Our family has a special link with Brazil. In part 1 of this story you might have read about our connection: the Dutch missionary who worked in Brazil early last century (1925-1943) and who was worshipped for his ability to heal people. His name: Father Eustaquio. He was my father’s uncle.
Still today people remember and idolize him in the places he lived and worked: cities, towns and villages scattered around Minas Gerais, one of the 26 states of Brazil. Early 2014 we went on a remarkable trip to visit all these places: his tomb in a church in the city of Belo Horizonte, a museum dedicated to him in Poa (near Sao Paolo), and historical places in the towns of Patrocinio, Romaria and Estrela do Sul.
Together with my parents and sister I traveled to these places to finally discover two things: that the story of Father Eustaquio is an impressive one and very much alive all over the region, and travelwise that Brazil has so many great (and unkown) places to discover that one week was far too short!
The story of Father Eustaquio
During our trip I wanted to learn why Eustaquio is so well-known and worshipped in Brazil while in the Netherlands (where he was born) hardly anyone knows him…
Eustaquio lived and worked in Brazil for most part of his life. He felt very connected to the local people where his personality stood out: a tall man with eyes that could look right through you…but at the same time full of compassion.
People saw in him a man with the ability to answer their prayers. Prayers for physical health, an overall better life or even a cure from a terrible disease. According to many he actually did cure people which led to his beatification in 2006.
Father Eustaquio like a popstar?
He became a very popular man. And I mean very, very popular! Like a popstar or a famous actor. Wherever he went, thousands of people would follow. He had to be relocated several times because some of the smaller cities just could not handle the run of that many people!
Crowd waiting for Eustaquio to show himself (city of Poa, Brazil)
At home we have several old pictures of Father Eustaquio in Brazil. Pictures of him behind a window with people on the street waving at him, asking for laying on of hands or to bless drinking water they brought with them in bottles.
The scene above (where people ask Eustaquio to bless their drinking water) was turned into a stained glass window!
During our recent visit we actually found all those historical places and stood at exactly the same spots that you find on these old pictures; this was the family history tour we were looking for!
Entering Belo Horizonte
The center of activity for the adoration of Father Eustaquio is to be found within the city of Belo Horizonte. This city with over 5 million inhabitants has one neighborhood called Eustaquio. In a local church he is buried in a tomb where all day long, every day, people come to pray.
All over the neighborhood his name pops up: a school, shops, streets and various companies carry the name of Eustaquio.
Padaria (bakery) Padre Eustaquio
Family crossing the Rua Padre Eustaquio
Papelaria (stationery shop) Padre Eustaquio
At that local Padre Eustaquio school I met a mother and her daughter. The little girl attends the school while her mother did the same in the past. She literally got goosebumps when she realised I was related to Father Eustaquio…unbelievable moment.
Can you imagine how confused I sometimes was when visiting these places in Brazil and meeting those people? Experiencing people’s strong believe and confidence in the powers of someone who died already long time ago. Someone who came from this small country in Europe….
What to see in Belo Horizonte?
Of course we had time to visit other places as well. From a touristic point of view Belo Horizonte (BH) has (only) a few interesting sight-seeing places:
Pope Square offers you a superb view of the city (Belo Horizonte does mean Beautiful Horizon). Here the Pope visited in 1980 and ever since they call it the Pope Square (I forgot it’s real name but everybody knows when you ask for Pope Square).
The blue mosaic St. Francis of Assisi church in Pampulha is a popular destination. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer this curved building is certainly not what you expect from a regular church!
Mercado Central or Central Market was established in 1929 and offers 400 shops selling everything from pets to cheese and kitchenware!
On the road again: Eustaquio in Romaria
After Belo Horizonte we continued our family history tour towards the city of Romaria. Again lots of links to Eustaquio here. For example posters of him on a Coca-Cola machine in a local shop, and a statue next to the fabulous church whose build was initiated by him.
Surprise! We went to an actual candle factory. Here they (manually) produce the Eustaquio candles that are being lit in churches all around the region of Minas Gerais. Met some great people showing their craftsmanship and of course we loved the stock of candles with Eustaquio’s image…
In the small city of Estrela do Sul (it’s so beautiful because it’s so quiet!) we met an old lady who knew Eustaquio from the time he worked in the church opposite her house. She invited us in and told tons of stories….we didn’t understand much but her enthusiasm was enough for me to start adoring her!
Main street in Estrela do Sul
The museum in Poa
Poa is a bigger city, close to Sao Paulo. We only had half a day left before our flight would bring us back home. I was again surprised: they are finalizing a brand new museum with all kinds of Eustaquio memorabilia. This was actually the 3rd museum that I have seen in Brazil: Belo Horizonte, Romaria and now in Poa.
In the garden of the church in Poa we found this statue of Father Eustaquio. Can you see we are family??
The Brazilian side of the story
This has become quite a story where I am continously looking for the right words to say. When I am in Brazil I feel part of the story of Father Eustaquio. I experience the joy of the people we meet and I understand the role Eustaquio plays in their daily life. I understand and enjoy the regular as well as the spiritual life in Brazil. This legacy I will certainly pass on to my children!
Now that I am back home I am drifting away from the story again, slowly. It feels a drift from surreality to reality. Are we too realistic, pragmatic and/or materialistic here in the Netherlands? I don’t have to become a full believer of the powers of Eustaquio, but I have fully accepted the Brazilian side of the story. And I like it. I will be back.