Letter 77 published 25 November 2016

A Truly Extraordinary First Communion at 101 Years of Age!

Da mihi animas, cetera tolle may be translated as "Give me souls, take away the rest." This motto, Don Bosco's gift to the Salesians, is also the motto chosen for his ordination by a young Brazilian priest, Fr. Domingos Savio Silva Ferreira, a member of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney. The Good Lord must have heard him: He just granted him the grace of giving first Communion to a Brazilian lady aged . . . 101!

We’re happy to share this story with you this week.

Dona Penha’s First Holy Communion.


"I want to dedicate myself to serving souls. Like Saint John Bosco, I want to consecrate myself to youth. They are the future of the Church. They, more than anyone else, need God; they suffer from the attacks of the world and from the environment they live in."

So spoke Fr. Domingos Savio Silva Ferreira last February, on Facebook, two months after his priestly ordination on 12 December 2015, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the Americas. He was ordained by Bishop Rifan, of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, which is also called Campos from the name of the diocese where it operates. This Administration is a diocese-scale equivalent to a personal parish dedicated to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. This sort of personal diocese for the extraordinary form numbers about 35,000 faithful and around thirty priests. Fr. Silva is the most recent priest to have joined their ranks.

As often happens with God's plans, which are always unsearchable to our human understanding, Fr. Silva Ferreira whose Christian name is that of Don Bosco's beloved disciple, Saint Dominic Savio, wanted to work with youth but actually finds himself chaplain in a retirement home. Except that an immense grace was awaiting him in that institution, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel: the saving the soul of Dona Penha, a 101-year old resident.

As ACI Digital reported in an article dated 28 September 2016 (read here), Dona Penha moved into the retirement home last year. In the chapel of this religious-run home, the holy Mass is offered to the residents on a regular basis. "Dona Penha started out walking with other ladies to the celebrations, then one day she asked to go to confession" relates Josiane, one of the employees there. Fr. Silva Ferreira realized that she had never received Communion and then asked the sisters to prepare her to receive It.

And so on 27 September 2016, this 101-year-old woman had the privilege and the great joy of receiving, for the first time ever, the Holy Eucharist from the hands of the young chaplain. "All those who came with her were able to realize that this was truly what she wanted. Despite her 101 years, she is a very lucid person. She prepared for and received her Communion with all her heart" says Josiane. "It was a marvelous moment that reminded us that it is never too late to receive the Holy Eucharist; it confirmed us in the faith."

This event, which was in every respect extraordinary (especially in the form of the Mass that Fr. Silva Ferreira celebrated), proves that neither time nor human respect can overcome one who truly is seeking God. Beyond the other residents and the staff that attended the ceremony, this First Communion, photos of which were published on Facebook and shared by dozens of people, had a great impact thanks to the article published by ACI, the main Catholic news agency in the South American area.

Fr. Silva Ferreira and parents during his ordination.


1) The Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, of which Bishop Rifan has been the administrator since 2002, was born of a Brazilian bishop's resistance to the post-conciliar turmoil. As bishop of the diocese of Campos (Rio de Janeiro State) from 1949-1981, Bp de Castro-Mayer refused to abandon the traditional missal and gave rise to a priestly fraternity that remained faithful to Church’s doctrinal and liturgical tradition: the Priestly Union of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. Bishop de Castro-Mayer consecrated the SSPX bishops along with Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988. His successor was Bp Licinio Rangel who, just before he passed away in 2001, obtained canonical recognition for the Priestly Union, now erected as an ad hoc structure: a personal apostolic administration, i.e. a diocese encompassing priests and faithful attached to the traditional liturgy.

2) Mission readiness is characteristic of many priests devoted to the celebration of the traditional liturgy. In fact this extraordinary First Communion is only one illustration of all the apostolic work accomplished by Fr. Silva Ferreira, a young priest on fire to work for the good of souls who has understood that mission often begins closest to the tabernacle, where Christ the Host calls us and awaits us.
In many dioceses across the world, particularly in Europe, there is a lack of priests in the service of souls. Yet too few bishops dare entrust to priests ordained for the extraordinary form such "cross-sectional" ministries as chaplaincies in retirement homes, hospitals, schools, or even religious communities (1). Not only would such priests be perfectly qualified and motivated for these ministries, but they could also at the same time respond to local requests for the application of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. This would be a double relief for the burdens of other priests

(1) Although we ought to point out that Bp Piat of Port-Louis, recently created cardinal, does call on a priest of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest --Canon Moreau, who had served in the USA-- as chaplain in the local hospitals, which has also allowed him to satisfy the demand of the local coetus fidelium, which now had the benefit of a regular celebration of the traditional liturgy.