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Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest country in the world and the seventh largest economy. It was colonized by the Portuguese who brought Christian missionaries. It became independent in 1822 as an Empire. It became a republic in 1889. The official language is Portuguese.

St Patrick’s Missionaries in Brazil

St Patrick’s Missionaries have worked in Brazil since 1962. They went in response to a request made by Pope John XXIII to the Irish Church in 1960 to send missionaries there. Fr Ciaran Needham was the first priest to arrive in Sao Paulo where he was joined by Fr Tony Terry and a volunteer priest of Killaloe Diocese, Fr Enda Burke. They began their ministry in Cotia, 25 miles west of Sao Paulo.

The first group in Brazil. Frs Ciaran Needham SPS, Jim Curtis (Ferns), Enda Burke (Killaloe), Noel Murray (Glasgow) and Thomas O’Reilly (Kildare and Leighlin).

Fr Ciaran Needham pictured with First Communion class in Rio Pequeno in 1968.

A carpenter works on the Church of St Patrick in Rio Pequeno, the first church dedicated to St Patrick in Brazil.

Pictured in the 1990s in Sao Paolo are, from the left Pat Connolly, Kieran Ridge, Eric Armour (former member), Neil Crombie, George Corr, Jack Rodgers, Cathal Cullen(RIP) Sean McGrath, Aidan Fallon, Johnstone Katuta (former student), Leo Dolan (Clifton Diocese), Sean Smith, Jim Crowe, and Tony Conry (Elphin).

Society members gathered to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our mission to Brazil, March 2013.

Celebrating 50 years in Brazil, March 2013.

While Sao Paulo was a very advanced city, there were many people living in poverty and deprivation. The Cardinal Archbishop of Sao Paulo was happy to entrust parishes in these areas to St Patrick’s Fathers, known locally as the Padres Irlandeses. Here they worked alongside other missionaries, including the Medical Missionaries of Mary who set up small clinics to attend to the sick and needy, because there were no government healthcare services in these areas.


Society members joined in an outreach of the Archdiocese to help out the Prelacy of Itacoatiara on the River Amazon. Frs Jock Thorlby and Tony Terry, among others, were dispatched to work in communities where rivers and streams were the only means of transport.


In the 1970s, St Patrick’s Missionaries responded to an invitation from the Archbishop of Recife, Dom Helder Camara to work in his Diocese in the Northeast Region. Others went to work in Paraiba and Bahia also in the Northeast.


From the outset in Brazil, diocesan priests joined us in our work, including volunteers from the Dioceses of Elphin, Cashel, Ferns, Kildare and Leighlin in Ireland. Volunteers also came from the Dioceses of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and Clifton in England.


In the 1990s, the Society in Brazil again thought that new territory should be sought. After discernment, it was decided to join the newly formed Diocese of Juina in the north west of Mato Grosso State. It had then only six or seven priests. Four Society priests arrived there around Easter 1999.

Golden Jubilee

In 2012, members of St Patrick’s Missionary Society and their many friends, gathered again in the parish of Cotia to celebrate their Golden Jubilee in Brazil. A year later, to close the year-long celebrations, Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of St Paul in Sao Paulo on St Patrick’s Day 2013. Special congratulations were extended on that day to Fr Gerard McCluskey celebrating his Diamond Jubilee of priesthood and volunteers, Frs Jospeh Bredin, Leo Dolan and Anthony Conry.

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