Brazil - The Salesian mission between the Xavante

05 July 2017

(ANS - Nova Xavantina) - The Xavante are an ethnic minority in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Before the 1900s, the only news about them came from the chronicles of explorers. After the first clashes with gold seekers, they refused any contact with “the whites” and took refuge in Mato Grosso. The Salesians decided to bring their educational and evangelizing mission to them and, not without difficulty, they succeeded.

Resistance was plentiful, and some religious, like Fr Juan Fuchs and Fr Pietro Sacilotti, had to pay their missionary zeal with their lives. But in the late 1930s a trend reversal was recorded and in 1937 Fr Antonio Colbacchini was introduced into their group. Salesian missionaries thus began their first mission in Santa Terezinha, respecting the structure of the traditional village.

Fr. Bartolomeo Giaccaria is still active among the Xavante, and since 1954 inseparable from the people of Mato Grosso. He continues to work tirelessly on his activities in a parish comprising 184 villages scattered in 3 dioceses and a total of 4000 km².

The mission seat is at Nova Xavantina, but Fr Giaccaria uses the method of the traveling mission "to give efficient and effective presence in the communities."

The Salesian presence in the villages has enabled much work do be done on pastoral education, education, health and the development of agriculture. "We do what we can do,” emphasizes Fr Giaccaria. “The missionary mustn't solve the problems of the indigenous, but he must help them solve their problems. He must not do or act, but have them do and act."

As for the coexistence of Christianity with traditional cults, gospel translations and liturgical books have been translated into the Xavante language and an attempt is made to give priority to values ​​rather than to structure: "It doesn't matter if they do not know what the Jubilee is (it took us 1500 years); it is important that they know what mercy is. Only you mustn't rush the process, or be in a hurry. It is very easy to engage them with external things; content is much more difficult to pass on."

The bond with nature is very strong for the Xavante and they use raw materials to make creams, shampoos, syrups and other remedies against common diseases.

Further info on Fr Giaccaria can be found at "Don Bosco Missions".

You can also download a free e-book, "Curing oneself like the Xavante. The Padre Giaccaria Recipe Book".


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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