Father received the vows of a novice at the Monastery of St. Joseph's in Mineiros. St. Joseph's Monastery was founded by St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Ks in 1962. While in Brazil, Father Owen visited friends and acquaintances he made over the course of five other visits to the same area.

Two children from Mineiros have been adopted through the Christian Foundation for Children in Kansas City. The support of these young people was initiated as a result of the fourth annual Kelly Youth Rally. Father Owen visited with the children and their families and presenting them with funds raised from the quilt raffle at St. Mary's Parish.





Messages from Father Owen as he traveled in Brazil

Messages are listed in order of most recent first, by message number.

Message #26: Looking forward to coming home. Sunday, February 03, 2002

It is Sunday, 10:30 AM exactly here. You all are making that final effort to toll out for the Mass at St. Mary’s. The rain comes down here, not hard, but last night, the power was out for some time. Amid the goings on I am ready to come home, right now. I am packed and would need 10 minutes to wrap it all up. Tomorrow we are off to Goiania, a churrasca, visit at a Franciscan Convent, Mass at the House of Studies on Tuesday. The house is not far from the airport and so I will begin my journey home at 6:30 Tuesday PM from Goiania and will land at KCI Wed AM at 9:27. One of the monks will pick me up. After some rest and visiting at the abbey I will return to St. Mary’s before lunch on Thursday. It will be good for me to be home again.

I do look forward to seeing the rectory at St. Mary’s which people have been working on -- but most of all, I have missed the people in all the parishes. The renovation of the rectory has been truly a "labor of love" in addition to being good stewardship.

A final note: That people have taken the time to read what I have written makes me very glad. It can be information and education. Most of all, the material is an attempt of a friend to share with friends. But do understand that, lest I come off as the "Ugly American" who spends a month in a country and sounds like an instant expert, what I have written are simply my own observations. Some might withstand close scrutiny and others not. Any errors are all mine! It is another wonder of this Cyber Age we are living in, like it or not, that we could share at all. Letters from Brazil take sometimes 10 days. Radios are unpredictable, and the phone – it’s far too expensive. I have been in touch with some of you individually and not with so many others. For one thing, I did not take all the addresses I wanted. If any have been neglected, I apologize. We will have to be satisfied with greeting in person. In the last analysis that is much better. This will be most likely my final message from here. More next Sunday!

Love to all. Fr. Owen


Message #25: Remembering others who’ve served here, Saturday morning, February 2, 2002

I had thought that things would wind down toward the end here. By the way, I will be landing (God Willing) at KCI about 9:30 AM Wed, probably stay the night at the abbey and return to St. Mary’s probably Thursday AM -- ready to jump (climb) back into the saddle again. It will be a pleasure. I have had some experience in climbing (with help) into the saddle.

Yesterday the Governor of the State of Goias paid us a visit. His name is Marconi Perillo and he is a member of the PMDB. The PMDB is a right of center party (there are about 20 political parties here) and that party is not in power in Mineiros. He wants mightily to win it back in his second quest for the governorship. He is popular. Hence, this was a definitely political visit. It will be covered in the papers today. We get "O Popular" from Goiania at the monastery. There were lots of pictures taken and I was included in some of them.

The meeting took place in our community room and lasted about a half hour. There were the usual police there and armed, political buddies, the Federal Deputy (representative) from our area, a woman and long time politician, Lucia Vania, the State Sec. of Agriculture -- who was Fr. Eric´s doctor and discovered his cancer, the Governor’s secretary, Fr. Kieran, Fr. Joaquim, and I and others. Joaquim asked the Governor for a new machine to process milk or to get the present one fixed. He also asked about a monument to Fr. Eric. Kieran brought up how mismanaged the tourism bureau was here. In fact, it is an obstacle to tourists who wish to visit the Parque Das Emas! This is bad for the city. W e served Guarana and Coke (cola i.e.). Afterwards we all shook hands, mentioned several obrigados (thanks) or muito prazer ( with great pleasure). It was all quite interesting.

On the way upstairs I mentioned to Kieran that it has become more and more apparent to me that Eric made a massive difference in the life of this city. He agreed but added that sometimes that work overshadows the other great work done by Frs. Matthias, Abbot Ralph, Fr. Henry, Fr. Duane, Fr. Jude Burbach, and others. I see that his statement could be absolutely true. It need to be remembered that Abbot Ralph built up the community of St. John in the older part of the city, built a church both there and at Santa Rita (Heeta) which he took care of for 8 years. Heroic work indeed. Fr. Henry was also the pastor at St. John’s and worked in the mother church as well. I believe that apart from Fr. Henry’s very dry humor, he is remembered for starting the charismatics in Mineiros, with bible study and prayer groups. They are still flourishing. People still ask about Dom Enrique (en-hi-kee) and Dom Rafael (Ha-fy-el)(Ralph.).

This looks like a calm day but who knows what might happen. I will go with Fr. Kieran tonight for Mass at the Matrix (Mother Church) and also there tomorrow night. Tomorrow I will get serious about packing up , making a list and checking it twice -- because the pastor at a distance is coming home. I am so glad that Sr. M. Beth was there for all of you.

-- Love, Fr. Owen


Message #24
As we say here, Gracas a Deus! I am so happy that the pics arrived. This technology is really something. There are more, of course, but we will stop for now and act when I get back home. The little boy’s name is Luciano. In the other picture the young man is Juvino, the other boy being helped by the Youth Rally/ Quilting effort. Then there is the vaquero on the horse! He is "acima a cabalo" – or, on top of the horse.

