Interview with Father Luís Carlos de Carvalho Silva, C.Ss.R., rector of the Sanctuary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, in Campos dos Goytacazes (RJ), who reports how the sanctuary has faced the challenges caused by the pandemic of the new coronavirus, which has changed human relations.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has responded to the pandemic’s situation with much creativity, daring, and care. Projects such as live solidarity, events in drive-thru format, social actions, creation of the Afro-Brazilian Pastoral, and WebTV were developed with the participation of different groups, pastoral, and movements. How important is the involvement of lay people in these work fronts?
The reality provoked by the pandemic of the need to take care of health and, at the same time, to help those who need help, made us articulate our apostolate differently. The pastoral agents, always zealous and following the sanitary norm guidelines, have been marking their pastoral presence throughout the period of lockdown in an indirect way and now, with the new phase, in a direct way in the works. The involvement of the laity has made it possible for us to carry out these works. It has been challenging for our creativity, but the Holy Spirit has urged our brothers and sisters in the Sanctuary to continue the apostolic life as well as the assistance to the most abandoned in our region.
How did the idea of creating a WebTV for the Sanctuary come about?
WebTV is the work of the Holy Spirit who, blowing in us the breath of life, made us respond to the pastoral demand. It was the way to keep the pastoral ministry active despite the reclusion caused by the pandemic. We had a radio program whose contract expired in March, and we did not renew it because of the impossibility of going to the radio to make the programs. We began broadcasting Masses on social networks, which culminated in the conquest of our Youtube channel. To take advantage of this communication vehicle, we created a program called “Stela Luz” to maintain the cohesion of our pastorals and movements. From this program came other demands, such as the Sanctuary News, MLR in Action, Devotee’s Hour, Musical Confraternity, etc. Each program aims to promote evangelization, serve different audiences, and maintain the communion of our people.
How did the faithful respond to this new channel of evangelization?
The reception was very positive because it attends the visitors’ reality to the Sanctuary, mainly those who still can’t leave their homes, and also reaches the devotees of Our Lady of Perpetual Help connected to the internet all over the world.
In the social field, how has help been given to the poorest and most abandoned?
The social pastoral has been acting throughout this period, giving priority to distributing basic food and clothes donation. Before the pandemic, an average of 110 families was already assisted. With the worsening of the social crisis, today, there are more than 150 families assisted. The Pastoral Ministry always tries to interview and listen to the people who come here, listening to them in their pains and anguish caused by the situation of impoverishment, unemployment, and growing violence.
The Redemptorist Missionary Youth of the Shrine has also been participative in building a more inclusive society. The Solidarity Breakfast Project is an example of this welcoming gesture. Tell us about this action of the youth!
Every Sunday, a group of our young people goes out early to offer breakfast and clothing to people who are so in a street situation. Besides providing food, they take the Gospel’s message and listen to the vent of these people. It is a moment of deep intimacy with God for our youth through the confrontation of the raw reality faced by our brothers and sisters who live on the streets of the city. Sunday is when people are most abandoned because commerce does not open, and these people find themselves more vulnerable to hunger and loneliness.
With the pandemic installed worldwide, there has been a great increase in evangelization through digital means. How do you see the Redemptorist presence in this context?
Redemptorist Missionaries are called to spread the Good News of Christ as our founder St. Alphonsus, was tireless in seeking to communicate the Gospel of love through his various gifts. In Brazil, we have TV Aparecida, which is an excellent channel of communication. In the Province of Rio, we have the Radio Educadora de Coronel Fabriciano and, practically, in all the work fronts of the Province, we have the use of social media for the transmission of masses. Our Provincialate has always prioritized information as an evangelization instrument, either through AKIKOLÁ through the website and now through the podcast. I believe that we are responding to our call to be present in people’s lives. The various human and media resources, as far as possible, have been used to facilitate the communion of people with each other and with God.
Brenda Melo Juiz de Fora, MG
Courtesy “Akikolà,” Informativo da Provincia do RJ-MG-ES, No. 337, October 2020.