The oldest Redemptorist in Brazil
The oldest Redemptorist missionary in Brazil, Father José Luciano Jacques Penido, C.Ss.R., celebrated his 101st birthday on Wednesday, 18 October. The date was commemorated with a special prayer, a festive lunch and a snack among confreres, family and friends at the Santo Afonso Redemptorist Convent in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), where the Redemptorist missionary resides.
Father Penido is celebrating another birthday in a lucid spirit but with age limitations. Firm in his purpose of serving God and the Church, a mission to which he has dedicated himself for 81 years, the Redemptorist reveals that the secret to reaching longevity is to fulfil the Father’s will. “I have to thank God for this lucidity. I feel I am in the right mind, intelligent, open to the novelties of life and, above all, in conformity with God’s will. This brings me peace, joy and the fulfilment of my not only religious but Christian life.”
The Provincial of the Redemptorists of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, Fr Nelson Antonio Linhares, C.Ss.R., emphasises that Father Penido’s great strengths are found in his Redemptorist vocation and that the priest is a true example for religious and lay people. “He is a missionary full of wisdom, a kind shepherd and a tireless worker. He put his gifts and abilities at the service of evangelisation. He is a tall, cheerful, hopeful, talkative man who knows how to overcome the frailties of age. Our dear Fr Penido is a concrete example of healthy and loving ageing. He knew how to get through life’s challenges and disappointments without harbouring grudges or resentments. He knows how to live old age as a phase of greater serenity and calm.”
Father José Luciano Jacques Penido, C.Ss.R., was born in Belo Vale (MG) on 18 October 1922, together with his twin brother Paulo. The son of Henrique and Maria José, he received the sacrament of baptism on 28 January 1923. From an early age, he dreamed of becoming a priest. “In 1934, when I was around 11 years old, my father sent me to the seminary in Congonhas because it was the nearest school. I already wanted to be a priest, but I didn’t even think of the Redemptorists as such. When I arrived at the Juniorate [college study for candidates to be religious priests or brothers], I learnt more about the work of the Redemptorist Missionaries, especially the eloquence of Father Ferreira, who awakened in me an enthusiasm for the missions and for religious life. It was a great stimulus for my studies and, later, for my religious life,” the priest reveals.
After his vocational experience in Congonhas (MG), Fr Penido moved to Juiz de Fora (MG) to do his novitiate. There, he met Father Gregório, who guided him to remain faithful to his Redemptorist vocation and formation, following the example of Father Ferreira, the missionary who inspired him so much. After a year, he left for Tietê (SP), where he studied philosophy. He went on to study theology and was transferred to the Floresta Seminary in Juiz de Fora, where the Penido family donated the land.
On 2 February 1942, Father Penido professed his religious vows in the Redemptorist Congregation and on 20 July 1947, he was ordained a priest in the parish of São José in Belo Horizonte (MG). He worked in many Redemptorist communities in the RJ-MG-ES Province and held several positions, including Provincial Superior, from 1962 to 1967. In Rome (Italy), he studied journalism at the Pro Deo International University and moral theology at the Alfonsiana Academy between 1967 and 1969.
Since 1975, Father Penido has lived in Rio de Janeiro, in the Redemptorist monastery located in the Tijuca neighbourhood. He is much loved by the parishioners of Santo Afonso Parish, who consider him a priest with a big heart, helpful, kind, humble and affectionate towards people. As a spiritual leader at the head of various pastoral programmes, he guided the faithful with zeal and his missionary witness, always in the light of the Redemptorist charism.
From the time he joined the Juniorate in Congonhas to the present day, Fr Penido has many memories. One of the most memorable was a mission trip in which there was a terrible accident with the bus he was on: “Once, while on a mission, the bus we were on had its tyres blown out. We had to get out of the vehicle, and we saw, four metres away, a bleeding man who had been shot and was dying. I knelt down in front of him, heard his confession and gave him absolution. It was a defining event in my missionary life,” says the Redemptorist.
With all his experience, his example of life, vocational constancy and missionary ardour, Father Penido talks about the feeling that every vocation holder needs to carry in their heart to become a Redemptorist Missionary: “First of all, you need to have a great love for Jesus Christ! From this love comes the generosity to give oneself fully to God’s will, manifested in the acts of life, in the Holy Bible and in the example we have from so many people, like the Redemptorist Missionaries!”
Eighty-one years as a Redemptorist Missionary, 76 years in the priesthood and 101 years of life! An inspiring vocational witness and a courageous example of a life rooted in the Redeemer! For all this, we give thanks to God! CONGRATULATIONS, FATHER PENIDO!
Journalist for the Province of Rio de Janeiro