Carmelite Chronicles: Carmelite Missions in Brazil

September 9, 2014 |

The Carmelites had no difficulty establishing themselves in Brazil, the Cinderella to Portugal’s India. They were preceded there only by the Friars Minor and the Jesuits. It was the interval of the Cardinal-King Henry’s reign, between King Sebastian’s mysterious death (1578) and Philip II’s annexation of Portugal (1580), dominated by the question of the succession. The Carmo of Lisbon, too, went to work in a more businesslike fashion than the Casa Grande of Seville. When Henry in 1579 was preparing an expedition under Frutuoso Barbosa to colonize Paraíba, he applied to the Carmelites of Lisbon for missionaries. The newly-elected provincial, Damian da Costa, had not yet been confirmed by Rome, and the first definitor of the chapter, John Caiado, was in charge. On January 26, 1580, Caiado appointed Dominic Freire, Albert of St. Mary, Bernard Pimentel, and Antonio Pinheiro, “all men of approved religious life, professed priests of our Order, to accompany the said captain [Barbosa] on a voyage to build the city of Paraíba, there to found a monastery of the same Order under the title of Our Lady of Victory, and not only in that land, but also in Pernambuco and in all places offered them, such a course being of advantage to the service of God, the souls of our fellow man and the good of religion.” Frei Dominic was named vicar with powers, too, to grant letters of confraternity “to all who request them with piety and devotion.”

At the time, nothing came of the attempt at colonization; Barbosa returned to Portugal, but the Carmelites remained behind in Pernambuco. The provincial chapter of 1583 confirmed the foundation made in connection with the chapel of St. Anthony in Olinda. In 1586, Frei Damian Cordeiro and three companions arrived in Brazil to settle in Bahia on a large tract of land which included the chapel of Our Lady of Mercy. In 1588, Peter Viana returned from Portugal with more recruits and the title of commissary of the Carmelites in Brazil. The following year, he accepted the administration of the chapel of Our Lady of Grace and extensive property for a convent in Santos. In 1590, the Carmelites received more than a league of land for a convent of the Order in Rio de Janeiro.

Carmelite Chronicles are taken from The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

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