(Campo Grande, Brazil) The Redemptorist Missionary, Fr. Rodrigo Augusto, arrived in Campo Grande (MS) in 2017 to be part of the religious community of the State Shrine Our Lady of Perpetual Help and to assume the position of professor of philosophy of Education in the courses of pedagogy and degree of the FUMGS (the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul), after approval in the public contest. But to count this relationship of the religious and academic vocations exercised by the Redemptorist Missionary, it is necessary to return a few years in time: for 1995. In that year, the young man of only 17 years, who still in high school, knew the Redemptorist Congregation, continued in Cascavel (PR).
After four years, in 1999, he joined the Congregation and moved to Curitiba (PR) to study philosophy at PUC Paraná, the first formative stage of the Redemptorist missionary. A student who was outstanding in his studies, graduation was no different. Rodrigo Augusto received the academic laureate Marcellin Champagnat, for being the best student of the course. The recognition awarded him a scholarship to study at the PUC. It was at that moment the first difficult choice to reconcile the two vocations. To follow religious or academic life?
Rodrigo Augusto then sought advice from a very Christian teacher who recommended: “The Church needs intelligent people”. Following this orientation, the youth continued the formative stage of religious life. But he did not leave his academic career aside. After completing the novitiate, Rodrigo Augusto, he attended a Masters in Education with the scholarship he won. He moved to Sao Paulo to do Theology, a course that ended in 2007 and was ordained a priest in 2008.
In 2010 he started a Ph.D. from the Federal University of Paraná. Always reconciling religious life and studies, he defended the thesis in 2015. At that time, he acted as a substitute professor at FUPR. He then completed a one-year post-doctorate internship in Ponta Grossa (PR). After completing his studies, he moved to Rome (Italy) where he collaborated for a year in the Alphonsian Academy, a pontifical institution of higher education in Italy. Knowing the desire to teach Fr. Rodrigo Augusto, a friend sent a public tender for the FUMGS in 2017. He says that it was like “a glove for his hands”, because the theoretical reference was very similar to the thesis that he was to defend. With 36 candidates competing, from the largest universities in Brazil, Fr. Rodrigo Augusto was in first place with the highest score in the competition, guaranteeing the only spot expected.
It was then that the second difficult choice between religious and academic vocation arose. To take up the position of teacher or not? Rodrigo Augusto approached the Provincial Superior, Fr. Edilei Silva, who authorized the priest to take part in the contest. Since then, Fr. Rodrigo has reconciled religious and academic vocations. The priest celebrates masses and novenas in the State Sanctuary and in the Santo Agostinho Community and teaches at FUMGS, the principal of the State. As a teacher, he knew the virtues and defects of the University and clung to the qualities to walk in academic life. As a religious, he uses his spirituality and wisdom to motivate students, often tired as most also need to reconcile work and study and seeks to show the importance of education.
Father Rodrigo also carries out the religious vocation with teachers, co-workers, who often feel devalued and under stress of academic life. “The university, the school, are environments that frustrate teachers and students because it is a pressure that ends up generating mental and physical wear and tear. I try to save and preserve the health of these people,” says the Redemptorist missionary. The priest further recounts that both teachers and students, when they know he is a priest, have sought him out to vent, to ask for guidance and help.
Education and religiosity must go together. The statement is supported in the Encyclical Letter “FIDES ET RATIO” (Faith and Reason), by the Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II: “Faith and reason (fides et ratio) constitute as the two wings by which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” The letter is still complete: “There is no reason to compete between reason and faith: one implies the other, and each has its own space of realization.”
“I am happy to continue the work of our founder, St. Alphonsus (founder of the Redemptorist Congregation). He was a Doctor of the Church concerned with the formation of the clergy and the people of God and dedicated his life to the formation. I feel it is a mission to be able to take the name of the Congregation and the name of the Church,” concludes Father Rodrigo Augusto.