The territorial prelature of Itacoatiara is situated in Amazonas State in northern Brazil and covers an area of over 22,000 square miles (58,000 km²) – greater than some of the smaller European countries such as the Netherlands or Switzerland. In this region the rivers are the central thoroughfares, since there are very few roads, and flying – the only other alternative – is very expensive. The distances are enormous – anything up to 1250 miles (2000 km) by river. There are too few priests, and in the case of many of the remoter communities, they can only visit perhaps once or twice a year. So, while the priests focus on administering the sacraments, the lay missionaries who accompany and support them help by providing catechesis and other forms of religious instruction to the people.
The parish of Christ the King (Cristo Rei) is based in the town of Itacoatiara and has 48 sub-parishes and outstations. Five of these are on islands in the Amazon River, while thirty of the others lie along the banks of the Rio Arari, a tributary of the Amazon. The great majority of these riverside communities have chapels of their own. However, there are a few that are too poor to be able to build their own chapels. The pastoral activities in these communities include Liturgies of the Word, catechetical sessions, preparation for the sacraments, basic healthcare instruction and many other things besides. However, the journey in a small boat up the rivers is long, as much as 10 hours in the case of the most distant community.
So far the parish only has one motorboat, with a 70 hp motor, which can carry up to 7 people. It was already second-hand when it was purchased and over the years it has become increasingly unreliable. It was actually put together by combining two smaller boats and is not fully stable in the water. At times of high water large, fallen trees are often swept downstream and pose a real danger, since if they struck the boat, it could simply break up. And of course the cost of fuel is a heavy burden as well.
And so, with help from ACN, the parish is now planning to purchase a new, aluminium-hulled boat, which is much sturdier and also capable of carrying 8 or 9 passengers. It will be safer and more reliable, and will make the pastoral work considerably easier. We have promised 27,600 Euros for this boat.