Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gerônimo and Emília: A Love Story

By Brenda Coelho (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 28, 2013

A priest in Bahia surprised the faithful at Nossa Senhora da Conceição parish in Gavião, Brazil, when he announced that he would be leaving the religious life to take responsibility for his love for a young woman in the community who is pregnant by him.

At the masses last Sunday (the 25th), Gerônimo Moreira, 32, decided to read a letter announcing the decision. "As time went on, I noted that our friendship had something more -- love, but we had always tried to leave it just at the friendship level since I had said that if I perceived that I couldn't keep celibacy, I would leave the ministry before that so as not to scandalize the community. But ironically, fate didn't happen as I thought and we got involved and today she is pregnant and I want to assume responsibility for paternity," he says, in part of the letter.

Gerônimo says he met Emília Carneiro, now 23, in 2007, when he was still a seminarian. "I met her on September 20, 2007 at a youth encounter. We began a friendship and something different awakened, but I was thinking that I would be a priest and this would not be possible," Gerônimo, who grew up in a religious family and said since he was a kid that he wanted to be a priest in adulthood, remembers.

For four years, Gerônimo came to the community where Emília lived to preach. During that period, the friendship between the two grew stronger and they were frequently in touch through phone calls and messages. "I went there once a year, talked to her sometimes by phone, sometimes I sent messages, but I never suspected that anything would happen or that she would be interested in me," he reveals.

Gerônimo became a priest in November 2009 and says that during his formation he never had any doubts about his religious vocation. "My family was religious, and since I was 7 years old, I've said I wanted to be a priest. At 13 or 14, I started to fall in love and stopped talking about wanting to be a priest, but at 20, I finished high school and decided that I had to choose what to do and went to seminary in 2002," he says.

It took six years of religious training, between studies of philosophy and theology and stints in the municipalities of São Gonçalo dos Campos, Salvador and Feira de Santana. The first parish where Gerônimo served was Valente, still as a seminarian, in 2008. In 2011, he took on Gavião parish.

When he saw that his feelings for Emília were not just friendship, Gerônimo said he was in crisis. He talked with the girl, who revealed that she was also enraptured with him. "When the first kiss happened, we talked about how that should never have occurred. She was worried -- we were that way for a few days -- but we couldn't contain the urge to stay together," he declares.

Since 2012, when the first kiss occurred, Gerônimo and Emília kept their feelings secret. "Nobody suspected, and if they did suspect, they didn't talk about it. We were the only two who knew," he asserts.

Although they were afraid of people's reactions, the couple decided to reveal the relationship when Emília discovered her pregnancy back in May. "We needed to take responsibility. I immediately decided to take responsibility. We talked a lot about being scared of people's reactions; we didn't want to be a scandal to the community. Her father said that because of our friendship, he was afraid this would happen, but, because I've taken responsibility, her family has faced this more calmly," he says.

"We went through this crisis between faith and love, but after we revealed everything, I was relieved. I'm happy," Emília declares.

After the three Masses celebrated on Sunday, Gerônimo announced his resignation to the Church community. "I was very emotional and cried a lot; almost the whole church cried," he recalls.

G1 spoke with staff in the parish where Gerônimo worked and the feeling was sadness. "We're feeling a great loss. The atmosphere here is one of mourning, but we respect his decision. The revelation was a shock," said one of the staff who preferred not to reveal her name.

"We heard it formally through the bishop. Who are we to judge? When someone comes to talk to me about the case, I quote Romans Chapter 14 [from the Bible]," says another employee who knows Gerônimo.

Emília is three months pregnant and works as a secretary in a school in Bahia. Since Monday (the 26th), Gerônimo is now moonlighting as a mason, while he plans to go to college. "For now I'm working as a mason, because I only have general training in philosophy, which isn't recognized. I'm going to try engineering school because of the knowledge I already have in the field of civil construction," he explains.

Gerônimo's brother's house in Feira de Santana is being remodeled to receive the family. "Initially we're going to be a little further away from the community," he adds. The couple plans to get married in a Catholic Church but for this, he needs authorization from Pope Francis. "I'm going to make a formal petition to marry. The bishop is going to inform himself about the procedures. I think the priest needs to write a letter asking for dispensation to marry in the Church. Generally the popes grant it," he states.

About his relationship with God, Gerônimo asserts that his faith is the same. What has changed, he says, is the way of following the faith. "I'm just not going to serve as a priest, but we're going to continue to help in any way possible," he concludes.