The Governor of the State of Goias was on the local radio and he will be coming here at 6:30 P.M. today. His party is not in power here. Yesterday the police were here again for what is called "seguranca" or security check. This was the second time a security team was here. The ones yesterday were plain clothes Military Police both of whom carried concealed weapons stuck in their belt. They had on sports shirts and jeans. The guns actually were obvious and Kieran kidded then about being careful that they do not hurt themselves. The local bank was robbed last week of some 150000 Reais and so the police are a bit jumpy. That is one reason we were stopped, I am sure, at the town of Chapadao de Ceu a couple of weeks ago The Policia Militar (Military Police) wear black uniforms normally, are armed heavily, and drive black Chevy suburban type vehicles. They are very intimidating to the people. They have a Battalion Headquarters here in Mineiros. Such is life here where there are not the protections for human rights we have in the USA. They are precious possessions and we ought to be wary of any invasions of them by whomever. E.g. the poorer laborer can be arbitrarily fired and has little or no recourse. The country is just making a beginning in such areas as small claims courts. Of course that kind of abuse is everywhere but pretty blatant in this country. Money sets some persons above the law. But that can happen at home as well. People are people.

I spoke a couple of days ago about visiting a place where fish are raised and that we were given a couple of packages of fillets! We have eaten those and they were so good, particularly today, not fried but boiled with spice that made a great sauce and served with the rice. Mighty good stuff. !

I will close for now with love for all. -- Fr. Owen


Message #23: Friday morning, February 1, 2002
There is not a lot to report today. It makes me happy indeed that folks have been able to use this website for me to exchange information about this trip and land. Some pictures should be on the way soon and i have plenty of individual photos for all to share.

Fr. Kieran and and I will leave here Monday Am at 9:00 so that will be my last use of this computer. I am sorry for Kansas City and the ice storm, people without power; etc. Quite the opposite here, of course.

Love to all. -- Fr. Owen


Message #22: Thursday morning, January 31, 2002
While I hear of maybe up to 15" of snow in Kansas, I cannot say I miss it although it does have its beauty. Here in Brazil it is hot in the sun. Yesterday we had a short but mighty wind and rain storm as well but in an hour your would not know it but for the leaves on the ground etc. The wind did send in some water where it was not wanted.

I thought that yesterday would be a quiet, simple day. However, Fr. Josias told me that we had 10 pictures left on the camera. Fr. Josias is a monk here who is a really wonderful person, very sharp, well read, a real character in his own right and very generous. He uses little English but nonetheless he and I have gotten along very well on this trip. I think we are becoming closer friends. With my limping Portuguese and his even more limping English, we manage very well though perhaps we both "fake it" some of the time. But back to the narrative of how the "short" trip to finish off 10 photos turned out to be three hours of taking some 34 pictures.

We started at the single tallest building in town, then to floors of condominiums. From the roof we took some 7 pictures, all of which ought to be real good. We then went to the Massey Ferguson dealership and took some pictures of a tractor
and a combine. We did get the prices but I do not have them now. The machines are comparable to ours and made in Brazil. The workers and the owner know Josias and so we visited there a while. Then to the John Deere dealership where we met the owner as well and were given Brazilian John Deere caps! We got some pictures there as well. We had gotten more film by now.

On the way to take pictures of some of the many armazems (grain elevators) in the area we stopped at the Father Eric J. Deitchman School. This is a primary school named after our Fr. Eric who was a monk here for 35 years. He is revered here. There are plans to put up a statue to him as well. He was also declared an honorary citizen of the State of Goias. Why? Brace yourselves! He founded the co-op which is called COMIVA and was the first president. this coop is flourishing and has provided work for so many, processes milk into cheese. He is remembered for his ministry as well but if anyone is to get credit for starting the very large (an understatement) cultivation of soybeans and corn here, it is Eric. He helped change the face of the earth here. he also founded the National Park of the Emas. I have written on that. The other day Fr. Kieran and I visited his grave here and prayed. I had known him since 1951. We have pictures as well.

Next we went to the huge elevators owned by CARAMARU. This company has elevators all over but this one dedicated to drying and storing corn is the largest in the state of Goias. We got the grand tour complete with hard hats. They dry corn
using wood and gas as fuel. Plenty of pictures here as well. We also went to the elevators of COMIVA, the very first one in the area. Now Bunge, Cargill, ADM are all here. Globalization!!!

Some miles away we went to a place where they raise fish commercially. Fr. Josias knew the people there as well. We have good pictures of this as well. We also came away with two packages of fillets of a fish called caranha. We do not have it in the USA as I understand it.

Well, that is all for now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Love to all. -- Fr. Owen


Message #21: Wednesday, January 30, 2002
A week from today I (hopefully) will be landing in KC and I hope the weather conditions are not like what I am hearing about today. Alas, it is warm here but we have some cloud cover which helps.

The days are ordinary in that I am spending my time talking, reading, writing down some reflections. I have begun to pack in a small way. Usually I go to town with Fr. Kieran on his business trips. Today we stopped in two homes of persons who want to be Oblates, affiliates with the Order of St. Benedict. These were very poor homes by our standards with asbestos roofs and no ceilings . They were clean as were the people. But these would be wealthy places by comparison to the homes, particularly the one home, we visited Saturday.

Right after that Kieran took be to see the outside of some of the most beautiful homes that I have ever seen. They would fit in most wealthy suburbs in the USA, I think. To top that off, these folks have lovely places on the ranch, the fazenda. Yes, mainly soybean farmers and catttlemen.

It's time for dinner now with prayers following. After that -- some "horizontal meditation."

Until the next time, love to all.

-- Fr. Owen


Message #20: Monday noon, January 28, 2002
Things are quiet here in that there are three of us here in the house. The large group went to Goiania to the house of studies. I will visit there Monda, God willing. Cristina from the Christian Foundation gave me some more information on Luciano (the girl who is the recipient of the Kelly Youth Rally and quilt raffle benefit) which I will pass on. Alas the members of the family do have a place to relieve themselves. A luxury?

