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e2Walking with Saint Clare to the Encounter with St. Francis e4Sisters Maria Helena and Sister Tania at the Congress e5A moment of reflection

e3Pilgrims climbing the hills of the city

The Franciscan Family of Brazil motivated all corners of the country for two years of intense work through novenas, walks and celebrations to prepare for the Clarian Congress. These efforts began in 2011 on Palm Sunday, culminating with the August  9-13 Clarian Congress in northeastern Brazil. The illuminating theme chosen was: St. Clare of Assisi Today, a Path of Unity: A Life Lived according to Love: 1212 -2012.  People from all regions of Brazil attended. Sisters Maria Helena Carvalho and Tania Maria Ribeiro Machado represented the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor.

In Canindé we breathed an atmosphere of prayer, joy and peace! We felt as if we were brought back to the origins of the Franciscan-Clarian Charism. We were welcomed to this simple town, a well known Franciscan Sanctuary in the State of Ceará, which is about 81 miles from its capital, Fortaleza.

About 1,600 culturally diverse people participated fully in the activities. We experienced an "almost perfect" unity. There was joy even in situations of discomfort caused by the semi-arid climate. In Canindé, the sun rises at 5:30 a.m. Consequently, it was a pleasure to pray together at dawn, which we did twice. On the first day we prayed at the St. Francis of the Stigmata Basilica; the second day, we did morning prayer during our exercise: Walking with St. Clare Toward the Encounter with Francis, going from the Basilica to the Monastery of the Poor Clares. We walked on uneven paving stones in the streets as we climbed the hills of the city. So we had some experiences of penance.

e1Basilica of the Stigmata of St. Francis by night

On August 10, Dom Frei Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, OFM, Secretary General of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), presided at the Eucharistic Liturgy. In the evening, we  celebrated the Transitus of Saint Clare of Assisi along with a very meaningful performance by members of the Franciscan Youth Movement of Canindé.

Two renowned theologians of the Franciscan Family in Brazil, Brother Victor Mazzuco, OFM and Brother Almir Ribeiro Guimarães, OFM contributed to the deepening of the Congress’ theme. Brother Victor spoke about Clare of Assisi, a Path of Unity and Brother Almir spoke about The Miracle of Bread. Sister Maria Clara of the Blessed Sacrament, a Sister of St. Clare from Guaratinguetá, São Paulo, addressed the issue Meeting Mother Clare – The Female Face of our Charism.

On August 11 the participants were organized according to their regional group for the event Meeting with the Bridegroom. There was Eucharistic adoration in the various churches in town.  At 11 o'clock the bells of all the churches rang as a form of praise to God and in honor of St. Clare.

There were also two moments of very rich cultural interaction, one titled The Perfect Joy, performed by all regional groups which comprise the Franciscan Family in Brazil.  Our region, the Midwest, excelled in the presentation that involved 1,600 participants in a typical Brazilian square dance called Catira. The second moment of relaxation happened in the evening after the closing Mass. A priest from the area sang songs of northeastern people’s religious culture. He performed in the public square and everyone participated. The high point of the Congress was the closing Eucharist. CNBB Vice-President José Belisário da Silva, OFM, Auxiliary Bishop of Fortaleza, presided.

e6Enjoying the Lecture e7The Basilica of the Stigmata of St. Francis, the starting point of the Walk with Saint Francis e8Opening of the Clarian Congress

Sister Maria Helena Carvalho
Sister Tania Maria Machado Ribeiro

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