The Italian Province of St. Francis of Assisi (Central Italy), in collaboration with the Conventual Franciscan Missionary Center, has made two docu-films to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Friars Minor Conventual in Maranhão, Brazil (1968 -2018), and to document the heroic sacrifice of the missionary Frei Antonio SINIBALDI (†1987).

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the mission, starting in 1968, when friars Mario PALONI, Luigi D’ANDREA (ordained a bishop in 1988), Antonio SINIBALDI and Eduardo RORI, left their former Province of Rome and went to the north east area of Brazil to plant the Order in that region. The first documentary tells this story and the years that followed, as other Italian friars joined the mission. The mission became a Custody in 2014. Today, it has twenty-three friars and fifteen young men in formation.
The second documentary entitled “Frei Antonio SINIBALDI: The Friar, the Missionary, the Heroic Sacrifice”, recounts the work this confrere did during his nineteen years of intense pastoral ministry serving the poor of the favelas. It also talks about the heroic deed he performed on September 7, 1987. On that day, he and seventeen young people from the parish were traveling by boat to a spiritual retreat when their craft was struck by a freak wave. The boat overturned and Frei Antonio, swimming, rescued each young person. Finally, exhausted, he died on the shore. In 2014, the Archbishop of Saò Luis opened a canonical process for him and Frei Antonio’s legacy is still alive today among the people, through the great social and charitable association named after him.
The two documentaries, in Italian and Brazilian, were written and directed by Friar Paolo FIASCONARO. Photography and editing was done by Roberto DAMIATA, a cameraman at Italy’s public broadcasting corporation RAI. It is hoped the documentaries will be useful tools for evangelization and missionary animation during this jubilee year in Brazil and in Italy.

Lorenza CASSANELLI, Secretary of the Missionary Center