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Brazilian Catholic community at St. Joseph in Manchester celebrates feast of Our Lady of Aparecida

Members of the Brazilian community sang and prayed before a Mass and celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida.
Photo Credits: Jerry Naunheim Jr. for the St. Louis Review
A community of Catholics from Brazil have made a home at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester, with opportunities to celebrate faith traditions from their South American culture and pray and worship together in their native Portuguese.

One recent celebration was for the feast of Our Lady of Aparecida Oct. 16 at St. Joseph Church. About 50 people gathered for the Mass, which included a procession with a statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, and a gathering afterward featuring music and Brazilian foods.

“This means a lot to us,” said Kalyne Carr, who leads Grupo da Misericórdia, a weekly Divine Mercy prayer group for the Brazilian community. “It feels like family and a little part of Brazil. We have our own style of the Mass, so it feels like you are at home. It feels good to be with everybody and share and celebrate.”

The devotion to Our Lady of Aparecida is rooted in a story of three Brazilian fishermen who in 1717 were struggling to catch fish. After praying to the Blessed Mother, the men caught in their net a headless statue of Mary. Another cast of the net produced the head of the statue, which followed with a net full of fish.

A statue of Our Lady of Aparecida
Photo Credits: Jerry Naunheim Jr. for the St. Louis Review
Our Lady represents hope, said Suzy Barbosa-McBride, because “I think she never gives up. As a community, we are in this journey as people of hope for change, especially after the pandemic … we’re doing this experience of faith together in our language and culture and (Our Lady) inspires us the most.”

Some who are part of the Brazilian community in St. Louis have come here to work at corporations such as Bayer (which acquired Monsanto in 2016), AB InBev and Nestle Purina due to export opportunities. Brazilian Catholics are spread across many parish communities in the archdiocese, but find a common cultural home at St. Joseph.

With the support of the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, the community formed in 2009, with the first Portugese-language Mass held at St. Cecilia Church in 2013.

By 2019, the Brazilian community found a more permanent home at St. Joseph Parish, which already had an existing Hispanic Ministry, represented by numerous Central and South American nationalities.

The Brazilian community also hosts other activities, including a Charismatic group, regular retreats, faith formation, charitable works and other celebrations.

The Blessed Mother has a way in which she unites Catholics, no matter where they are in the world, said Fernanda Thurmond, adding that Brazilians identify with her, even if they’re not Catholic, because of deep cultural ties. Her Oct. 12 feast day is a national holiday in Brazil and also coincides with Children’s Day, in which children are celebrated with fun activities.

“Everyone identifies with her, because she’s from that country and she represents Catholicism in that country,” Thurmond said. “Because Brazil is so culturally religious, it’s not only being religious, it’s also part of your culture.

Members of the Brazilian community sat around a fire after a Mass and celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida Oct. 16 at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester.
Photo Credits: Jerry Naunheim Jr. for the St. Louis Review

“Our Lady always ends up getting her children together,” no matter where we are in the world, she said. “I think the mission of why she appears in so many different ways is so that her children can recognize her wherever she goes and wherever we go.”


>> Our Lady of Aparecida

In October of 1717, three fishermen prayed to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception asking God to grant them fish to catch. Soon after dragging a headless statue of the Virgin Mary and then the head, the fishermen reported catching plenty of fish. They named the statue Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Our Lady of the Appeared Conception) and a special devotion began followed by many miracles.

The image attracted large crowds to the village where the fishermen lived, and over the next years much time was devoted in building chapels and eventually the biggest Marian shrine in the world, located in Aparecida, Sao Paulo. On July 16, 1930, Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady Aparecida as the main patroness of Brazil. Her feast day is celebrated on Oct. 12 and since 1980 it has been a national holiday.

Maria Calcott carried a statue of Our Lady of Aparecida before a Mass and celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Aparecida Oct. 16 at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester. Our Lady of Aparecida is the patroness of Brazil.
Photo Credits: Jerry Naunheim Jr.

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