After visiting the Vidigal favela and its eco-park on day 3, Jason Welle, SJ and the Pontau pilgrims took a 2-hour bus ride (standing room only, as shown in the photo below) to spend two days in Favela Santa Marta, one of the first favelas to be “pacified” by police. It’s also the site for Michael Jackson’s music video of “They Don’t Care About Us,” filmed in 1996. A bronze statue of Michael stands in the favela commemorating its fifteen minutes of fame: see it and other pictures of our embedded correspondents in the gallery of photos at the end of this post. The favela lacks streets – people used steep staircases to reach their densely packed houses until the city built an incline elevator from the bottom of the hill to the top.
Pilgrims walking to Aparecida began their day in the chapel, reflecting on their journey thus far and realizing that “we have become a family, and we lift each other up and carry the weight together,” reported Emma Scuglik. The terrain covered was more hospitable and forgiving – flat and free of rocks. As a treat, they allowed a stop for coconut ice cream. When evening rolled around, the pilgrims celebrated Mass together without a chapel — they made do by crowding into a hostel room. The homily consisted of sharing their struggles and moments closest to God during the pilgrimage. Strengthened by the power of prayer and community and reliance on each other, the pilgrims found moments of light in the face of their differences and difficulties — said Emma, “None of us can remember the last time we laughed so much, even though we might not always know what we are laughing at due to the language barrier.”
Near the idyllic city of Cascavel in the rural hills of southern Brazil, Chris Schroeder, SJ reflects on his journey and insights gained about the simplicity and value of relationship in an exclusive blog for The Jesuit Post:
Can a pilgrimage arrive at people and not just places? It seems this one has. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when my Brazilian companion, Denis, and I were picked up that first night in Cascavel to go to the small farm of José and Gesmari Broca (married for 36 years) for a two-day homestay. José speaks with a generous joy about all aspects of his life, but there is a special pride that is evident when he tells the story of how he first arrived in the region and scraped together the funds to buy his small plot of land.
Read his full post here.
We’re waiting for updates from Brendan Busse, SJ and the pilgrims creating a musical in four languages. They’ve got their hands full and it can’t be easy… Last we heard, the Belem pilgrims had made it onto Brazilian TV. We’ll update more on that story later. Stay tuned!