Shalom Catholic Community is recognized by Vatican

  • April 17, 2007
TORONTO - Three years ago Larissa Olinda moved to Toronto to open the first Canadian chapter of the Shalom Catholic Community. Within the year two other missionaries, Reimar Barata and Emanuela Gomes, followed.

Shalom Facts

Name: Shalom Catholic Community

Origin: In 1982, a group of undergraduate students headed by 22-year-old student Moises Louro do Azavedo Filho founded the movement in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Canadian locations: 2023 Dufferin St., Toronto

Charism: contemplation, unity and evangelization

Outreach: In Toronto a Portuguese prayer group for youth meets Saturdays 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Anthony’s parish, 1041 Bloor St. W., and an English prayer group meets Mondays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 2023 Dufferin St.

Contact: Call Larissa at (416) 652-5027 or visit
The former pastor of St. Anthony’s parish, Fr. Ezio Marchetto, invited the missionaries to his parish to work with his Brazilian parishioners. There, they lead an adult prayer group, a Bible study, formation, confirmation and baptism classes. Their Saturday evening prayer group attracts about 25 Portuguese-speaking young adults.

“We believe that Jesus didn’t just invite us to work with the Brazilian people, but now that the door is open we can also work with English people too,” said Olinda, 26, who became a missionary at 19.

However, ministering to English-speaking Canadians has its challenges for missionaries with English as their second language. At one of their first Monday night English prayer gatherings in March no anglophones showed up. They advertised the week prior by handing out flyers on Dufferin Street and in the subway station until security asked them to stop distributing them on private property.

“We didn’t know,” said Olinda, whose English is the strongest of the bunch.

While this movement is new to Canadians it is well established with more than 2,000 consecrated members and 30,000 people with connections to the community in eight countries. Its strongest presence is in Brazil and France.

The movement recently received its biggest compliment from the Vatican. The Pontifical Council for the Laity acknowledged the Shalom Catholic Community as an international private association for the faithful on Feb. 22.

Barata, 30, the director for the Canadian chapter, was one of 500 people on hand for the formal Vatican announcement of the group’s recognition in mid-March.

The movement started by opening a sandwich bar to welcome and evangelize youth with the idea youth would feel more comfortable in a cafe setting than a church hall. It has expanded to include schools, universities, shelters, seniors’ homes, rehab and HIV/AIDS facilities.

Olinda, Reimar and Gomes live together as “life community” members. They are missionaries who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Gomes has taken a vow of celibacy, while Olinda and Reimar discern between marriage and celibacy.

There are three other “covenant community” members in Toronto. These people are married and live in the world, working regular jobs while living the movement’s spirituality.

“I show with my life, with my ethical behaviour. I don’t have to speak, my life shows itself,” said Andrea Ries, 33, a married covenant community member studying to be a masseuse.

Olinda said a strength of the movement is how youth evangelize youth.

“I’m like normal and people can see she’s normal, but she can be a saint. When you look at a priest, a sister, you get scared.”

This was the case for 18-year-old Amanda Passos, who recently immigrated to Canada from Brazil with her family. Hoping to meet friends and have a place to fit in, Passos immediately fell in love with the movement.

“Shalom was the way God attracted me to Him,” she said.

As soon as Passos finishes high school she plans to go back to Brazil for missionary training to join the movement.

“When I’m thinking of missionary I don’t think I’m losing anything, I’m just gaining. We have days of fun, we see the news outside the world, it’s a complete life.”

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