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St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, and Ireland’s National Day – 17 March – is named in his memory. St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of what it means to be Irish, and in Brazil it has become a major event. In dozens of cities across the country, Brazilians celebrate links with Ireland and enjoy Irish food, drink, music and dance. Every St. Patrick’s Day, alongside many iconic sites around the world, Brazilian monuments are illuminated in green – including Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Palácio dos Bandeirantes in São Paulo and Teatro Amazonas in Manaus.

The first Irish Missionary to arrive in Brazil was a Jesuit, Thomas Field from Limerick, in 1577. He worked among the Tupi people of Bahia and with Jesuit priests José de Anchieta and Manuel da Nóbrega Anchieta, who founded a catholic mission in 1554, that has become the City of São Paulo.

Thousands of Irish missionaries from twenty male and female religious congregations have worked in Brazil since then: Jesuits, Redemptorists, Dominicans, Oblates, Sacred Hearts, Spiritans, Saint Patrick Missionaries, Mercy Sisters, Holy Rosary Sisters, Dominicans, Ferrybank Sisters and others.

Since the 1960s, Irish missionaries have worked with Brazil’s poorer citizens on the peripheries of large cities, with slum residents, young people and the prison chaplaincy. This work involves strengthening civil society and giving vulnerable people a voice in Brazilian society.

In 2019, Fr. Pat Clarke was awarded a Distinguished Service Award by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, in recognition of 40 years of service towards marginalized communities in Vila Prudente, São Paulo.

According to Dr. Fernando Altemeyer Junior (PUC-SP), who worked with Irish Missionaries for 20 years in São Paulo, “Irish missionaries have the same sense of humor as Brazilians, and have played a fundamental role in the construction of democracy in Brazil”.