The Province of Campo Grande, in the name of all Missionary Redemptorists, welcomed the journalists who arrived to cover the first International Congress about Our Lady of Perpetual Help, from May 12-16, in Campo Grande, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. In a press conference, held this past Friday afternoon, May 9th, Fr. Dirson Gonçalves, rector of the sanctuary/shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the city of Campo Grande, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul welcomed everyone and presented Fr. Joaquim Parron, superior of the Redemptorist province in the region, who spoke of the importance of the event and about the working methodology to be used by the 100 other representatives of the Units of the Congregation spread throughout the five continents.
Fr. Parron said that the Redemptorist Province of Campo Grande is responding to the general appeal, made by many confreres, that was heard, for an international meeting to be held for sharing and deepening understanding and for discussing new evangelization projects within the context of the perpetual novenas in various countries. Campo Grande was chosen as the venue, according to the provincial superior, because of the city’s strong expression of devotion and because the local community, in hosting the Congress, feels privileged and welcomes the encounter as an invitation to spread even more widely this devotion in the region of Mato Grosso, in all of Brasil and throughout the world.
The provincial superior emphasized even more the importance of other Brazilian cities that are excellent examples of passion for devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, as in the case of Curitiba, in the state of Paraná, and Belém, the capital of the state of Pará, where every week about 40 thousand people gather for the novenas in both cities. Fr. Parron recalled that some international experiences, such as the devotion in the Philippines, Singapore and Argentina, will be thoroughly presented too.
The Province of Campo Grande is promoting the Congress in the name of the URB (Union of Redemptorists of Brazil) Sub-Conference, which is part of the Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the five Conferences of the Congregation. The Redemptorists’ general government is also participating in this Congress through Fr. Enrique López, the vicar general, and the superior general, Fr. Michael Brehl. Fr. Enrique told the journalists that the government of the Congregation supports this initiative: “We Redemptorists are missionaries in 80 countries and we have, as our mission, to announce the gospel to the most abandoned, especially the poor. The most abandoned, in the expression of St. Alphonsus, our founder, means to say those excluded by society and also those abandoned by the church.” He added, “We received, directly from the Pope, the mandate to make Mary, the mother of Jesus, known throughout the world by means of the Icon of Perpetual Help. The Icon bears an important message within itself and for this reason becomes an instrument for our evangelization.”
Fr. Enrique emphasized further the importance of the method to be employed in the Congress, affirming that the Redemporists are gathering in Campo Grande for a meeting divided into three moments: the first, to share experiences of evangelization in the context of the Perpetual Help novenas in different parts of the world; the second, a theological, pastoral and missionary reflection on the presence of the Icon with the people and; finally, to seek ways about “what we can do together to announce the plentiful redemption of Jesus Christ in the context of devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.”
The vicar general of the Redemptorists’ Congregation also highlighted the uniqueness of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help that, besides having a strong artistic expression, truly carries the synthesis of three traditional Marian icons in the Church and which are venerated in many places. The first is the icon of the Mother of God which depicts Mary with the Child in her arms. There are numerous variations of this icon. The second is the icon of the Virgin of the Passion which always shows the symbols of the pain and sacrifice of Christ on the cross near the image of Mary and Jesus. And lastly, the icon that shows Mary pointing to Jesus, indicating that He is the way of salvation. Fr. Enrique finished his exposition of this particular convergence of meanings of ancient icons into a single Icon remembering that he recently heard a lay Redemptorist use a special expression that clarifies the importance of the message of this Icon: “In Christ, redemption is plentiful and in Mary one finds Perpetual Help.”
Fr. Dirson, at the end of the interview, said to the journalists present that this event will be an historical milestone for Campo Grande. “Years from now, when they speak of this event and ask where it took place, everyone will remember our city.”
(Translation: Fr. Joseph Dorsey, CSsR)