Carmelite Chronicles: The Vicariates of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia-Pernambuco

September 23, 2014 |

In 1685, the vast vicariate of Brazil was divided in two. The vicariate of Rio de Janeiro was allotted the convents of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santos, Angra dos Reis, Mogí das Cruzes, and Vitória do Espírito Santo (1685). The Vicariate of Bahia and Pernambuco comprised Olinda, São Cristóvão, Paraiba, Recife, Goiana, Bahia (modern Salvador), and Rio Real. In 1715, the vicariate of Bahia numbered 218 religious, Rio de Janeiro 163, not counting novices and 25 absent from their convents in Portugal.

Finally, on April 20, 1720, Pope Clement XI erected the two autonomous provinces of Bahia-Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro.

After this initial development, the Order did not add many foundations in Brazil. Although the Carmelites had no apparent difficulty establishing themselves in the overseas possessions of Portugal, restriction of the evangelization of the Indians to certain orders existed there as well as in Spanish America. For a century, their apostolate was largely confined to ministering to the Europeans in the towns, catechizing, and teaching school. They had contact only with the Indians serving in the houses and on the farms of the whites.

On August 17, 1687, King Peter II authorized the Carmelites to administer aldeias, or native villages, and to indoctrinate the Indians.

A few details on the missions of the Bahia-Pernambuco vicariate are known. Frei Joseph of Jesus and Mary in 1690 travelled nine hundred leagues to the Rio San Francisco. There Frei Anthony da Piedade founded the mission of Japaratubá. Frei John of the Trinity worked among the Indians there during an epidemic of smallpox. The Carmelites were also active along the Rio Real. They founded the mission of Siri; around 1733, Manuel da Esperança was active there. In 1741, John V, “the most faithful king,” assigned the convents which had embraced reform missions in the Baia da Traição and at Preguiça in the captaincy of Paraiba and at Gramació in the captaincy of Rio Grande do Norte.

Information on the missionary activity of the Rio vicariate, if any, is not available at present.

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

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