• Pittsburgh Connections: St. Vincent College oversees Brazilian monastery

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    There may be 5,000 miles between Pittsburgh and Rio de Janeiro, but it turns out we have a lot in common. In both cities, the dominant religion is Catholicism. 
     
    That faith even dominates Rio de Janeiro’s skyline with Brazil’s most famous landmark, Christ the Redeemer Statue at Corcovado.
     
    “Brazil has more than 123 million practicing Catholics, more than any country in the world,” said Archabbot Douglas Norwicki of St. Vincent College. “I’ve been to Brazil 25 times now.”
     
    Norwicki leads the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe. It’s the oldest Benedictine monastery in the United States and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. He’s also the spiritual leader of Sao Bento Monastery in Sao Paolo, Brazil. St. Vincent has been overseeing the monastery for more than 40 years.
     
    “The pope at the time made a request to religious communities throughout the United States to assist with the clergy in Brazil,” said Norwicki.
     
    Brother Andre Melli has studied at St. Vincent for almost a decade. He’s from Sao Paolo, where his entire family still lives. He said faith is very important for a Brazilian person.
     
    St. Vincent sends a group of college students to Brazil every year to work at the school with the Missionary Sisters of Christ.
     
    “Some of these students are in very poor neighborhoods where they don’t know if they’re going to have a next meal,” said Father Jean Luc of the St. Vincent Archabbey.
     
    Those we talk to admit Brazil is struggling politically and economically, and wish the Olympics were being held at a better time. However, they also expressed confidence in the country’s people.
     
    “I think Brazilians are kind, very friendly, and because of that, I think the Olympics can be a successful event,” said Melli.
     
    As part of St. Vincent’s missionary work, some of the school kids they work with in some of Brazil’s toughest neighborhoods have the opportunity to go to Latrobe for their college education.

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