Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 23, 2009
Music, faith make priest's soul sing
Brazilian-born Fr. Santana relishes the caring he gives and in turn receives from his parishioners
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
For Father Wellington Santana, the greatest blessing of being a parish priest, whether in his former parish in Villeneuve or his current parish in Beaumont, has been ministering to wonderful people.
"They accept you and they support you. The feedback of the people is very important to me because if they said, 'We don't like you,' I wouldn't stay here," said the 42-year-old Brazilian priest.
"But since they support me, I feel comfortable in this place. It creates a good, close relationship between the priest and the community. It is necessary to create that relationship with the people."
St. Vital Parish in Beaumont attracts about 1,000 parishioners to its Saturday Mass and two Sunday Masses. Originally a French-speaking community, the parish celebrates one Mass in French out of respect for the town's history.
"The fulfillment of being a priest is being a sign of hope for the people and a sign of Jesus. What fulfills me the most is the fact that, despite all of my weaknesses, I can help people.
"People come here and we talk in the confessional. The confessional is wonderful because you can reconcile people through the Lord."
Born on a farm about 25 km from Paracatu, Brazil, he was the seventh of eight children. His father was a cowboy. The family stayed on the farm until Santana was seven years old, and then they moved into the city because his parents wanted him to attend a good school.
The family was Catholic, but living out in the country apart from churchgoers, Santana did not understand fully what that entailed.
"I went to this school. Even though it was a public school, they also taught us the catechism because everybody was Catholic in the city. I was there until 11 years old, and I never contemplated being a priest," said Santana.
From ages 11 to 17 he attended another school. He was a "very normal boy, full of energy" and still never gave any serious consideration to the priesthood.
"Then one day a priest and a sister came to the school and they spoke about many things, about religion, about faith, about Jesus. They also spoke about the challenge of being a missionary. I remember it very well.
"He (the priest) said we have such a shortage of priests in the world, and maybe one of you could consider the possibility of being a priest."
Santana was 17 and this was the first time he had ever considered the idea.
"Then I joined the army in Brazil because at that time it was compulsory. In the army I really learned a lot of bad things.
"But it was also a very nice moment to think about my life. It brought back the idea I'd had at the school about becoming a priest," he said.
When Santana's military service was complete, his pastor guided him to a group of 12 other men also considering the priesthood. After about a year with this group, reflecting on his options, he decided to enter the seminary in Brasilia at age 19.
Ordained in 1994, he stayed one year as a parish priest before being appointed rector of the seminary for three years. Then he was named a professor at the seminary, as well as being a parish priest.
For three years, beginning in 2003, Santana lived in Rome studying for his master's and doctorate in philosophy.
While living in Rome, Santana came to visit his good friend and former professor, Father Paul Terrio, from Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
With Santana needing to do some research for his PhD and also looking to be a parish pastor, Terrio helped him make the arrangements to come to the Edmonton Archdiocese. In August 2006 he took over running St. Peter's in Villeneuve and its three missions in Calahoo, Mearns and Riviere Qui Barre.
This was a relaxed job for Santana, who had helped run 70 communities in Brazil.
RESPECT OUR CULTURE
"When I came to Canada, I tried to do my best and am trying to respect the local culture. I have my own background, which is Brazil, and I am not supposed to bring my culture to the people here.
"Everywhere you go, you have to respect the culture. I am very honoured to be here and share my faith."
He came to Beaumont on Aug. 12. "Father Paul (Terrio) and I are very good friends. We enjoy the same passion, which is music. He plays the violin and I do too. So I thank him for this."
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