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Brazilian Dialogue

October 10, 2002

Good news for the many PM readers who are friends of Fundanor and have given it financial support: Lourdes Monteiro (the Angel of Alagoas) will soon have someone she trusts to assume the direction of her Boystown and Girlstown.

Benedict Lennartz of Hanover, Germany, has lived in Brazil's Northeast since 1992. He established a home similar to that of Lourdes in Recife, in the state of Pernambuco. It, too, has a captivating name, Comunidade Vita Nova (New Life Community). Some five years ago he began to study for the priesthood in the Maceio archdiocesan seminary for the Diocese of Penedo. Penedo is a lovely old city in the lower So Francisco River basin. Five years ago it was under the direction of a German bishop, now deceased.

Now Palmeira dos Indios is also a see city, and its bishop Dom Fernando Iorio is hostile to foreign clergy, viewing them, apparently, as potential subversives. So how can the future Padre Benedict Lennartz assume the direction of Fundanor, practically under Dom Iorio's nose?

It's easy, says Lourdes. By a quirky division of diocesan boundaries of Alagoas, one parish of Penedo Diocese, Belem (Bethlehem), lies very close to the city of Palmeira dos Indios.

The current bishop of Penedo intends to make Benedict Lennartz pastor of Belem right after his ordination next spring and, since many parishes in Brazil function with only weekend clergy, Lennartz will reside at Fundanor through the week. At Fundanor he will be, simply, Benedict Lennartz who, as any lay person or citizen, is allowed to live and work at a secular job.

Of course, the question of occasional weekly services at Fundanor would still need to be addressed with the local bishop.

As with every step forward in a land so beset by psychological and juridical landmines, this step, too, makes one uneasy at the same time that it gives joy.

I spoke to Lennartz on the phone recently and he said that he had a favourable impression of both the boys' home and the girls' home from his several visits to Fundanor.

Since Hanover is close to the various North Rhine-Westphalia towns where I do fund-raising every two or three years, I'm hoping I can make one more trip to Germany when Lennartz goes there after ordination. Once he is in charge of Fundanor, it will be possible to increase German engagement for Fundanor.

NB: For Christmas 2002 Rainbow of Hope intends to replace Fundanor's derelict van with a new mini-bus. The musical, Nunsense, playing in Humboldt, Sask., in November, is in support of this project.

Al Gerwing