On December 12, 2021, the Provincial Custody of St. Bonaventure in Brazil celebrated the 100th birthday of its confrere Friar Abdias RODRIGUES MENDES. The celebration took place at the São Francisco de Assis Friary in Bom Jardim, Brazil.

Friar Abdias was born to José Alves FERREIRA and Rosa RODRIGUES MENDES on December 8, 1921, in Lagoa de Santo Antônio, Ipueiras, State of Ceará, Brazil. Orphaned at the age of eleven, Abdias finished his schooling with his second mother, Mrs. Tomaza ALVES AZEVEDO.
Abdias was baptized a few days after his birth, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He was the youngest of twenty-one siblings.
In 1947, he moved to Maranhão to work on the railway, and settled in the municipality of Pedreiras. In 1948, he traveled with an OFM friar to the city of Bacabal, where he entered religious life, and became a novice. However, he left the Order to begin a different life.
In the winter of 1961, he moved to Bom Jardim and on February 19, began work as a merchant’s assistant in that small village. While there, he became friends with José Pedro VASCONCELOS and Mr. Arlindo, the only merchant in the village at the time. In 1962, the then mayor of Monção, Antônio ILSON, appointed Abdias as a forestry inspector. The same year, Abdias went in search of a priest to assist the community. On June 2, 1962, he had Father Cordeiro, the Pastor in Monção, celebrate Mass in a small chapel erected in the heart of Bom Jardim. The priest decided to build a bigger church there and returned in November, but the money saved for the construction of the church had been stolen. The pastor also laid out the dimensions for the Old Mother Church of São Francisco on the same day, but the church would not be completed until 1964.
Abdias, then, was given the mission to explore every nook and cranny of the municipality. It took him a month to visit all the outlying communities, on horseback and on foot. He actively participated in the demarcation of the indigenous area within the municipality. With the elected councilors of the village, he helped work out the emancipation of Bom Jardim. At the time, the village was called Centro do Zé Pedro. Abdias renamed it Belo Jardim. In 1969 the Conventual Franciscan friars arrived, led by Friar Antonio SINIBALDI; the small community was elevated to a parish and Abdias became responsible for the catechesis of the rural area.
In 1971, Abdias settled in Boa Esperança da Água Preta and lived in that community for a long time. In 1985, with the inauguration of the its village square, he settled in the local village of Novo Caru, and lived there for nineteen years. There he was responsible for laying out the roads and the land for the cemetery, for erecting the village church and helping to build schools for the area.
Friar Abdias RODRIGUES MENDES undertook his novitiate year (1982-1983) in the city of Bom Jardim, at the Friary of São Francisco de Assis. His Novice Master was Friar Mario GUIDI. Friar Abdias and his Novice Master spent weeks visiting small communities and strengthening the people in their faith. They rode horseback to reach the most distant communities. Friar Abdias’ novitiate year took place among the people of God, with those who were excluded, the marginalized and the forgotten. After his novitiate year, he professed his simple vows in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual on December 15, 1983, at the Sacred Convent of Assisi, before the tomb of St. Francis. He made his solemn profession on June 30, 1986 and was ordained to the deaconate on April 23, 1993. On the solemnity of Christmas, 1993, he presided over his first wedding ceremony in Novo Caru. In 2003, he moved to the friars’ farm in São Luís, and in 2006, he returned to Bom Jardim, where he lives to this day.
Friar Abdias celebrated his 100th birthday on December 12, 2021, in the presence of his Conventual community, members of the Custody and the people of God. The centenary was celebrated with Mass presided over by the Most Reverend João KOT, Bishop of Zé-Doca, Maranhão, Brazil. Those attending included other confreres, the friars in formation and community of Bom Jardim. Friar Abdias, served as a deacon during the Mass and proclaimed the Gospel. At the end of the Mass, he thanked everyone who attended.
We invite all the confreres to praise God for the lifetime of service that Friar Abdias provided the people of God. May the Almighty Lord bless him.

Friar Roberto HONORATO OLIVEIRA DOS REMÉDIOS, Custodial Secretary