The Amazon Experience

The project of the Brazil-Southern Cone Conference

14 May 2024

On Sunday the 28th April 2024 we began the first edition of the "Amazon Experience" project, which will end on the 22nd May 2024. 10 friars under ten from the different Entities that make up the Franciscan Conference of Brazil and the Southern Cone are participating. They are being welcomed by the Custody of St Benedict the Amazonian, based in the city of Santarém.

Our first day was dedicated to listening to each other amongst the friars and sharing: What is each one experiencing? Our hopes, struggles, dreams, challenges, and difficulties. 
At the beginning we had the opportunity to reflect on the ecclesiological reality of the Amazon and visit a small community of fishermen who live on the islands of the Amazon River.

We also visited a quilombola community in Arapema, where descendants of slaves live. All of these communities are threatened by major projects that put at risk not only the forest, but also the people who depend on it for survival. On our fourth day of experience we were able to experience moments of coexistence and exchange with the lay members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (CEB) present in urban and rural areas.

We then traveled down the Amazon River to the town of Monte Alegre, from there we were sent two by two to the rural communities served by the friars who live there. During the visit to the houses we had the opportunity to interact with the local people, to be welcomed in their homes. On Sunday we had the opportunity to participate in the celebration of the Word, led mostly by lay women who work in the communities. On returning to the city, we visited the State Park (PEMA) where there are cave paintings of the first Amazonian inhabitants more than 12 thousand years ago.

Upon returning to Santarem we had a moment of fraternal dialogue and a day of walking in order to prepare the heart for the last stage of the experience with a 3 to 4 day trip along the rivers to the San Francisco del Rio Cururu Mission to get to know the reality of the villages where the Munduruku Indians live. Currently, the region is considered one of the most threatened by illegal gold mining in the Amazon. 

All this experience is being illuminated by the teachings and dreams of Pope Francis present in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Querida Amazônia", the encyclicals Laudato Si' and Fratelli Tutti, and in the apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum

The friars shared that these first days of the Experience were marked by three key words: gratitude, abundance, and fraternity. Gratitude for the opportunity to tread on this sacred ground and to be able to live with different people and cultures that teach us to value our charism and spirituality even more. Abundance, present in the diversity of life, colors and flavours, and in the many gestures of the communities visited; and finally Fraternity, represented by the care and friendship that has been established between the friars and the communities since the beginning of these activities. 

Br. Vagner de Sena Ferreira, OFM
Custody of St. Benedict of the Amazon

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