RG- We wish this couple all the best and hope and pray for the day when the Catholic Church will abolish the celibacy requirement and Gerônimo can return to the priesthood because we think he and Emilia would make a great pastoral team!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Brazil, one out of every four priests leaves to get married

By Edison Veiga e José Maria Mayrink (English translation by Rebel Girl)
August 22, 2013

São Paulo - One out of every four priests leaves the priesthood to get married. This fact comes from the Movimento Nacional das Famílias dos Padres Casados (National Movement of Families of Married Priests), which estimates that more than 7,000 priests in the country have sought dispensation from the sacrament of Holy Orders in exchange for marriage. The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops doesn't divulge numbers on this issue.

Priests have not been able to marry for about 900 years (since the Lateran Council in 1139). The subject is taboo. Over the last two weeks, a reporter got in contact with 12 former priests, all of them married. Most of them didn't want to talk. Others contributed information but preferred anonymity, "to protect my wife and children."

Their stories and opinions, however, are similar. Almost all of them stated that they didn't leave the Church to get married -- but that they diverged on many things and marriage came later. They advocate optional celibacy.

Many play pastoral roles in their parishes and follow Pope Francis with interest. "We're happy with his spirit, his Christian words and attitude. But we don't know how he's going to deal with the reality of the nearly 150,000 married priests in the world," says João Tavares, spokesman for the movement.

Professor Eduardo Hoornaert, who is 82 and lives in Lauro de Freitas (BA), was a priest for 28 years. He left the priesthood in 1982, the year he got married. A historian who specializes in the history of the Church in Brazil and in Latin America, he still writes articles and books. He states that, although he has abandoned the rites, he hasn't resigned from the ministry "since the ministry is the Gospel."

Hoornaert believes that an eventual readmission of married priests is not a priority for the pope, who has other problems to solve. "Forming missionaries with good evangelical training, without this burden of 2000 years of dogma and laws, is the priority," he observes. "It's important to reformulate the ministry, and Pope Bergoglio knows this very well." For the historian, who now participates in the married priests' meetings, this segment doesn't seem to be a storehouse of resources for the alleged priest shortage in Brazil, because it's heterogeneous. "Some priests who got married are moved by nostalgia and would like to come back while others have adapted. The Church has laws and one of them is celibacy," says Hoornaert. It's good to remember, he adds, that most of the married priests in the association are over 50. The younger ones who left the priesthood and got married are of a different mind.

Otto Euphrásio de Santana was working in ministry in the Archdiocese of Natal when he left the ministry and got married after ten years of service. It was a hard decision, especially because of his family. His two brothers who are bishops -- Cardinal Eugenio de Araújo Sales, Archbishop of Rio, and Dom Heitor de Araújo Sales, Bishop of Caicó (RN) and later Archbishop of Natal -- did everything for him not to leave the priesthood. He chose marriage and never repented. He is attached to the Church and enthusiastic about Francis' papacy.

Social adapatation. A resident of Vila Leopoldina in the western part of São Paulo, originally from Resende Costa in Minas Gerais, Francisco de Assis Resende, 72, was a priest for two years. He served in a parish in Vila Pompeia and was chaplain at the Hospital das Clínicas. He left the priesthood and got married to a woman who was a student in Pedagogy then, had two daughters and four grandchildren. He was widowed in 2010.

He says that the hardest thing was adapting to social life. "I entered the seminary at 12. It was 12 more years before I was ordained." He studied Social Work and had a career at Volkswagen in São Bernardo do Campo, where he lived with then union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and retired. "In the beginning, I walked away totally from the Church. I became an agnostic. As the years passed, I acted in social ministry. Nowadays, I only go to Mass on Sundays."

Born in Videira (SC), Abel Abati is 73 and was a priest for four years. He also served at the Hospital das Clínicas. In 1970, he left the priesthood. That same year, he married a nurse from the hospital, Neide de Fátima, with whom he still lives today. "I wasn't going to be a bachelor," he says. The union produced four sons and four granddaughters.

He trained in Administration and worked in multinational pharmaceutical companies. In the 1980s, in a brief political career, he was regional administrator -- the equivalent of a sub-prefect -- of Campo Limpo, in the southern region of São Paulo. Since then, he has stopped going to church. "I don't want to be branded as pious."

Photo: Some of Brazil's married priests and their families.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Lessons that can be learned from the love story of a priest and his wife

By Brian Eyre
Irish Times

Can a priest love someone in particular and also be at the service of others? Is the love a priest has for his wife exclusive or can it be inclusive? These were some of the thoughts that went through my head 30 years ago when I took the decision to marry Marta.

I remember well that evening in Glendalough standing alone by the lake. With arms wide open I cried to Heaven: “My God what do you want of me?”