I am getting some reading done on the monastic Life and having some good conversations with Kieran, of course. With Josias as well. My understanding of Portuguese is a bit better and I am able to piece together combinations of words too.

I do hope my Yahoo email service clears up as I am wanting to get to the messages which might be there. But as the Brasilians say, "Se Deus quizer" -- or if God wants it.

Love to all.

-- Fr. Owen


Message #19: Sunday afternoon, January 27, 2002

Try as I will, it seems that I just cannot get into Yahoo. This sometimes happens in the US but this is the third time here.

This evening I will go with Fr. Kieran to the 7 PM Mass at Sao Bento where we had the vows. It is a lovely place and a good place just to "be." Monday, Feb. 4, I will leave here for Goiania on the bus with Kieran. We will have some churrasca, stay the night at the Franciscan Sisters’ place, Dan Damiano. The next day he will get me to the airport where I catch the flight to Sao Paulo and then to Atlanta. I believe that I am ready for all that.

Love to all. Fr. Owen


Message #18: Saturday morning, January 26, 2002
-- Friday Night Circus and Saturday Morning reality!

Last night, Josias and I went to the circus here in Mineiros. Like former days in the US, these small and relatively simple circuses travel around the country and bring live entertainment largely with the crianceas (children) in mind. This one, named Real de Madrid, perhaps translated the Royal Madrid, had the big top, the tigers, balancing acts, dogs, horses, popcorn (pipoca), potato chips (batatas),Guarana, Cioke, cotton candy, etc. The cost was 4 Reais or about $2.50. Kids are free and it was fun to watch their reactions, especially to the clowns, which are named palhaço in Portuguese. The acts were simple. But Ringling Brothers was not what I was expecting to see. The people were pleased as we were. Afterwards we met the Owner, Manager, and Ringmaster. He spoke very good English and had worked in Las Vegas. In fact one of the acts had been in Circus Circus, a famous place in Las Vegas. The performance lasted two hours with an intermission. There will be performances both today and Sunday. Then they are off to Jatai, Rio Verde, Quirinoplois and finally to the capital, Goiania. The manager wanted to get there because he felt that there would be an abundance of money that will come from the soybean harvest! By the way, the soybeans (soja) are in various stages of growth. Some are up to my waist, as you will see in pictures later. The manager asked me it the quality of the Brazilian beans measured up to ours. I said that I was not sure. He actually doubted that the Brazilian beans were of as good a quality. We are having roasting ears by the way! This was our dose of a kind of make believe.

Now to stark reality.

This morning, Fr. Kieran and I went to the parish Training Center to meet the main persons involved in the Christian Foundation. I will give just their first names. Cristina is a coordinator of one group and our Jovino is in her group. Lucelia is in charge of Luciano`s group. Maria Louisa is the overall executive Secretary. At the Center we introduced, sat around a table and talked. Fr. Kieran filled everyone in on the background of our effort, the facts on the Kelly Youth Rally, the quilt raffle, of the amount of money in Reais which amounts to R1610.00 from the $793 deposited in the states which will be accessible to the Foundation through the Brasilian Account at the abbey. Kieran will transmit the monies as needed. None is ever given directly to the families and the record keeping is very careful. There is also supervision from the USA. Lucelia had her daughter along and so we went in two cars for the on-site visits.

Pictures were taken as were many others as we did out visiting. We may not be able to transmit them and so I will likely wait until I get home which will not be too long now.

We first went to the home of Jovino. It would be quite poor by our standards. I doubt that any of us would find it comfortable or want to live there. Jovino is 15 and is in the 7th grade. He has been in the Christian Foundaton program one year. His family has immigrated to Mineiros from Bahia in the North East. The family has been here 3 years. There was a little brother present. The grandmother met us because the father, a bricklayer, was working and the mother was visiting in Bahia. The father earns the equilvalent of about $300 per month. That puts food on the table and allows nothing for insurance, medical care. The road in front of the home was red dirt and deeply rutted. The house was small and yet seemed to serve five persons. It was clean and had a TV, very small kitchen, and small bedrooms. We did not pry any, yet the pictures will be revealing. Jovino likes PE in school because he loves what the Brazilians call "futebol" pronounced foo-tchee-bol" -- which we call soccer. There are two stadiums in Mineiros and people wear jerseys of the big teams in Rio or Sao Paulo like we wear Chief´s shirts.

Our next trip was clear across the city to the district of Santa Luzia about a mile from the monastery. The home of Luciano is in plain terms, shack that houses six persons. It would have been too embarassing to go inside. There was no kitchen, no icebox, no stove, and no bathroom. The six children and the mother live there. Her name is Doraci´. The father is mentally ill, cannot work, wanders the streets and comes home on occasion. Dorac´ works as what is called a "public funcionary", i.,e, she is a street sweeper. Luciano works in the garden of a lawyer for 40 Reais per month but because of that he misses a lot of school. Here you can see the cycle of poverty, a real "Catch 22." He likes soccer, as do all Brazilians. The family has received the cards, medals, and rosary some both from Corning and Kelly. They are very proud of them. It was a welcome sight for me to see those cards, recognize the names, read them, see the picture of Laurie Niehues and St. Bede´s Church. If any of you wondered whether or not the money collected at the Rally or spent on chances for the quilt was worth it, you would have wished that you could have spent ten times a s much! The yard is a shambles and the cooking is done outside on a wood stove. Imagine the mess there when we have had those rains I have written about? But there are pictures to see. There is a lovely 20-year-old daughter who looks bout 16. I do not know much about her except that she is lovely. One sees all these contrasts. I hope you all do understand that I am just an observer and no expert on anything -- let alone an expert on this lovely country. These people seem happy -- and Doraci´ was hugging a bashful child as we were leaving. This was not done for our benefit. It is doubtful, according to Kieran, that the parents had any education at all.

