‘Duc in altum – put out into the deep’, says Jesus to Simon Peter, after teaching the people from his boat (Luke 5:4).

Jesus needed a boat from which to proclaim the Gospel. For the Mar a Dentro community based at the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil, the words of Christ are an inspiration for their work. They too put out into the deep, as fishers of men.

They have an old wooden boat, which chugs along slowly and has no reverse gear – which turns mooring into a risky manoeuvre every time – and is in constant need of repair. But they need it. Some 400 families on the island of Caratateua-Outeiro depend on them for medicine, teachers for their children, and the Word of God.

They are in need of healing, both in a physical and in a spiritual sense. The community and its many volunteers bring them health and healing. They call this project ‘The Friends of the Island’. They have a house on the island, in Outeiro, where they provide vocational training courses and medical and psychological help. They also offer catechesis, prayer groups, Word liturgies and, whenever possible, celebrate Holy Mass.

In previous centuries the island was used by the indigenous peoples as a cemetery. Today, especially in the Amazon region, there are numerous sects who exploit superstition for their own ends. The Mar a Dentro community’s humanitarian and evangelisation work aims to fight this throughout the region, and particularly on the island, with its 65,000 inhabitants.

There is only one bridge to Outeiro. So their boat is essential, and also necessary to reach neighbouring islands. It plies the waters, steadily, but oh so slowly. The community would like to expand its missionary work, as there are so many they could help.

But with their old boat they cannot. A new boat would reduce their overall costs, allowing them to travel more frequently. ‘Master’, said Simon, ‘we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets’ (Luke 5:5-6). And they took a great catch, so great that they had to call on a second boat to help them and ‘they … filled both the boats, so that they began to sink’ (Luke 5:7).

We have promised to help purchase a new boat, as without a second boat their work will not flourish. All of us, Mar a Dentro, ACN and you our benefactors are the fishermen who place these and other boats in the service of the Lord, so that His Healing and Salvation can reach the multitude.

This article can be found in Mirror 0417.