By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent
HYANNIS, Mass. — During Advent we leave home and embark on a journey.
Departing from Nazareth, Joseph and the pregnant Mary made the difficult, dangerous journey of 70 miles to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.
Two thousand years later, we follow in their footsteps, leaving home and reuniting with family and friends during this Holy Season.
Last Sunday, hundreds of folks of Brazilian heritage from the four corners of the Diocese of Fall River journeyed to St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis to observe the Brazilian Community’s 25th Anniversary Mass celebrated by native son Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.
Five thousand miles from their homeland, they came together as a new community of faith.
Karina DeOliveira emigrated from Sao Paulo nine years ago. Accompanied by her husband Wallace and daughter Raissa, she expressed her joy to be with her bishop and countryman, through an interpreter.
“Very happy today,” she said.
Helenice Souza hails from Minas Gerais.
“It is our pleasure to have Bishop da Cunha today,” she said. “It will be the first time he comes. I come to this community for 25 years.”
Likewise the new bishop was elated to worship in his native tongue.
“What a joy to be here celebrating with the Brazilian communities from Hyannis, Fall River, Taunton and Martha’s Vineyard on this special day,” he said before Mass. “Not only is this the first time, since I became the Bishop of Fall River, to celebrate with them, but it is also the 25th anniversary of the Brazilian Community in Hyannis. Bringing them all together here in Hyannis on this fourth Sunday of Advent, just four days before Christmas, makes it all the more special.”
All eyes were fixed on the back of the Sanctuary as the procession began at the start of Mass. Clergy included Father Michael Fitzpatrick, parochial administrator of St. Francis Xavier Parish; Father Edivar DaSilva, who leads the Brazilian Ministry; Father Jack Oliveira, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in New Bedford; and the bishop.
Light streamed through the stained glass windows, bearing images of each of the disciples and casting an ethereal glow on the gathering. The only trappings of Christmas were wreaths tied with red bows suspended from Roman columns.
“I’m happy to be here with every one of you on this day and celebrate together with the Brazilians of the Diocese of Fall River,” greeted the bishop.
Two large screens on either side of the altar displayed all the prayers and songs in Portuguese while English speakers listened to the simulcast translation through earphones.
The congregation sang: “Kyrie Elieson. Christe Elieson.”
Like many of the worshippers, Wallace D’Oliveira lifted his outstretched arms to Heaven, rocking back and forth in rhythm to the music.
The first reading related the promise God made to King David.
Voices rose in Portuguese: “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord,” they answered in the responsorial psalm.
The words of St. Paul to the Romans in the second reading revealed that God offers Salvation to everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ.
“Alleluia, Alleluia,” the worshippers sang. “Cristo e meu Rei” (Christ is my King).
The Gospel reading brought the message of “The Annunciation,” the angel Gabriel’s visit and announcement to Mary that she would conceive the Son of God.
In his homily Bishop da Cunha told the congregation that during Advent and at Christmas time, it is important to reflect upon the coming of the Lord to all of us.
“In the Gospel the angel announces the coming of the Messiah, and Jesus becomes human,” he said. “God is with us.”
The angel’s words, “Do not be afraid,” are also for us, according to the bishop.
“Even though many of us miss our families and the distance we are from our land and country, here we become a new family of faith,” he said. “Not only do we have our communities that help us and give us strength, we also have God with us. Do not be afraid of difficulties and problems we have to go through. Tomorrow will bring peace if we have faith.”
The bishop then turned his thoughts to the celebration of Christmas.
“Now brothers and sisters, we gather together here in 2014, here in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A., North America; and we don’t know what Christmas is going to be,” he said. “We put up trees, lights, send cards, purchase gifts.”
But he said that the popular Christmas celebration takes Christmas away from Christ.
“People don’t say ‘Merry Christmas,’ they say ‘Happy holidays,’” he explained. “Sometimes children grow up thinking the Christmas celebration is about Santa Claus, not Jesus Christ. Christmas has to be about Jesus Christ and His coming.”
He added that this Christmas Jesus will not be born in a manger, He is being born in our hearts.
“Let’s welcome Jesus into our lives and our homes,” he said. “Husbands and wives gather with your children and celebrate Christmas with Jesus Christ.”
A special Sacrament of Confirmation was performed by the bishop for parishioner Leonardo Burri.
Unlike in traditional parishes throughout the diocese, the parishioners left their pews during the offertory and brought their gifts, placing their envelopes in baskets on the altar.
After Communion, photographs of Bishop da Cunha appeared on the screens with words of thanks.
Representing the Brazilian community, Father DaSilva expressed their pride and thanksgiving to the new bishop, and everyone clapped. Bishop da Cunha also was presented with a gift.
“Today we are reminded of that moment when history took a turn, and the world would never be the same again,” said Bishop da Cunha. “The first Christmas took place because Jesus, Mary and Joseph said ‘yes’ to God’s plan. Now, in 2014, Christmas will become reality if we say ‘yes’ to God’s plan for us and for our world right here, right now.”