A businessman and a priest met and discovered they had the same life purpose. Then they got to work.
Did you know that the third largest shrine to St. Michael is in Brazil? You may answer “yes,” especially if you’ve already read our article published earlier this year.
But one thing you may not know is the incredible story of devotion behind the project that culminated in the creation of the shrine in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná.
To be able to tell the story, we need to go back in time and get to know the story of two men – businessman Leonir Palla and Fr. Roberto Morais de Medeiros. They had never met until early 2008, but as soon as they did, they discovered that besides having a shared devotion to St. Michael the Archangel, they also shared the same life purpose: to build a shrine dedicated to the saint.
Dreams that lead to a commitment
We have to go even further back in time to understand how St. Michael the Archangel touched the hearts of Leo – as Leonir is affectionately known – and Fr. Roberto.
This story begins in the countryside of the state of Santa Catarina, which is the Brazilian state to the south of Paraná. The son of a very humble family, Leo entered the Franciscan seminary at the age of 11. He then completed high school in Agudos, in the interior of São Paulo, returning to his home state to do his novitiate.
While in the seminary years of studying philosophy, the young man decided to leave the seminary because he realized that it wasn’t his vocation. It was in the midst of this moment of decision that Leo had what we might call a “revelation.”
During his last days in the seminary, Leo dreamed for three consecutive nights – and always at the same time: 3 in the morning – that he would be responsible for the construction of a church.
In the dream he was digging in the earth with a pickaxe and suddenly came across something that seemed to be a large column, which prevented him from moving forward.
It was then that he heard a voice announcing that he would be responsible for building a great church.
And some time later, when he moved to Bandeirantes in the state of Paraná in the early 1990s, the dream still lived in his head.
Almost 20 years later, Leo visited France. While visiting a parish, he came across a relic identified as a piece of Mary’s veil, which she had worn at the very moment when the archangel Gabriel had announced that she would be the mother of Jesus.
He doubted the authenticity of the veil, but in another dream a voice confirmed that the veil was real, and that very soon he would receive another message, this time with an order that had to be obeyed.
Without previously knowing the route of the trip, Leo had a new surprise the next day: the group with which he was traveling went to the island where the world famous shrine of Mount Saint-Michel is located.
And it was at this moment of the trip that he understood which order, according to his dream, he had to obey: when he returned to Brazil, he would have to start the construction of a shrine in honor of St. Michael the Archangel.
A call to the priesthood
Like Leo, Fr. Roberto also discovered the saint of his devotion in his youth. From Ibaiti, in the north of the state of Paraná, he found his religious vocation in the context of a great loss: the death of his dear mother Gerúzia, who died in 1992.
Roberto, who was 25 years old at the time, sought in his community’s Catholic Charismatic Renewal prayer group a way to deal with the emptiness he felt in his mourning.
It didn’t take long for him to feel that he was being called to a mission in the church, something perceived both by the priest and by everyone who was with him in the parish group. And at the same time that Roberto decided to become a priest, entering the seminary, he also discovered his devotion to St. Michael the Archangel.
After being ordained at the age of 32, he served first as a deacon and then as a priest in the city of Andirá. Years later, he was transferred to his hometown, Ibaiti, and later was assigned as pastor at St. Geraldo Majela Parish in Bandeirantes.
During his first years in the priesthood, his devotion to St. Michael grew stronger and stronger. One day he decided that from then on he would celebrate a Mass in honor of the archangel every Thursday.
He never imagined that with such a decision he would meet hundreds of devotees of St. Michael the Archangel.
As time went by, the number of people who attended the Masses only increased, and he had to move it to a bigger, rustic building in order to welcome residents who came from several cities in the region.
Faith, devotion, and a shared purpose
The first time Léo and Fr. Roberto met was in early 2009. Both were attending a dinner at a nursing home.
At the time, the priest was already talking about the great need to build a church in that city dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. It was during this event that Sister Sueli, who was working at the nursing home, introduced him to Leo, and both discovered that they shared the same devotion to St. Michael.
A few days later, during the celebration of a Mass in the rustic building – which was completely full; there were even members of the faithful standing outside – Fr. Roberto expressed once again his desire to build a church dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.
On that occasion he pointed out the place he considered ideal: a large area on the top of a hill near the roundabout at the nearby exit off the highway.
This is how Leo, who was attending Mass, discovered that he had in this priest a partner for his mission. The very next day he went to him and told him about the dreams he had dreamt exactly 25 years earlier, and also about the messages he had received from Our Lady.
A blessed mountain
By coincidence, a few months later Leo met the owners of the land that Fr. Roberto had indicated as an ideal place for the shrine, and told them of his intention to purchase the lot.
The deal was quickly concluded. Bishop Fernando José Penteado, the local bishop at the time, considered the project “too grandiose,” but authorized it anyway.
The construction started in August of that same year 2009. While the church was still under construction, Fr. Roberto celebrated the first Masses of healing and deliverance, the same Masses that are still celebrated at the Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel every 29th of the month.
Three years later, on September 15, 2012, two weeks before the inauguration of the shrine, the image of St. Michael the Archangel – built completely of stainless steel – was placed on top of the building next to the church.
And since then, the shrine has been receiving about 40,000 visitors each month from all over the country. And every 29th of the month, the date dedicated to the archangel, about 10,000 people attend the celebration.
With information from the Shrine of Saint Michael the Archangel Magazine (ed. 01 – January/2013).