No one in this entire area of the country could have possibly missed the arrival of Padre Donaldo on Oct. 7, 2003. It was top news on the radio for days!
All anxiously awaited for that great moment and, when it did come, the festa was on. Four buses from Uniao, along with other people who travelled by car, went to the Maceio airport to welcome Don with wide open arms. Canadians (three of us), and a few other people, were allowed to break rules and wait for Don right near the plane. When he finally appeared, we could hear the Uniao crowd near the airport building cheer unceasingly and wholeheartedly while holding a great big Canadian flag that could be clearly seen from quite a good distance.
Of course, when Don approached the people, he instantly disappeared from our sight.
The most touching part of the whole event was the arrival in Uniao itself. Before we even got to the city, people were waiting on either side of the highway under the burning sun. They had been there for hours just to be sure not to miss out on anything.
As we entered the city, more people came from everywhere, waving at Don with flowers and palm tree branches and attempting to touch him as the car slowly drove by. Some were crying while others sang: "Welcome home Donaldo, our land is your land!" I especially noticed a small man in the crowd for whom walking was obviously not easy, but he too was there, waving his palm tree branch and determined to make it to the parish house with the rest of the people.
Once Don finally did reach the parish house where again more people were waiting, the rejoicing and celebrating went on for hours, and there was no shortage of fire crackers for the event.
At one point, an elderly lady turned to me and, with tears in her eyes, said, "Everyone but everyone has a place in Father Don's heart -- from the riches to the poorest."
Don, we thank you for your tremendous example of unconditional love and kindness. May you go back to Canada knowing that many of God's "little people" here feel special because of you. Whether you are in Canada or Brazil, Don, you undoubtedly shall continue to live forever in the hearts of those many people you so dearly love.