The Church in Brazil is Dying. This Young Woman is Desperately Trying to Save It.

George Martell/Pilot Media

WYD in Rio sparked a badly needed movement of the Holy Spirit – but there’s so much work to do.


WYD Sparked a New Beginning – But It’s an Uphill Battle

So, coming back to WYD in Rio. Three million people went to that beach for Mass! Do you have any idea what it felt like to be part of that?

It’s hard to fully express how deeply WYD affected my country, and the youth in particular. We cried to the top of our voices, “The Church is alive! The Church is young!” and so I was sure that what happened in Rio could not stay in Rio.

I saw people coming from every town in Brazil and all over the world, people investing money they didn’t have in plane fares, I saw people who hadn’t stepped inside a church in so long come be touched by Pope Francis and our happiness. Friends called me and said, “I watched it on TV all day just to see what’s going on.” I saw people make plans, and youth ministries being formed. The Facebook pages of our Catholic organizations have reached millions of “likes” on Facebook, just like other Christian organizations.

This was massive! The Holy Spirit was truly among us!

Yet, today almost a year later, young people are losing faith in their own attempts to evangelize and bring revolution to the Church in Brazil.

I am one of those young people.

I have personally felt called to evangelize Catholics about chastity and contraception in a country ready to legalize abortion and among young Catholics who consider it normal to have sex before marriage, to dismiss the Church’s teachings on NFP, and even distribute contraceptives to the poor.

It is such a taboo to talk about virginity and saving yourself for marriage. Evangelical Protestants are promoting campaigns about it because they too see the needs for our youth. But as for contraception, people think anything goes when it comes to sex for married people. Children will come “when they are ready for them,” sexual satisfaction is considered a sign of God’s blessing, and any sort of sexual abstinence is considered an offense against God.

Now, how can I study and prepare talks or even converse with my fellow brothers and sisters if I have no access in Portuguese to important Church documents like Humanae Vitae, or if it’s hard to get a copies of books like Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body?

In Brazil, we have few resources to help youth ministries and to really evangelize our youth. We have scant leadership preparation, relying solely on our natural abilities. If you’re lucky and in the good graces of a priest, you might be able to get a hold of high quality training material. Our main Catholic media network Canção Nova does a phenomenal job but has the burden of being the one of the only quality networks to spread the faith.

I’m studying in a Catholic university (Pontificial Universities throughout the country are the highest ranking private schools) but my major isn’t theology or philosophy, and it isn’t very common for lay people to have those majors.

I’m blessed that I speak and read English fluently, so I’ve discovered really great ministries like the  Chastity Project, Bobby Angel, Jackie François’ page on Facebook, and Matt Fradd’s ministry against pornography. I’ve started reading compulsively and discovering other Catholic sites to get information.

But this is just me, and this is how I am trying to do 0.001% of the work that needs to be done.

The Church is one body, so what affects me affects you, and I am moved to tears that sites like Aleteia and other communities can help each other. But if I can ask for your help as a lay person, for information and for guidance, I feel myself called to do so.

After all, what happened in Rio cannot stay in Rio.

This is my story and this is my struggle.

Mychelle Oliveira Coelhois a 21 year old Brazilian Catholic. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.