I became familiar with Fazenda da Esperança when I was serving as Vicar General of Corpus Christi. Since I have become your Bishop, I have felt the call of the Holy Spirit to minister to the homeless, and those addicted in mind, body, and spirit.
This past year, the Holy Spirit has kept this ministry on my heart and mind. I was able to make a mission trip to Guaratinguetá, Brazil, in June to visit three campuses of Fazenda da Esperança, two for men and one for women and children. While I was there, I was able to minister to the people and the staff, and I am deeply impressed by the people and the work that is being done there.
Many of the staff and those ministering to the addicted were them-selves once addicted and have dedicated their lives to helping others overcome addiction. I witnessed the focus on prayer and calling on the healing power of Jesus on the people there.
As I celebrated Mass, prayed over the people, and visited with the participants, it seemed I was witness to a miracle happening in each one of them. It was a powerful testimony to the healing power of Jesus! Many of them had been living on the streets and had exhausted every means they knew to find relief from their addictions.
They would have died there if they had not been led to Fazenda da Esperança — Garden of Hope. The pattern of life there is simple: prayer, hard work, solidarity, personal relationships, support for one another, and community. They support themselves through their work as farmers, woodworking, making soaps and aloe vera products, etc.
Celebrating Mass with them was a high-light at all three Fazendas. The music minis-try and participation during Mass was amazing and very uplifting.
Fazendas da Esperança are springing up all around the world. There are currently 110 campuses in 23 countries, but none in the United States. However, the Diocese of Corpus Christi may be the first.
Three young men who will be going to Corpus Christi were my guides and they practiced their English while serving as my interpreters. I speak Spanish, but not so much Portuguese. They introduced me to the leadership at each location and provided an opportunity for me to speak to the Brazilians. Those who were Spanish-speakers I could talk to personally.
As I met with the future leaders soon to be sent out on mission, they were able to practice their English skills with me. One of the women from the Congo stood up during our visit and invited the whole group to a native dance which included me. (You may be able to find a video of this online.) The spirit among all of these future ministers was deeply moving and very encouraging at the same time. I prayed over them and blessed them after we had a chance to visit for a while.
The ministry of Fazenda da Esperança began when a drug addict named Antonio approached Nelson Giovanelli at the parish in Guaratinguetá. Nelson brought Antonio to Mass. Antonio expressed his desire to be free of drugs. He was both an addict and a drug dealer. Nelson brought him into his home and working with Frei Hans (Father Hans Stapel), the ministry began.
It grew as man after man approached Nelson and Frei Hans for healing from addiction. Over a thousand men have received healing through the ministry at Fazenda da Esperança. Nelson and Frei Hans are retired from leadership but still participate in the ministry. This ministry has been going on for over 30 years. Antonio is still a member of the Fazenda da Esperança and is revered as the first man to be healed. He is a strong voice for hope and healing through Christ and His Church.
There is a monastery of St. Clare of the Mother of Christ. The Sisters of St. Clare who are monastic live cloistered on the cam-pus of Fazenda da Esperança. They pray 24/7 for all of those who are at Fazenda da Esperança. Even though the Sisters are cloistered, they are available for Spiritual Direction for members of the Fazenda da Esperança.
It was wonderful to visit with the Claretian Sisters and hear about their prayer ministry and their spiritual advice ministry for the men at the Fazenda da Esperança. The Sisters are deeply in love with Jesus Christ, His Church, and the Eucharist. They participate in each of the Masses that are celebrated. Their cloister is visible enough for the men to know they have the Sisters praying for them at all times.
The campus for women and children is run by another group of Sisters who work with the women and children directly. It is an apostolate of the Franciscan Sisters. There is also a group of Sisters working up the nearby mountain at the shrine who offer retreats and have their toes in the water with a day shelter.
It is my deep desire to realize a successful ministry of this type running before 2027. Please join me in prayer that local civil leadership and communities will work with us to make this much needed ministry a reality.