Fr. Antonio Furtado comes from the town of Fortaleza in the northeast of Brazil. He came to Medjugorje for the first time in 1996, as a seminarian. In a programme on Radio “Mir” Medjugorje, he spoke about his life journey and his vocation. He entered a seminary as a very young boy and that is where he underwent a crisis. He encountered a prayer community Shalom, whose founders were inspired by Medjugorje. He lived in this community and his decision to enter the priesthood was further strengthened and he was ordained as a priest in 2002. He spoke about the life of the Church in Brazil, about his work with young people and about living Our Lady’s messages. Fr. Antonio said he entered the seminary when he was only 13 years old: “I was in a seminary for seven years when I had a crisis in my vocation. At that moment I encountered a Catholic community, Shalom, which came into being in Fortaleza in 1992, when John Paul II visited that diocese. It was a charismatic movement which changed my life. The bishop at the time had chosen a young man to present a gift to the Holy Father. Our founder wrote a letter and he wished the Holy Father to receive it. He wrote that he was ready to offer his life for the consecration of the youth. That is how the Shalom community was established. When our founder wrote the statutes for the community, he spoke about Medjugorje. He had already heard about Medjugorje and about Our Lady’s messages. He wrote that we are supposed to live what the Gospa is saying in Medjugorje, that she spoke about personal prayer, reading the Holy Scriptures every day, Holy Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. That was the life of that lay community, where lay people, consecrated couples, priests and unmarried lay persons lived together. I had the opportunity to meet the community and it became part of my life. When I saw these young people living together, my life was renewed. I entered this community, remained there and my vocation grew anew. In the community I could have been married or remained single, have been consecrated or become a priest. I had many options, but at the end, the Lord called me”.
Fr. Antonio said that the Church in Brazil is in great need of evangelisation. He is now a parish priest in the main centre for evangelisation of Fortaleza. Besides that, he is also the head of the Shalom radio network: “It is a Catholic radio station which broadcasts for 24 hours a day. There are eight more radio stations which take our programmes. I spread the message of the Divine Mercy which Jesus revealed to Sr. Faustina Kowalska. Every day on TV I am given a certain period of time to speak about the Divine Mercy Chaplet and about the Divine Mercy. There is a programme on the radio from 2 to 4 pm each day when we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I travel a lot and every Thursday I celebrate Holy Mass where 5,000 people gather. It is a Holy Mass for those who are suffering, for those who are sick and for all in need of healing. The Shalom community is focused on the evangelisation of the youth. Every year in July we have a Youth Festival like you have here in Medjugorje and more than one million young people gather over five days”.
Talking about Medjugorje, Fr. Antonio said that Our Lady’s apparitions are a huge gift for us, who live at this time: “The spirituality of our community is based on the five basic messages of Our Lady in Medjugorje. My first time in Medjugorje was after the war and it was very hard to get here. When I climbed Apparition Hill, I felt that the Gospa had invited me here. I think I came here 6 or 7 times. Each time I went back home, I was full of strength to continue my life of evangelisation. In Brazil, I was able to form groups which I try to bring here. These groups meet on Wednesdays for the prayer of the Rosary and we always start by reading the latest message of Our Lady. We have a great responsibility here in Medjugorje. Our Lord talks to us through His mother. It is our responsibility to pass this on to others, to evangelise and to speak about the messages of Our Lady, especially to the youth.”