission outside of Fortaleza, began with the establishment of an outpatient clinic providing primary care and subsequent referral to the health service, an initiative by Jacqueline Matias, one of the Community’s first missionary. Still in the 1980s, the seed of what would become Come Back Israel emerged from the youth camps, a project dedicated to the monitoring and recovery of drug addicts”.
“The mysterious paths of Divine Wisdom lead us to serve in works dedicated to the poor, as was the case in Macapá (Brazil), founded in 1993. Where we were called to look after the Pastoral Care of the Young which served 500 children, an Agricultural Farm and The Adolescent Defence Centre”, recalls the missionary. The same happened in other Missions around Brazil, such as:
Aracaju, in Sergipe (1991): the Shelter for homeless people
Senhor do Bonfim, in Bahia (1994): Working with children at risk
Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte (1994): Working with children at risk
As well as in the missions of Cruzeiro do Sul Missions, in Acre (1999), Vigário Geral, in Rio de Janeiro (1996), Itapipoca (2000), Sobral (2000) and Juazeiro do Norte (2001), in Ceará, where the Shalom Community established services to help the elderly, homeless and vulnerable children.
Ronaldo Pereira, a consecrated member of the Life Community, who died in 1995 when he coming back from a mission trip, had an important role in the development of services for the poor in the Shalom Community. João Patriolino recalls that the young man, coordinator of the Youth for Jesus Project, created the Mother of Pains ministry which later became the Mother of Pains Project.
The project started to serve at the José Frota Institute (IJF), in Fortaleza, the largest trauma hospital in Ceará and now operates in several Missions, serving people deprived of their liberty, such as prisoners and youth in situations of social vulnerability.
An important milestone in this timeline took place in 1994 at the Shalom Charismatic Forum. Father Daniel Ange, founder of the School of Evangelization “Jeunesse Lumière” in France 1984 and friend of Ronaldo Pereira, was the guest of this formative meeting. As he passed through the streets of Fortaleza and observed the countless number of “street children”, the religious asked a question that echoed in Shalom: “What are the Christians in Fortaleza doing for these children?”.
On Christmas of that same year, Moysés Azevedo made a formal call to the Community to honour the service of charity for the poor through the sharing of goods. “The work with the poor has not yet happened among us because we are not sensitive to them, we have not yet learned the meaning of sharing our goods. When that happens, God will do a work with the poor ”, he explained.
In the following year, at the authorities’ retreat with all the local community leaders, the Lord gave a prophecy which surged a new impulse in the community’s service with the poor. “I am Father Shalom, I was born in a manger. There are many mangers that need to be filled in the world. Get in the mangers and help me be born in other mangers. The work begins in the mangers of the world. Don’t be afraid! Move forward! ”Said the Lord.
The New millennium
With the call for service to the poor increasingly clear, the Community began to structure its work in what became known as the Human Promotion Shalom. Many initiatives have emerged according to the need of your time. In 2000, in the Jubilee of the incarnation of the Word, the archbishop of Fortaleza, Dom José Antonio, asked Moysés for a work to be done with the homeless in the capital of Ceará. That same year, the Shalom Hostel began, which then became the St. Francis House.
In 2016 the Missionary Expeditions began to take force, trips to poor cities in Brazil and Africa, began to gain strength in order to help people both spiritually and materially. All done with volunteers from several Brazilian states and other countries. In the same year, in a private audience with the Holy Father Pope Francis, Moysés presented a Community project to evangelize in the peripheries of humanity.
In 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, the Community implemented the Shalom Friend of the Poor Project, a provide support and assistance to the homeless. Community houses were opened to guide, welcome and feed these brothers, most vulnerable among the vulnerable in this time of international urgency in the fight against the coronavirus.
The Community ended up discerning that the Shalom Friend of the Poor will continue post-pandemic. “We are going to expand and format the service we have already performed in Fortaleza for 20 years at the St. Francis House, which will now have a new address. In this space we will have laundry, cafeteria, psychosocial and health care, as well as social entrepreneurship work with the objective of reinserting the brothers who will be welcomed”, says Jeovana Freitas, responsible for the Human Promotion Advisory of the Shalom Community.
From the facts and reports we can observe the guidance of God who has always led the Community to the service of Charity. Bearing in mind that all evangelization is already a preventive action, the works of Mercy are a sign of the merciful presence of God who, through love, made himself poor with us to enrich us with his grace. As Saint Francis said, “very little or almost we did nothing, we have to start all over again ”. Much remains to be done, but the first steps have already been taken.
Translation: Gabriela Gois
Do you want to take this mission with us? Support us!
If you’d like to donate by bank transfer, here are the Banca Prossima codes:
SHALOM CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
IBAN: IT93 S030 6909 6061 0000 0008 887
CURRENT ACCOUNT: 100000008887
BANK: INTESA SANPAOLO