Trócaire diocesan volunteer, Aaron Snoddy, writes about his experiences in the favelas of Sao Paulo in Brazil, where he travelled to mark World Youth Day 2013.
“Go and make disciples of all nations” was the theme of World Youth Day 2013, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the week of 23 to 28 July.
Taken from Matthew’s Gospel, we are called as young Catholics to respect the risen Christ and to be missionaries that live a true Christian faith. It is with this inspiration that I travelled with a group of Trócaire Diocesan volunteers to meet the poor of Sao Paulo and to understand the nature and responsibility of this discipleship.
We first witnessed Trócaire’s mission for a just world in the favela of Vila Prudente, where the reality of life for its people is shocking. We met Father Pat Clarke, a Holy Ghost missionary supported by Trócaire, who works to protect and improve the living conditions of people in the favelas.
Top image: Crowds gather for Pope Francis mass on Copacabana beach. Bottom left: Pope greets crowds in Rio. Bottom right: sand sculpture. Images courtesy of Caritas Internationalis/Michelle Hough
To explain how hope can arise against the greatest of odds, he explained that the tabernacle in his project’s chapel was once a component of an arsenal during Italy’s fascist regime. To experience the presence of the consecrated host in what was once a machine of war, is a perfect metaphor for the power of charity and love to shine through even the bleakest of circumstances. While we may begin to doubt the presence of God in poverty, it is through poverty that we find the most basic and pure expressions of faith and hope.
We also visited Bem Me Quer, a HIV/AIDS support project funded by Trócaire. Set up in 1996 by the late Sister Helen Regan, a member of the Saint Louis congregation, Bem Me Quer works with people who have been stigmatised and isolated because of their HIV positive status. One of my most prevalent memories was of a drama about their lives performed by young children living with HIV/AIDS. Witnessing these powerful personal testimonies gave me a glimpse into the everyday lives of these marginalised young people. It inspired us to contemplate the privileged nature of our own culture and refocused us upon the ministry of Christ to the poor. As representatives of Ireland, it was our duty to bear witness to our experiences during this missionary week.
By witnessing the expressions of faith found through the work of Trócaire in Sao Paulo, we approached Rio for World Youth Day with a zeal and clarity of conscience and belonging, understanding the solidarity of Christ in the poor.
Aaron Snoddy is a Trócaire volunteer with the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. He travelled to Brazil to spend a week amongst the poor of Sao Paulo with Trócaire-supported missionaries. To find out more about ‘Just Faith’, Trócaire’s diocesan Justice and Peace programme, email Hannah Evans
or call 01 6293333.