Pope Francis meeting the “Familia da Esperanca” association in the Vatican  (Vatican Media)

By Lisa Zengarini

Sep 30 2023

Pope Francis encourages members of a Catholic Brazilian association that assists people with addictions to continue to bring hope to vulnerable people like the Good Samaritan did.

Pope Francis met in the Vatican on Friday with members of the Família da Esperança (Family of Hope), a Brazilian-based International Association of the Faithful, approved by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that supports people with addictions, as well as vulnerable minors, people with Aids and other people in need.

The lay association goes back to 1983, when German-born Franciscan priest Hans Stapel founded the first Fazenda da Esperança, a recovery center for drug addicts. in the municipality of Guaratinguetá, in the Brazilian State of São Paulo. 

He was inspired by the charisms of poverty and unity of St. Francis of Assisi and of Chiara Lubich, the Italian foundress of the Focolare Movement.

Since then, the Fazenda da Esperança has evolved into a network reaching out to the most needy across Brazil and even in other countries.

Don’t abandon the charism of hope

Addressing some 1,200 members of the association in the Courtyard of St. Damasus, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for their work and testimony, encouraging them not to abandon their charism and “vocation to hope”.

“The call that God makes to you, to bring hope to those who perhaps don’t see a meaning in their lives anymore, is a call to love Him unconditionally in people who find themselves in situations of social vulnerability”, said the Pope

The scourge of indifference in our societies

Noting that “One of the great problems of today’s world is indifference”, Pope Francis remarked that the Família da Esperança has not remained indifferent to the pain “of many young people, afflicted by great existential suffering, especially those whose lives have been destroyed by drugs and other addictions,” by healing them and helping them rediscover their dignity, following the example of the Good Samaritan.  

“You have become ‘neighbours’, or rather ‘brothers’ of many people you have picked up on the street and, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, you have accompanied them to treat them, heal them and help them rediscover their dignity.”

Material and spiritual support to the vulnerable in society

However, Pope Francis went on to remark that bringing hope is not only about defeating vices, overcoming traumas, and finding a person’s place in the family and in society. There is also a spiritual dimension in the work carried out by the Família da Esperança, as highlighted by late Pope Benedict XVI said, when he visited the association in Guaratinguetá, in 2007, during his Apostolic Journey to Brazil, that is “the re-discovery of God and the active participation in the life of the Church”.

“Your charism of hope, as a gift raised among you by the Holy Spirit, leads you to care for people in their material and spiritual integrity, body and soul.”

As the association celebrates its 40th anniversary, Pope Francis therefore encouraged all its members to continue to cultivate the charism of their founder with “humility” and “in communion.”

A beautiful work which is necessary to the Church

Concluding he thanked the members of Família da Esperança for the testimony they offer with their work, and also for helping priests, seminarians, men and women religious overcome the challenges and psychological problems that affect some consecrated people.

“Carry on with this beautiful work, which is so necessary for the Church!”, he said. – Vatican News