When I heard about the Pan-Amazon Synod earlier this year, I was concerned about the future of the Church. I heard about strange doctrines and practices that aimed to give the Church an “Amazonian face.” When asked if I would like to go to the Amazon region to see for myself what was happening, I jumped on the opportunity.
The Brazil-based Plinio Corrêa de Oliviera Institute (IPCO) extended an invitation to members of Tradition, Family and Property to join a “caravan” in July. We would visit several cities of the Brazilian Amazon region to collect signatures to defend the sovereignty of the Brazilian Amazon. The petition, addressed to the secretary of the Amazon Synod, also asked that the traditional evangelization of the Indians continue.
Thus, I was honored to be part of a delegation of young Americans that joined other young volunteers from Brazil. From July 8-27, we collected signatures in over 22 cities in 4 different Brazilian states. We also circulated the petition in the Amazon region of Peru.
A “caravan” is a group of forty young Catholic men, all well dressed, traveling from place to place in four large vans. It attracts much attention. Wherever we went—gas stations, restaurants or churches, people wanted to know who we were, where we were from, and what we were doing. This attention also helped us to spread the word about our petition. Unfortunately, many Brazilians in the Amazon region weren’t even aware of the October Synod in Rome that will be discussing their future!
The daily schedule of the caravan consisted of traveling to a new city each day, where the volunteers would enter the respective city plaza and any surrounding shops. These central places were almost always bustling with people, and the eye-catching golden standards of the IPCO were hard to miss. The youthful volunteers with clipboards were also accompanied by their own musical band. Patriotic and religious Brazilian hymns such as Viva Mae de Deus e Nossa and the Hymno da Bandeira inspired many of the public to approach us and inquire about our petition.
As we traveled, the Brazilian terrain changed enormously. Every day was a new adventure. The Amazon region of Brazil has a lot of variety; it’s not just rainforest. We saw enormous fields, massive buttes, forests, swampland and even desert-like scrubland. The weather was mostly very hot and dry, averaging 100 degrees. This changed drastically when we went to Peru, crossing the Andes Mountains with its elevation of 14,000 feet. There, we encountered freezing temperatures forcing us to change into warm winter gear.
What most impressed me about Brazil were the constant reminders of its Catholic identity. Roadside shrines to Our Lady were everywhere along the highways. Gas stations had advertisements for Catholic Masses targeting truck drivers. Farmers’ fields had statues of Christ the Redeemer watching over their crops and cattle. Pharmacies were named after saints. Every city plaza was built in front of a church or cathedral. The soul of Brazil is Catholic. Our caravan aimed to keep the Amazon region Catholic!