Our group had a meeting in the street and we thought it best to leave the disposition of the money to the Foundation. I understand that all the boards in Luciano´s yard were being gathered to build another room on the shack to relieve congestion. So the money might go there. Lucelia, the one whose group Luciano is in, seems like a wise person and has been involved in the CF for many years.

That is all for now. This evening I will go with Kieran to the Mass at the mother church and then go to the home of Prior Joaquim´s parents for, you guessed it! -- churrasca and guarana!!! I will have to go Cold Turkey when I get back home. I was thinking of bringing a bottle of Guarana back to Kansas and may yet. Tomorrow Kieran, Josias and I will take the Benedictine Sisters out for the noon meal. I hope there is some churrasca. I think it would be easy to make some of those skewers, salt down some meat, cut up some limes, rub a little garlic or get some garlic salt and have one at home. But that would be for the summer time.

I hope all is well. I remember you all in my prayers as this time moves along. I will leave Mineiros a week from today with Kieran.

Love, -- Fr. Owen


Message #17: Thursday morning, January 24, 2002

Back at home after a really great trip yesterday to Costa Rica, the hometown of our Fr. Josias da Costa. Da Costa is a very common name in Brazil. Kind of like Jones, etc. Costa Rica is a new town of about 20,000 persons with wide streets, very clean and busy. The center of things is agriculture and cattle raising. You may think that I am exercising the Fisherman´s inclination to stretch the truth but again we passed corn and soja fields that were miles long. Once we got out of the car to stretch at an elevated place and all I could see were soja fields. They are so big that work roads are cut into them to cut down on travel time for the combines. Some harvesting of corn is now taking place. Large buses (onibus) go into the cities and bring out, let us say, 50 workers. Just what they do I am not sure and they are paid not a large wage.

In Costa Rica we visited the parish church, rather large and dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. Josias tells me that he is known in Portugal as S. Anthony of Lisbon, but only there. He was Portuguese. The priest is responsible for 18 chapels. Of course there are many, many teams of lay people who are empowered to do things that cannot be done in the states. His nearest neighbor is 60 km away. Fr. Carlos took us to a (you guessed it) a churrasca i.e. BBQ. This was the regular one with lots if veggies, etc and with several kinds of meat -- e.g. chicken hearts, various cuts of beef, pork and sausage. The guy keeps on coming until you say "No!" Coca Cola is very popular here and I saw several tables with 2 litre bottles on them.

We then went to a baleaineiro, i.e. a Public Swimming Pool built by the county (municipio). It is really lovely. Outside the attendant the only others there were three boys, Josias says abandoned boys. We have lots of pictures of them -- the lovely waterfalls at a distance and close up. We climbed down lot and lots of stairs to get closer to the falls and to the river. We got a picture of a guy fishing there complete with a nice rod and open-faced reel! I am happy to say that the walk back up, a very long way, went very well. Good news, I’d say! The boys went somewhere and Josias and I got a Guarana (my favorite soda) at the concession stand. We made a couple of more calls. One stop at a convent and another with a family who lived right next to Josias´ father’s small farm. Josias used to work there as a kid, along with his 9 brothers and sisters. Josias is a remarkable person who seems to know things of nature, etc. The family friends live on neighboring place, grow soja, raise cattle, chickens, etc. There are 12 in the family. The patriarch is blind and yet worked along with the rest when he was able. He is 82 now. They grow their own coffee and so some was ground fresh and made. I did not take any because of a very bad experience in 1990 because of cups washed only on cold water. But I did eat three sort of pretzel things made of eggs and manioca root. Very good. A young man there was there who said in Portuguese that I looked like his uncle who died 6 months ago. I said back in Portuguese “Eu so reincarnacao!” or “I am a reincarnation!” All got a kick out of that. That same man had a motorcycle with the sticker "Bull Rider" on it. He had no idea what it meant at all. I tried to tell him even with gestures. That reminds be of the story I heard of a secretary who wore a shirt to work one day with an American four letter work emblazoned on the front. Bishop Matthias drew her aside, translated the word. She immediately went home for a change. Apparently the folks like the sound of the name without knowing the meaning.

On the way home we took another route this time through the huge ranch called the Chapadao do Ceu (The Land from Heaven). It is something like the King Ranch in Texas. The Portuguese, the former colonizers of the Brazilians, are the butt of jokes. So a Texan and a Portuguese met. The Texan said, “I have a Jeep” (pronounced 'Jeepie’) …”and that it takes me a whole day just to drive around my ranch.” The Portuguese man who was also a rancher said, "I have a Jeep too." This is compliments of Josias, though probably something is lost in translation.


We arrived at the town named after the fazenda and were stopped by the Policia Civil. There was a policeman armed with a rifle in the rear of the police car. The officer asked for Josias´papers. They were in order. The man also recognized Fr. Josias so we were home free. Fr. Kieran says that when the police stop you, one does not know if they are going to help you or kill you. I admit being a bit apprehensive.

The drive home was a long one, some asphalt roads and 50 kms of terrible, dirt roads, washed out by the rain. But we arrived home safely and you can bet that I had a very good sleep. I hope this arrives in as good a shape.

Many thanks and love to all. -- Fr. Owen


Message #16: Tuesday afternoon, January 22, 2002

I am pleased to know that the photos have made it to Kansas and are posted on the St. Mary’s website. I hope everyone enjoys them; I know they will enhance the website.

Hearing of the warm temperatures back in Kansas make me happy as well in that we can avoid the heating fuel bills. It is hot and humid here now.

Tomorrow I will go to the birthplace of our Fr. Josias and town on the edge of the county and near the State of Matto Grosso. The name of the town is Costa Rica -- and not to be confused with the country by the same name!

