The past few days have certainly been difficult ones for me. As some of you may already know, I lost my beloved mother, Josefa da Cunha, on Saturday, July 8. She died in her home in Brazil at the age of 92. I am filled with sadness and sorrow with her loss; my solace is the hope that comes from our Christian belief in eternal life. As we pray in our Mass of Christian Burial, “ Lord, for your faithful people, life has changed not ended.”
My mother was predeceased by her beloved husband of 67 years, my dad, Manoel Antonio, who passed away on June 23, 2015. She lived a long and beautiful life; she raised 13 children and saw her family grow to 39 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, 12 great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild, to a total of 101 descendants.
She was a person of great faith, and her memory will be treasured as a person who lived her life dedicated to God and family. The wake and burial took place on Monday, July 10, 2023, in Bahia, Brazil. Heartbreakingly, because of flight cancellations and delays, I was unable to arrive in time for the services; instead, I came back home from the airport and had to livestream the Funeral Liturgy to Brazil from my Chapel in Fall River.
Having left my home of Brazil over 40 years ago to serve the Lord as a Vocationist priest, I recognize and try to always connect with my roots and make time for family. I am blessed and grateful that the Lord has continued to provide me with this opportunity. God is indeed generous and loving, evident in my unexpected opportunity to visit my mother one last time when in Brazil for Fr. Thiago’s ordination last month. It is amazing how God continues to work all things for the good of those who love Him, as St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28.
Memories of Family
Over the course of the four years of my blog, I have shared stories and pictures from my annual trip home to Brazil for vacation and to spend important time with my family. As a way of honoring my mother’s legacy of faith and family, I wish to share them again in today’s blog.
I first shared in the February 2019 blog the blessing of spending time visiting my mother, siblings, and numerous (see above) nieces and nephews. As I explained, my vacation in Brazil allows me to maintain that important connection with family, as well as provides me an opportunity to rest and recharge my batteries. In caring for myself, I can best continue to serve the people of the Fall River Diocese effectively. Today, as I mourn my mother’s passing, I will cherish those memories all the more.
In February 2020, I was blessed to take my annual vacation to Brazil just before the world shut down. This special trip included the opportunity to baptize one of my many nieces. This event was all the more special as her Baptism occurred in my hometown parish.
This past January, my family was able to capture this memorable photograph representing six generations. My mother was so very blessed to have met her great, great, great-granddaughter; not many people are bestowed such a remarkable gift.
During that visit, I was also graced with sharing special meals and gatherings with my large, extended family. Interestingly, the first reading for the Mass the Sunday I returned from that particular trip to Brazil came from Genesis, where we read:
“On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken” (Genesis 2:2).
That inspired me to share thoughts in the blog on the critical importance and value of rest and family. I invite you to read the blog in its entirety here. These two things are universally essential to our emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental well-being, and yet, also sadly universally neglected. We must cherish the gift of family for as long as the Good Lord allows them in our lives. In your generosity, I ask you to please keep the repose of my mother, Josefa, and my entire family in your prayers.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha