Interview with Msgr. Vicente de Paula Ferreira, C.Ss.R.

Msgr. Vicente de Paula Ferreira, C.Ss.R.

To take up God’s plan, responding with love to every challenging step that life presents on the way, attentive to the wounds of the suffering people. This is the commitment that the Auxiliary Bishop of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Msgr. Vicente Ferreira, C.S.R., assumed in his vocation when he accepted the call of the Redeemer, and which currently guides his episcopal ministry. The legacy of St. Alphonsus inspires and encourages him to face complex issues and to take on Integral Ecology as the latest mark of his journey in the life of the Church. As he celebrates 25 years of priesthood on November 16, Msgr. Vicente shares a little of the story of his vocation with the readers of “Akikolá” and leaves a message: in the name of God, let us continue fighting against all forms of prejudice, violence, and injustice!

Brenda Melo (“Akikolá”): Tell us about your vocational call and the choice for the Redemptorist Congregation!

Msgr. Vicente Ferreira, C.Ss.R: I was born in the small district of Araraí, Alegre (ES). I was born on October 27 1970. I grew up in a family of small farmers. Three things strongly marked my childhood and adolescence—the work in the fields, my primary studies and the way of the Church. I was involved in the dynamics of the biblical circles, the family prayers and the celebrations in the Church. Listening to Radio Aparecida, the only means of communication we had, I felt the first awakening of my vocation, with the proclamation “come be a Redemptorist Missionary, to take the Gospel to the poorest and most abandoned”. From that moment on, I began to say that I wanted to be a priest, and I followed up with the Redemptorists of the Rio Province. I remember that my parents were very supportive, and we even went as far as looking for the priest of the Alegre parish. Still, the correspondence with the Redemptorist Vocations Office, Campos/RJ and Juiz de Fora/MG, despite the distances, was very efficient. In other words, for a poor boy from the countryside, having his letters answered, living so far from the cities, was understood as a sign of welcome. And that encouraged me a lot. From then on, I followed the whole process of Redemptorist accompaniment and formation and was ordained on November 16 1996, in the church of Our Lady of Penha in Alegre (ES).

You have done three terms as Superior of the Province of Rio, besides other responsibilities. What was your time as a Redemptorist Missionary in the Province like? 

Soon after ordination, I worked a short period as Vocations Promoter in Belo Horizonte. It was a choice that the Province had just made. There was no one assigned exclusively for this work. It was an inaugural adventure. Then I spent five years at Coronel Fabriciano (MG) as formator of the SPES [Síntese Pessoal de Experiências Subjetivas], also helping in pastoral work and at Radio Educadora. After three years as formator of the CVSA [Comunidad Vocacional de San Alfonso], I was elected Provincial for three consecutive terms. I held this position from 2005 until the end of 2014. It was a period of much learning and responsibility. I was relatively new, and I was replacing great priests like Fr. Dalton Barros de Almeida. What helped me a lot was the co-responsible way of carrying out my task. That is to say, the councils, teams of formators, parish priests, missionaries, lay Redemptorists and administration helped me a lot. This synodal communion, this way of walking together, has marked my ministry. I would also like to highlight all the excellent formative baggage I received in the Province of Rio, which created in me a heart for learning life and books. That is why, even with so many commitments and so many journeys throughout Brazil and the world, I have been able to organise myself and go through a long process of study. It was during this time that I did my master’s and doctorate at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora. When I was appointed bishop in 2017, I was a formator of theology students in Belo Horizonte and I had finished a post-doctoral internship in theology at the FAJE [Facultad Jesuita].

What is the most evident Redemptorist mark that you carry with you and that encourages you to be solidary and so active in political and socio-environmental issues, in favour of the suffering people?

Saint Alphonsus inspires me greatly in my life. His intellectual, artistic, pastoral and spiritual legacy. The exodus that he lived from the centre to the periphery has always caught my attention. He left his comforts in Naples to go and live in Scala, close to the workers. I cannot understand the gigantic work of this Doctor of the Church without seeing him deeply united to simple people. His thoughts were born in the territories where his feet trod. This incarnate Christianity, immersed in the wounds of the poor and of the earth, encourages me to face such complex agendas today. These socio-environmental questions, deepened by the magisterium of Pope Francis, challenge my person and my episcopal ministry every day. Integral Ecology marks, in some way, an itinerary of conversion in my life. I have no doubt that it is the prophecy of the new times. 

What are your current responsibilities as Auxiliary Bishop of Belo Horizonte?

I am responsible for the Episcopal Region of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, in the Valley of Paraopeba, whose headquarters is in Brumadinho. It is a place of continual mission. I accompany very closely the communities affected by the tragedy/crime of Vale, with the bursting of the dam at Mina do Córrego do Feijão, which killed 272 people and destroyed the Paraopeba river basin. This reality, despite being local, reveals our global dramas. For this reason, I have taken part in many meetings, national and international networks. I am also an animator of the Episcopal Vicariate for Social, Political and Environmental Action, the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Youth and the Secretariat for Religious Consecrated Life. I coordinate the Missionary Commission and the Working Group of Integral Ecology and Mining of the Regional East 2 and I am a member of the Commissions of Integral Ecology and Culture and Education of the CNBB [National Conference of Bishops of Brazil]. 

Please, leave a message to the readers of “Akikolá”!

“Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio!” As baptized people, we follow a beautiful life project which is that of Jesus Christ. I consider as the most important element of this path the commandment of love. For this reason, I have chosen as the motto of my episcopal ministry “Charity will never end” (1 Cor 13:8). In every life choice we make, it is worthwhile to live inspired by this love. It is a wonderful gift of God that deserves our response at every moment of our life. It is very good when we give ourselves for the cause of the Reign of God, even more so in our days, in this transition of time. Thank you, “Akilolá” team and dear readers, for your prayers and friendship. Let us continue fighting every form of prejudice, violence and injustice in the name of the God of life. And may Mary, our Perpetual Help, sustain us especially when we face the dangers of our mission.

Brenda Melo,

Courtesy of: Revista Akikolá – Noviembre/2021, Province of Rio, Brazil