The country is disturbed by the kidnapping and killing of the second Worker’s Party Prefect (mayor) in three months. Most believe that it is the right wing and perhaps the Brazilian mafia who are behind it. Politics here seem to be rough and ready and the power plays and the corruption are more open than in the USA.

I will see the children that have been adopted through the Children’s Christian League on Saturday at 9 AM. We will hopefully get more photos then.

All for now and the best to everyone. Fr. Owen


Message #15: Monday morning, 8:00 in Brazil; 4 a.m. in Kansas: January 21, 2002

It is 8:00 a.m. here, Monday. Yesterday was a full and wonderful day. The whole Mass was a touching event and took easily an hour and a half. The church was full and the singing was joyful. I will attempt to get a tape of it. Also Bishop Herbert Hermes from our abbey in Atchison brought a digital camera and so we will be able to send some pictures. He will be here for five days. We grew up together in the abbey and know each other very well. I preached at his 25th ordination. I received the vows as a delegate of Abbot Barnabas and gave the homily in this way: I spoke an English sentence and Bro. Rodrigo spoke in Portuguese. It went smoothly and seemed well received. Afterwards there was a BBQ at the parish center that holds 1500. Wonderful beef roasted on skewers to perfection and sometimes eaten with lime juice. The cooks here use salt and a little garlic. Whole steers are not cooked but they are dismembered, cut into chunks, put on skewers. The skewers are then laid in racks and turned from time to time. The meat is sliced off and the slice then cut into small chunks for easy eating. The lime and the salty flavor go well -- a la Margarita!!

There is nothing special for today but since Bishop Herbert is here, there is a lot to talk about. He is a bishop serving the area north of us, about 700 miles away in the state of Tocantins. His diocese contains the largest inland island in the world, the Ilha de Bananal. The Araguaia River splits and goes around it. It is largely an Indian reservation but the large cattlemen have appropriated much of the land for themselves. A sorry situation. I was there with Fr. Kieran in l992. While there we sat in an Indian gathering while the cacique (chief) told some stories. I could not understand at all even though he apparently spoke in Portuguese, but the experience was fun.

So look for some pictures, sometime, maybe. Fr. Kieran just told me this computer will not send them.

More later and love to all.

-- Fr. Owen


Message #14: Friday afternoon, January 18, 2002

This morning, Fr. Josias and I spent 4 hours traveling around and getting pictures. We first went to a middle sized fazenda (ranch) owned by his sister Fausta and her husband Everaldo. They are dairy farmers only. We took lots of pictures of the house, the dairy barn, the water supply, which is fascinating to me. We also went to an orchard behind the house where there were figs, pineapple, oranges, lemons, limes, mango, etc. They also grow their own pepper, i.e. peppercorns -- some of which are black and some are yellow. Fausta makes sweets (dozes) and sells them. The brand name is Fauevre after her and her husband. We also got some good pictures of the serrado before the plows hit it and we saw and heard parrots fly over. Monkeys and rheas in the area as well. The soybeans up close look good as does the corn.

Next we went to a very, very large and wealthy fazenda. The owner has this huge place and also another place that has 9000 hectares. I saw on this place two John Deere combines and a couple of MF tractors. We got a lot of pictures here as well.

Josias also took a rowboat ride on a private lake. We skipped a swim in the lovely swimming pool and did not play soccer on the well kept and private soccer field. A truly remarkable place that is used mainly on weekends!! The owner was in Mineiros at a funeral. He has two other places in Mineiros.

The contrasts in wealth here are very visible. Again we have pictures. We are getting ready for the vows. I will receive them and preach in English and Rodrigo will read the same sentence in Portuguese. Prior Joaquim will be the celebrant of the Mass. Tomorrow Fr. Kieran I and I go to the Mount Sisters for lunch. The house is full of the seminarians who will go to Goiania on Monday.

Soon Fr. Kieran and I will go to town to get some sorvete (ice cream) at the best place in town called “Bar Rita”, that is -- Rita´s bar -- but it is strictly ice cream. There is another place here called “O Pit Dog” and that is a hot dog place. There was another called “Life Time.” The Brasilians apparently like the sound of the name.

More later.

-- Fr. Owen


Message #13: Thursday evening, January 17, 2002

This afternoon Fr. Josias, Polycarp and I went out to take pictures. Feature me on a horse! We have some photos of a very poor place in the country, the town of Cedro settled by slaves. The people there sure seemed happy. There is a government-sponsored lab in the same town devoted to herbal meds. They have plants for all sorts of things like to reduce cholesterol.

We even met two wonderful kids named Einstein and Jefferson. Their father’s name is Zeze and the horse’s name is Rozinha. The mother is Cynthia. We have pictures and will get some more tomorrow. This is a great opportunity for us all. There is a man here named Eisenhower and one named Lyndon Johnson.

More, later,

- Fr. Owen


Message #12. 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 15, 2002

It continues to rain off and on. I am doing the regular things as I described before. The place is getting more active as we approach the vow celebration. After that we will be few here. In the morning, as I wrote earlier, I often go to town with Fr. Kieran. He is the business manager and needs to shop, go to the bank, the post office etc. Along the way I have met some fine folks.

It is not easy to drive in the city. The pedestrian has no right. In the traffic you will find, people walking, cars, buses, Mercedes Benz or Scania trucks, horses, motorcycles, motor bikes, bicycles. Often we drive out to one of the "setors" or divisions of this city of some 40,000 persons. Some are very poor and some are very wealthy places. There is a lot of Gov´t housing which will provide at least something. The people are paid in "salaries" i.e. the government yearly sets the amount of money for a “minimum” salary. This year a salary is worth $100 Reais, which is little less than $100.00 in US dollars. One salary will allow a small family to get by but just get by with no savings, insurance etc. There is protection from arbitrary firing but as I heard that something can be contrived against a person if the employer wants to fire and the employee has little recourse. There are cases in the larger cities where the police help the criminals.

