Spirit of Father Mata started after three couples from California visited one of the Aldeia da Paz homes, while visiting Brazil for the International Gathering of the Teams of Our Lady in the summer of 2012. The couples, who were already supporters of the Aldeia da Paz, were moved to action from the moment they walked into the home in Santo António near Brasilia. The home is one of four houses founded by Father Mata and run by the Sisters of the Missionaries of the Poor (also founded by Fr. Mata). As the couples approached the graffiti-marked walls of the Aldeia da Paz home, down an unpaved road in a ghetto, their insecurities rose. But when the Sisters opened the iron gates of the compound, the couples were overjoyed by the singing and dancing of the children who welcomed them!
These couples were profoundly touched by the passion and dedication of the Sisters as well as the needs of the children they served. The couples were particularly struck by the cleanliness of the facility and the children, and the resourcefulness of the Sisters. Every room in the home was brightly painted in various shades, with mismatched colorful tiles laid by the Sisters throughout the house.
The Sisters care for approximately one hundred needy children in this one home alone. The children are either orphaned or their parents are not able to care for them during the day because they work at least an hour’s bus ride away and return home very late in the evening. Were it not for the Sisters and the protection of the Aldeia da Paz walls, these children would be left to streets of Santo António where drug abuse, violent crime, and prostitution abound.
During their visit, the couples noticed the sheer joy that seemed to emanate from the home. The Sisters proudly showed the couples their projects and educational tools for the children, and invited the couples to stay for lunch. The children took their seats in an orderly fashion and not one child sat down until the prayer was said. The children and their guests were served their mainstay lunch meal at the home: rice, beans, and chicken feet (donated from a butcher in town). The vision of these children contently eating their meal of chicken feet was forever ingrained in the minds of the couples.
With the intercession of Father Mata, who passed away in September of 2011, the group is confident that it can meet and exceed its goals of providing support to all the Aldeia da Paz homes.
The Founder of Aldeia da Paz, Monsignor João Pedro Baptista da Mata (Fr. Mata), was born September 3, 1926 in São Pedro, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. He was the eldest of nine children, two of whom took religious vows and are Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
At the age of 10, João Pedro Baptista da Mata entered the seminary. He was ordained a priest on October 30, 1949 at the age of 23. His early responsibilities included being spiritual director and teacher at a Diocesan Seminary, teaching secondary school, and being a parish priest at the Cathedral in Funchal. As a young priest, Fr. Mata renovated the São João home for boys almost entirely on his own.
In 1958, Fr. Mata was placed in Mozambique where he served as spiritual director of the seminary as well as parish priest of the Cathedral of Lourenço Marques, known today as Maputo. It was in Mozambique that Fr. Mata received the title of Monsignor, and he had up to nine priests under his direction. Fr. Mata was troubled by the discrimination shown the native African children, who were often denied an education because of the color of their skin. As a result, Fr. Mata built many houses in Africa for the poor and established a “granja,” or pig farm, to sustain the homes. Every time the farm made a profit, Father would build another home.
Fr. Mata suffered tremendous persecution in Africa by political oppressors and even the church. At the time, Mozambique was in the middle of a civil war. As a result, Father had to flee Africa in 1976 after Gorillas shot and killed a priest in his name.
In 1976, Monsignor Mata founded the Sisters of the Missionaries of the Poor and established Aldeia da Paz (translated “shelter of peace”) to provide shelter, meals, education, and other services to the most vulnerable members of the Brazilian society.
In 1982, Father and his Missionaries of the Poor were joined by Sister Maria de Deus Raposo (now Mother Superior). Sister left her comfortable life and family in Canada to answer God’s call to serve the poor, especially children, in Brazil. Sister first heard the call when she was 12, which she felt was confirmed when Fr. Mata knocked on her door soliciting donations for Aldeia da Paz. Fr. Mata insisted that the young Maria de Deus complete her education first, so she expedited her studies and graduated from high school at the age 16. Father still insisted that Sister further her education, so she completed her undergraduate studies and began a career in the banking industry before ultimately joining the Sisterhood and Fr. Mata in Brasil where she has remained for over 30 years.
Fr. Mata and the Sisters have established facilities in four different locations around Brazil. During this time, they have rescued more than 100 abandoned elderly women, offered refuge to over 25,000 children, and have given assistance to over 700 families.
Fr. Mata passed away on September 17, 2011. He is remembered for his gentle humility and countless acts of sacrifice in dedication to the poor. Father saw the face of Jesus in every person he encountered and was a model of Christ's call to put aside worldly things for the promise of the Heavenly Kingdom. Father fought relentlessly for justice and dignity for those whom society would discard or abuse. He was greatly devoted to our Mother Mary and always urged families to pray the rosary together and to attend daily Mass.
Fr. Mata’s passing left a void in the lives of all who knew and worked with him, but his legacy lives on through the Sisters of the Missionaries of the Poor. Led by Sister Maria de Deus, the Sisters are committed to continuing Fr. Mata’s work for the poor with the same passion and dedication that he exemplified.
If you would like to make a donation please send a check or money order to the mailing address below. If you have any questions please contact us here.
Spirit of Father Mata
P.O. Box 3718
Turlock, CA 95381
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