Did you know that the Congregation of the Mission, founded by St. Vincent de Paul, changed the course of evangelization in Brazil? This is the story of how missionaries transformed the faith in the new world.


Vincentians in Brazil: A mission that changed history 4

From Paris to Pernambuco

The journey began in 1640, when St. Vincent de Paul dreamed of sending his missionaries to Pernambuco, Brazil, then known as the West Indies. Although his initial plans did not come to fruition, the flame of the mission remained alive. In 1807, three brave Lazarist priests arrived in Brazil with the court of Dom João VI, fleeing from Napoleon. These pioneers were Father Manoel de Brito, Father José Cardoso de Brito and Father Alexandre Macedo.

The first steps in Minas Gerais

Finally, in 1819, the mission was officially established with the arrival of Fathers Leandro Rebelo Peixoto e Castro and Antônio Ferreira Viçoso. Minas Gerais became the epicenter of their activities, giving birth to the Brazilian Province of the Congregation of the Mission (PBCM).

The Vincentians not only preached, they also educated. In 1821, they founded the Caraça College in Minas Gerais. This institution became an educational reference, training future prominent figures of the country, including presidents such as Artur Bernardes and Afonso Pena. Though a fire in 1968 devastated part of the school, the educational spirit continued at St. Vincent de Paul College in Rio de Janeiro, inaugurated in 1959.

The missionaries also managed schools in Congonhas do Campo, Campina Verde and the Seminary of Jacuecanga, leaving an indelible educational mark in the region.

Top formers

From 1850, the relationship with the Brazilian Empire allowed the expansion of the mission. The Lazarists undertook the formation of the clergy in numerous diocesan seminaries, molding the face of the Church in Brazil. Over time, they formed thousands of priests, bishops and cardinals, establishing a lasting legacy. The total number of diocesan seminaries managed by the Congregation was 19, in 12 dioceses, forming an average of 2,600 priests, of whom 156 were named bishops and six were named cardinals. In youth education, besides the schools of Caraça and Campina Verde, schools were founded in Petrópolis (1897-1909), Irati (1950-2001) and Rio de Janeiro (1959).

With the arrival of the 20th century, the French missionaries gave way to locally trained priests, who continued the mission with dedication and adaptability.

Evangelization in Motion

In order to preach the popular missions, several centers were founded in Minas Gerais, starting mainly from Caraça and Campina Verde, from where teams left for missions in numerous localities in different Brazilian states. Likewise, the colleges and seminaries where the Lazarists worked became missionary centers, from where they embarked on popular evangelization.

The popular missions impregnated the entire stay of the Lazarists in Brazil with contents and methodology proper to the Vincentian heritage. Although from the 1960s onwards the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council had a great impact on the Province and the model of large seminaries was questioned, as well as the model of popular missions. The seminaries entered into crisis. Several priests left the Congregation. Since then, a renewal and updating of methods and the Congregation has been undertaken: in formation, a liberating pedagogy has been adopted; in the missions, renewed missionary experiences are being transmitted; the internal organization seeks a new model of community life, an administrative and theological-missionary updating, in order to respond to the challenges of the present time.

A Continuous Commitment

Currently the PBCM carries out the Vincentian Popular Holy Missions every January in conjunction with the branches of the Vincentian Family Movement of the Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte Region. At other times of the year, popular missions are usually held but restricted to parents, confreres and students, namely: Holy Week, Vocation Month (August), Vincentian Month (September) and Missionary Month (October).

Thus, the 60 Vincentian missionaries of the PBCM continue to live the charism, serving the poor in more than 20 works: missionary parishes, formation of Vincentian seminarians and some services to the clergy, popular missions, formation of the laity, education of young people in the SVP school and evangelization based on culture, tourism and ecology (Sanctuary of Caraça), collaboration with the Vincentian Family and promotion of social services among the poor in the different Brazilian states: Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Distrito Federal, Bahia, Rondônia and São Paulo.

The National Meeting of Vincentian Students (ENEV), initiated in 1983, is a testimony of the commitment of the Lazarists with the formation and development of new generations, integrating students from the three Brazilian provinces (Curitiba, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro), in a continuous dialogue about the mission and society.

The history of the Congregation of the Mission in Brazil is a saga of faith and dedication. From the first uncertain steps to their consolidation and expansion, the Vincentian missionaries have left an indelible mark in the history of the country, always guided by their mission to evangelize and serve.


Pe. Cleber Teodosio, CM