Everything seems to be pegged to the dollar and the comparison of the Real to the Dollar is a part of the news each night. Last night it was 2.49 to one dollar. Even the black market exchange is given on TV. It is called the "paralelo." There is also one given which is named "turista" which exchange rate applies to those leaving the country as tourists.

This morning while I was waiting at the Post Office -- a man? or a woman? dressed in women´s clothing anyway was sort of raving on the sidewalk. This person must be a local character. No one paid attention. Each society has its persons who are exceptional. While in a store this morning, I met the woman in charge of the Christian Foundation that is the contact for the children we have adopted. The meeting date has been changed to Jan. 28. Any details will be determined there. E.g. how the money can be best spent to help the children. The medals and chains came a couple of days ago. Lauria Niehues and Connie Winkler will want to know this.

Today at dinner we had a very good meal -- though all are good -- of rice, beans, broccoli, roasting ears, very tasty chicken breast roasted with onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Always there is a "doce" -- a sweet of some sort -- and so we had a coconut pudding with the "cafezinho" or strong black coffee. Not Nescafe though I admit I was shocked to see that on the table before. In Brazil? Yes, in Brazil! I hear that the best of the Brazilian coffee is exported! The Second world has to pay its debts to the First world. At supper we usually have left overs and very good soup. Breakfast is usually bread and coffee, fruit, or fancy bread. Oddly enough cereal is expensive.

One news channel (canal) seems to be filled with crime news or a lot of its offering is that. The other we watch better. Most of the anchors are women, very attractive, bright smiles and very clear diction. That is very helpful for one like me. After the news there is a "novella" an evening soap opera. Millions watch these all over the country. They are very popular among the poor who watch a life style portrayed totally different than their own. One is called "O Clone" or The Clone. I have not watched enough to get the story and because I do not know the language so I am content to leave after a while and read. I might add that the offerings are much less censored than in the USA. One would not need to know the language to appreciate that! But even so, the time is too precious to spend it on TV. Fr. Kieran usually leaves then as well and without his presence I am a bit lost as to what is going on. For example, President Bush could be on and I would not know what he is saying very well. As an aside, Kieran and I drove out toward the town of Portelandia to see the highway washed away by the rains. There were dozens of trucks ahead of us. We turned around and returned to the city and on the way were passed by at least 20 of those big trucks mentioned above. The roads are not of the quality of ours and those trucks beat the roads to death. Many of the trucks have signs on the. One this AM had in Portuguese "Peace is on the Road,” another I saw said, "Jesus Christ is the reason for my success." Another "So Catolico." I am a Catholic.

There are lots of protestant churches in Brazil. One demands only $50 to sit in the same church that Jesus did! This is a powerful church that owns the TV news station we watch. There are many Assembly of God churches, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. All this is just fascinating as I try to observe as much as I can. The desire to share all this is making me more observant. There are times when I wish I had a camera or a small TV Cam and yet again I would just not want to poke into scenes where people are just living their lives day by day as best they can.

More later of course. Abbot Barnabas sent the homily he preached for Bro. John Kaighin´s funeral. Very good as usual! I will miss him.

Love to all. Fr. Owen

PS: As we were coming back to Mineiros after checking out the highway. I saw a thatch hut built off the road about 25 yards. It was about the size of the kitchen at St. Mary’s and a woman washing clothes outside. A child was in the yard. This is a country so beautiful and so full of contrasts.


Message #11, 7:45 a.m., Tuesday, January 15, 2002

I have had trouble bringing up Yahoo email and so cannot check my messages nor transmit via Yahoo. The time differential is about 4 hours earlier in Seneca so it is 3:45 a.m. there. This difficulty with Yahoo has happened before.

We had a couple here -- the wife from Holland and the husband from England. They were trying to see as many National Parks in South America as possible. One would call them "Ecotourists." They bought a Jeep in San Diego and had traveled from there to the tip of Argentina. On the way to Rio, where they hoped to sell the 1987 Jeep, they stopped here to see the Parque das Emas. Dennis Niehues please note! The birds are really Rheas. So they joined us for lunch and we showed them a video (BBC) of the very park. An interesting pair. Their next step will be to emigrate to Australia. He is a petroleum engineer and she an ecologist.

Today looks like a regular day. Tomorrow Fr. Kieran and I will go by bus to Santa Helena to visit some people there. A day trip of about 4 hours. Tomorrow the place will begin to fill up with guests for the vow ceremony Sunday.

MORE LATER, (I hope).

Love, Fr. Owen


Message #10, 8:15 a.m., Monday, January 14, 2002

It is Monday AM here about 8:15. Cloudy today but little rain. After the feijoada completa and the anointings yesterday, Fr. Kieran and I went to Mass at Sao Bento. (St. Benedict). That is the new church which Kieran had a big part in building. It is a wonderful place and architecturally a gem for the city. I will bring some postcards of it though I have sent some already.

Again I read the gospel that I find easier and easier. But best of all, after Mass the family of one of our children, Luciano, stopped to visit. The family smiles a lot and seems very pleasant. This was a real stroke of good luck. There is a very popular Sunday TV program called "fantastics." Most people like it and so we watched. It is a combination of serious news, investigative reporting, humor, interviews etc. It is mostly light.