I felt a deep peace come down upon me and knew in my heart that I wanted to marry her. Looking back on these 30 years of married life, I know I did the right thing. I have been able to raise a family, have a secular job and do pastoral work. The sacrament of Matrimony has not been an impediment to my work as a priest.

To recall our 30 years, Marta and I have written a book: I Only Want You to be Happy: The Love Story of a Priest and a Nun. It is a simple story of how two people from different backgrounds and nationalities were drawn together until they discovered that they wanted to continue their lives together.

Life-changing decision

It talks about our families, about my arrival in Brazil as a Holy Ghost missionary priest, how we gradually became closer to each other, about my return to Ireland to pray and to come to a decision. It describes our wedding, tells stories about our two children. It talks about my pastoral work and shows the good working relationship I have with parish priests and how the people accept this.

It is a love story of a priest and his wife. Do I hear voices in the background saying, “But a priest can’t love just one person, his love is for everyone.” Do you think St Peter loved his wife? Of course he did. Did she accompany him on his missionary journeys? St Paul in Corinthians, chapter 9 v 5-6 says: “Don’t I have the right to follow the example of the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter, by taking a Christian wife with me on my journeys?” Priests in the Orthodox church are married. Do they love their wives? Have they time for ministry? Likewise the Anglican priests received with their wives into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Here in Brazil, people accept me as a married priest. They know who my wife is so there is nothing hidden. I do everything I did as a celibate priest except that I no longer have a parish. I always answer, and will always answer the call of the people to serve them.

I’m called to go to the cemetery, to administer the Sacrament of the Sick, to give Bible courses, to train lay missionaries, to give retreats, to organise prayer groups in apartments. Do I say Mass? Yes, in my own home, for the important occasions of our family.

I do not say public Masses. I respect canon law, although I don’t agree with it. Here there are many communities deprived of the Eucharist. I could be called to celebrate for them. The hierarchy needs to take a pastoral decision about this grave problem, which is not just confined to Brazil. In Disappearing Priests, Fr Brendan Hoban asks: “Who will break the bread for us?” He is talking about the shortage of priests in Ireland. Without priests we have no Mass. Without Mass we have no church.

When we pray for vocations we should be thinking of other forms of ministry and not just that confined to a celibate priesthood. When Marta and I got married, we took on secular jobs to live and support our children. One of the arguments against a married priesthood is that the church won’t be able to sustain a priest with a family. But a parish could be divided up into communities. In these communities, a married priest could have his job, give spiritual assistance to the people, celebrate the Eucharist. I know what it is to have a family, have a job and find time to serve the community: it’s not easy but it is possible.

Nurtured vocation

When I got married, I lost the position I had in society as a parish priest. I don’t miss that. My wife has helped me keep alive the flame of my priesthood. If anything, she is the one who has preserved and nurtured this vocation. Our book may help priests who are in a relationship come to a peaceful decision. If they marry, may they choose well, as I did, a companion who can help them reflect on their ministry, someone who has experience of church work.


The preface to this book was written by Marta's brother, Paulo Camelo, and is available in Portuguese and English. The book came out in Brazil last month.*

See also:


This reflection was offered by the couple during Mass at a 2008 married priests' gathering in Camaragibi. It's lovely and we're pleased to bring it to you in English:

Brian: I'm certain that at this moment Jesus is looking on this assembly and saying...

Marta: Blessed are the married priests who promote peace, first within their own families and in the world of work where they act and in the communities in which they evangelize.

Brian: Blessed are the wives of married priests who with their tenderness, humility, and kindness, help their husbands to be less dogmatic and authoritarian.

Marta: Blessed are the married priests who hunger and thirst for justice and fight for a better world.

Brian: Blessed are the married priests who are persecuted because of their choice to marry, who have left and been forgotten by the Church they served with so much love.

Marta: Happy are all those who get married priests to pray with them, share their difficulties, sorrows and joys, who accept and support married priests.

Brian: Happy are you married priests and wives of married priests who, when you were despised and they spoke all manner of evil against you because you opted for life together, did not hide your love for one another.

Marta: Happy are the married priests who, in spite of no longer belonging to the clergy, have not renounced the mission they received from Christ and continue to serve the people of God.

Brian: Happy are the married priests who when they are treated with indifference by their celibate brothers, don't bow their heads and reciprocate with charity.

Marta: Happy the children of married priests who bring us so much joy and call us to constant giving.

Brian: Happy are the married priests who care about the financial, personal and family situation of other married priests.

Praised be Our Lord Jesus Christ.

* Note: What we don't have at this time, unfortunately, is any information about where this book has been published and how to get a copy. I hope someone will read this post and supply these details. We do understand that the book is bilingual, Portuguese/English.