The National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida has as its primary objective to accomplish the evangelizing mission of the Church. “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize”. [Paul VI, EN. n. 14].
Shrines are meant to welcome pilgrims by their very nature since “pilgrimage is part of human nature”. Every human being feels like a being on a journey. Human life is a constant journey towards the definitive homeland, the Father’s house. The Christian meaning of the word pilgrimage, or making a pilgrimage, is, first of all, to walk along the road, to be someone who passes through, as Christ passed through the roads of Palestine. Among the pilgrims who visit the shrines, those who are poor and oppressed, the preferred ones of Jesus and the Church, stand out.
In his Apostolic Letter Sanctuarium in Ecclesia, Pope Francis tells us that the shrine holds great symbolic value in the Church. Becoming a pilgrim is a genuine profession of faith. Shrines can be true refuges, where pilgrims rediscover themselves and rediscover the strength needed for their own conversion.[Apostolic Letter of the Supreme Pontiff Francis Sanctuarium in Ecclesia, 11 February 2017].
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida is of fundamental importance in the evangelizing mission of the Church present in Brazil. Such relevance leads us to an incessant search for the improvement of our pastoral action, which must be welcoming and liberating, guiding the thousands of pilgrims who pass through here or who accompany us home through the media, to a new awareness of their baptismal commitment, which calls us to active participation in the Christian community, not as mere listeners, but as protagonists of a new time of justice and peace.
Again in the Apostolic Letter Sanctuarium in Ecclesia, Pope Francis says that through the spirituality proper to each shrine, pilgrims are guided with the “pedagogy of evangelization” towards an ever more responsible commitment in their Christian formation and in the witness of charity. The shrine also contributes, to a great extent, to the catechetical commitment of the Christian community.
In his address to the participants of the international meeting of rectors and collaborators of shrines, held in Rome in 2018, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of shrines in the journey, everyday life of the Church. They are places where people go with goodwill to manifest their faith in simplicity, and according to the traditions they have learned since childhood. In many ways, our shrines are irreplaceable because they keep popular piety alive, enriching it with catechetical formation, which sustains and strengthens the faith while nurturing the witness of charity.
Since 2019, when we began to face the great challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida had to readapt and rethink its pastoral evangelizing action. In this sense, the Rede Aparecida de Comunicação [Aparecida Communications Network], integrated with the pastoral ministry of the National Shrine, has developed a decisive and fundamental role in the evangelizing action. To understand our pastoral activity, we present some numbers:
STATISTICAL REPORT 2020 – NATIONAL SHRINE AND OLD BASILICA
- baptismal celebrations 472
- baptized children 1619
- baptized adults 64
Sacrament of penance
- celebration of penance 636
- people confessed 65.947
- masses celebrated 1.995
- communions 1.221.900
- matrimony celebrations 5
- blessing celebrations 1.684
- acolytes 38
- ushers 67
- lectors 116
- ministers of the Eucharist 467
- registered group leaders 379
- registered pilgrimages 2.403
Fr. Eduardo Ribeiro, C.Ss.R.
Prefect of the Church
Courtesy of “Informativo da Provincia”, June-July-August 2021, p. 29-30.
Pictures courtesy of Santuário Nacional de Aparecida Facebook profile