Today I have nothing unusual planned. After typing this message, I will do some Bible reading and other reading. Very likely I will go for a short walk and perhaps take the rosary along.
Fr. Kieran goes to the city every day for mail etc and I will go with him. We have lunch at 12 followed by Midday prayer. Then a siesta, more reading, evening prayer at 5:30 and then a walk with Kieran. A simple life thus far. Yesterday I jumped when the phone rang. Habit I guess. Soon the prior, Joaquim, will be back and serious plans will be made for the profession of vows that will be next Sunday. There will be some role for me. After the 21st most of the folks will go to Goiania and we will be two or three here.

Happy to report that there was no stomach kickback from the feijoada. Wisely I did pass up what might once have been a pig snout, tail, or ear! Bon Appetite!

Amor e paz a todos. Love and peace to all.

-- Fr. Owen


Message #9. Sunday afternoon, January 13, 2002

Back from the feijoada completa and I need to make a correction from an earlier comment. The only meat in the dish is pork. This dish originated with slaves in the colonial days and consists --since they got the worst parts of the hog -- of pigs’ feet, snouts, noses and ears. They put some sausage in as well. This is served over rice with well-seasoned black beans. Orange slices, some lettuce, chopped up tomatoes, onions and other veggies are also served. When we parked the car outside you could smell it cooking. Very good! It was an “all you can eat” event but I confined myself to one good helping. Afterward I went with Fr. Kieran to anoint a 70 plus year-old woman in a very poor part of town. She is dying of cancer. Next we went to the hospital to see a younger woman who is having an equilibrium problem. There are five hospitals here.

We also went to pay a visit to the Monasteiro de mae Deus, the monastery founded by the Sisters from the Mount. Two Americans are there --the former Mother Noreen who is temporary and Sr. Mary Mel, one of the founders. There are three Brasilians. This evening, Fr. Kieran and I go to the new church, Sao Bento, for a 7 PM Mass.

My best to all. Fr. Owen


Message #8. 8:00 p.m., Saturday, January 12, 2002

Mineiros is about the distance equal to the distance from KC to St. Louis from Goiania, the capital city of the state of Goias, Brazil. Our bishop lives in Jatai. A beautiful park -- the Parque das Emas -- is south and west of us.

Mineiros is named thus because the founders some 65 years ago were from the state of Minas Gerais which is south and east of Goias, our state. The family reunion that I wrote about earlier was that of the Rezende family, one of the founding families.

The larger part of the population is made up of what are called "gauchos." These are people from the South of the country e.g. Rio Grande du Sul or Santa Catarina. Coming home we saw two "vaqueros" i.e. cowboys. They still exist here but are not normally armed.

The Mass tonight was lots of fun with great singing. I did read the Gospel and it all went very well.

Tomorrow is the feijoada completa. It is a meal built around black beans, sausage, chicken, beef, pigs feet all cooked together and put over rice. As I said before, it is an event not only a meal. I have had it twice. This is not a meal for two but a meal for a very large crowd.

I will write afterward if I am able. The best to all.

-Fr. Owen


Message #7, 1:00 p.m., Saturday, January 12, 2002

This morning at about 10:30 we went to the Women’s retreat place way out in the country. It is called Emmaus. There is one for men on the Arguaia River. I have been there.

On the way, about 40 kilometers we passed some of the largest soybean fields I have ever seen. We will try to get some pictures later. Also saw Cebu (Brahama) cattle grazing. This retreat facility was being used by a family for a reunion. About 200 were there -- of all ages and sizes. A couple was in charge and appointed the year before to arrange the reunion. Just like in Nemaha County. I was introduced and met some very pleasant folks. But soon after the introductions my Portuguese seems to run out.

For anyone who wanted there was a sort of Karaoke available. I.e. there was a music video with words and people took turns singing, mostly the younger people and they were having lots of fun. Beverages of all sorts were available. Plenty of Skol beer and some harder stuff mostly taken as "shots." The Brasilians like Coca Cola a lot but I have seen neither diet coke here nor Pepsi. I went for the “grarana” which I like a lot. We went into the kitchen and watched the BBQ. The cooks will use a whole steer and all of the meat but the muscle. They cut the meat into chunks of what looked like 2 pounds. They do not marinate or use sauce. All they do is salt down 40 lbs of meat with one lb of salt. Believe me, the meat is delicious. It is cut up into small chunks of an inch to two inches square, or into strips. It tasted as good an anything I have ever eaten in the USA. Some sausages with squares of cheese are passed around as appetizers and before the meal platters of meat are also passed around. The meat is served at the full meal along with more sausages. There are beans and rice, salads, fried chunks of bananas sprinkled with meal, carrots, etc. The dessert was something made of coconut. We left about 2:00 p.m. as the priests have Masses tonight. I will just go along for the ride this evening and tomorrow. Both Masses are at 7:00 PM.

Sunday at lunch we will go for “feijoada completa” at an event sponsored by the association for the divorced and separated. It is not just a meal -- but also an event -- but more on that later.

The weather has settled down. This time away is really refreshing in that there is time to rest, read, pray, talk to Fr. Kieran. It is a joy to be able to share all this. We will try to get some pictures sometime soon as well.

More later.

Amor e paz, Fr. Owen


Message #6: Saturday, January 12, 2002

I am hearing good reports on the bulletins on the website. E bom! (That’s good.) I am happy for that. Let me bring things up to date. I must correct myself in that there will be only 3 steers roasted on the 20th, which will include then some 500 lbs of meat put on skewers and roasted over the pits. There will likely be some 1500-2000 persons attending the celebration. Of course there will be plenty of cerveja, Guarana, (tastes like cream soda sort of) juices, water, and perhaps some cachasca, a strong drink made from fermented cane. There will be the ever present rice and beans which are so good; salads, veggies, and afterward, some dulce (sweets) followed by coffee which is very good as well. We have it in the AM with hot milk. Today we had some cheese bread for breakfast. Muito gostosso! i.e. very good.

