COMBONI THAT DAY

In Pace Christi

Fr. Santos de Sousa Gilmar

Born: 17/05/1964
Luogo di Nascita: Salvador (BR)

Voti temporanei: 25/06/1989
Voti perpetui: 18/06/1993
Ordinazione: 19/02/1994

Date of Death: 13/04/2017
Place of Death: Salvador da Bahia (BR)

Fr. Gilmar Santos de Sousa was born at Salvador in Brazil in 1961. He took first vows in 1989 and perpetual vows in 1993. He was ordained on 19 February 1994.

Fr. Gilmar takes me back to a time in my life that affected me deeply. When I came to know him, he was leading the youth group in the parish of Castelo Branco which we had chosen as a way of entering into the Afro-Brazilian world, at Salvador-Bahia. Gilmar seemed to identify well with our pastoral proposals and to appreciate the sensitivity towards Afro-Brazilian expressions that was beginning to emerge in our Institute.

I followed with interest his personal growth, both human and vocational, his entry into our formation structures, his ordination and his first missionary work in Congo and Ecuador. I tried to understand the reason for his return to Brazil. It seemed to me that his journey through life was marked by unease. On the one hand, he failed to express fully his countless talents and, on the other, he always ended up with increasing resistance and excuses.

I remember having spoken about him to Fr. Ettore Frisotti, a mutual friend. We recognised in Gilmar many elements of the Bahian soul. Both of us felt that Gilmar continually tended to clash with something greater than himself in the way he spoke of God, the means to encounter him, the manifestations of faith and life and his ability to appreciate popular devotions. It seemed as if theology and ecclesial (and ecclesiastic) structures were too narrow for him, crushing his apostolic zeal and his missionary ardour. Nevertheless, he reached the hearts of people more than all the rest of us. This was shown by the friendships and deep relationships he established. His relationship with the Comboni Missionaries was not an easy one. Though there was agreement regarding ideals, there were always difficulties in making them concrete. I believe that the decision to be incardinated in the diocese of Salvador may be seen as the outcome of this long and difficult process of understanding that never really became an authentic encounter.

His death, therefore, is a double loss: the loss of a person to whom I owe much as regards the understanding of Brazil and also the loss of an opportunity to welcome among us some of that Afro-Brazilian spirit that knocked on the door of our Institute but, for a thousand different reasons, never managed to step over the threshold. (Fr. Giovanni Munari)