I spoke of the cold weather. A cold front came in during the rain and it was penetrating. Last PM I used two blankets even though the temp was 65-70. That has passed and the sun is out. I stepped out of the monastery this AM to take a walk with Fr. Kieran and I felt like I was in the Brazil I had always known. A bit cool, sunshine and lovely light.

Soon Kieran and I will be going to a family celebration of the young man making vows on Jan 20. We will stay a few hours. Of course there will be the BBQ and beans and rice. There is a dance in the PM but Fr. Kieran and I will be at Mass at 7:00 PM at the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker. I have been there many times. It is one of the 20 plus chapels we serve but all do not have Sunday Mass. There are lots of lay helpers who do communion services. There are two deacons. One does all the weddings and the other all the baptisms. Who says Third World countries are not up to date?

Time to send this alone. More later. Love to all.

-- Fr. Owen


Message #5: 7:30 a.m., Friday, January 11, 2002

It has literally been raining all night. It is 7:30 AM here as I write this. Last night, the temperature threatened to drop into the 60s and so we all got out blankets! The cold here is wet and penetrating. There are floods around he country but in the south, in the state of Santa Catalina, there is drought. Brazil is a huge country, nearly the size of the USA. In fact, it is three countries so to speak -- the north around the Amazon, etc; the middle, where we are, the Great Plains, and the South, where it is colder with snow and ice some of the time. The inhabitants include many of German and Italian descent. There are many Japanese in the country also. A few live in this area. .

I was shocked last PM to receive notice of the death of our Bro. John Kaighin. He was a teacher and a gardener. I used to work with him a lot especially the year before I came to St. Mary’s. He, Bro. Tony, and Robert Heiman stayed twice with me in 1996-1997. A massive heart attack apparently in his mid 50s. He also generously took care of the abbey dogs, a couple of loving mutts who provided therapy for many of us. A part of their life is gone as well.

The day is not complicated, as I have no heavy obligations. Kind of nice actually. More later certainly! Mineiros is south and west of Goiania, the capital of the state of Goias and east of
the state of Mato Grosso which is east of Bolivia.

The best to all. Until the next time.

-- Fr. Owen PS: The website has turned into a wonderful vehicle.
 


Message #4: Sent at 2:43 a.m., January 10, 2002

On January 22 I will meet the kids for whom the quilt raffle was promoted. It will be a joy to do that. We will have pictures eventually. I do not know if there are the capabilities to send photos from the monastery or not. We will see.

Fr. Kieran and I will take a trip to a family gathering on Saturday and have couple of other things planned which I will share.  Meanwhile it is a lovely time away from the routine.

I hear good things about the renovation of the rectory at St. Benedict and will be glad to see it. So many persons have been so good. My love to all.

-- Father Owen


Message #3: Sent at 2:35 a.m., January 10, 2002

The main reason I have come here is to R & R, a mini sabbatical sort of thing. The rest is very welcome. Yesterday amid lots of noise coming from the removal of some cypress trees, etc., I went dead away in sleep and have not done that in a long time. Perhaps the main focus is that on Jan 20 we will have the first profession of bro. Lenilson Rezende pronounced (hey-zen-gee). He is here and seems like a great person, about 22. There is also a postulant, age 26, named Giason, pronounced Jason. He also is a good guy. Both work around the church a lot and live here. I try to engage them in simple conversation. It has got to be simple with the Portuguese I know.

The vows are on Jan. 20, the feast of St. Sebastian. It will be a grand day with lots of food and drink. There will be 6 or 8 steers roasted over BBQ pits plus lots of other foods. People can attend for 3 Reais which is about $1.25.

By way of comparison, when I lost my bags in Sao Paulo (they are now returned), I had to buy clothes. I spent 73 Reais for a pair of jeans, underwear, two shirts, toothbrush, shaving cream (for about $30). By the way we shower and shave with just on the edge of luke warm water here. I think you get used to it.

- Father Owen


Message #2: Sent at 2:13 a.m., January 10, 2002

It is 7 years since I have been here and lots have changed. The city is expanded to the north and there are more paved streets. Like a lot of what I have seen of Brazil there is a lot of street life, people visiting, shopping at the "super mercado" or super market. There are lots of "lojas" or little shops around and a seemingly endless supply of places labeled "auto peces" or auto parts. Along with that there are many signs for "borracharia" or auto repair shops.

As in the USA there are favorite places to “hang out.” There are lots of small eating-places for "lonches" or places called "bars" where one can get whatever! I like what is called "Guarana' -- a sort of soda pop made from the fruit of that name. It tastes like cream soda. Quite popular.

The food here at the monastery is very good and healthy with some meat but lots of good soup and veggies. Always wonderful -- rice and delicious beans. Breakfast consists of bread and good coffee. Recently we have had "pamonha" which is like sweet tamale without the stuffing. Very good indeed! There is always a dessert of some kind and, of course, coffee.

I am going to send this now again because of perhaps another power failure!

- Father Owen


Message #1. Sent at 2:02 a.m., January 10, 2002

Greetings from south of the equator where it is Summer and raining buckets full. Great for the soja (soy beans) here. I have seen hundreds of acres, perhaps thousands acres, and hundreds of hectares of beans about a foot high. These will be followed by corn or cane (cana). Saw some Massey Ferguson tractors, etc the other day. And I will bring back the Brazilian version of the Farm Journal. It’s the same general style of publication. A lot of the land (the large farms) is privately owned but some of the farms are in the hands of corporations. There are lots of elevators along the highway. They are called armazems; some are owned by multi-national corporations.

By the way I will be sending short paragraphs because it is dangerous to have the computer on long because of electrical failures which happen here more often than at home.

I will return after sending this, as I do not want to loose what I’ve typed so far.

Mais tarde (More later). -- Fr. Owen


visitors since September 2001