North to south
Talking doll, fruit cakes, eyeglasses included in packages Islanders send to Fr. Shea
Fr. Roy Shea still receives care packages from P.E.I. with all kinds of things for him and his parishioners. The latest package came from two little girls from Tignish who sent clothes and toys for the Brazilian children.
He’s been a missionary priest in Brazil for nearly 49 years, but Fr. Roy Shea still receives regular reminders of his native home. They come in the form of clothing, toys, eyeglasses and P.E.I. delicacies like lobster paste, jams and fruitcakes.
“I can´t even believe it myself,” he comments by email on his years of mission work. “This is my fifth parish, São João the Baptist, and probably my last.” The 75-year-old then admits he is now semi-retired. And Brazil is where he plans to spend his retirement.
In an email to the Journal Pioneer, the missionary said most people in his parish of about 10,000 survive on $400 a month.
“It’s not easy when the prices are high, and you have a big family,” he acknowledged. Shea grew up in a family of 18 children in Waterford, P.E.I. “We were poor, and survival was not at all easy. This is probably where my vocation to the missions came from. It was, I think, my compassion and empathy for others that drove me to seek a missionary vocation,” he reflects.
In messages to Island residents who have regularly supported his missionary work with donated items for his parishioners, he tells of the joy the items they send bring to the lives of those who receive the donations.
In one pick-up he collected seven bags of donations. By the time he confirmed their arrival, he still only had time to sort through two of the bags. Among the contents of one of the packages he recently received was a talking doll that says, “I love you.” He turned it over to a little girl who lives close by, and he forwarded a photo of himself with the girl and the doll. Kristin Gavin showed the photo to her daughters, six-yearold Kara Gaudet and three-yearold Kya. They were the doll’s previous owners. Gavin had sent off two bags of goods to Fr. Roy. The contents were mainly the girls’ clothes and toys.
It was the first time the family had sent items to the missionary. She had explained to her daughters why they were donating the items, and made arrangements through June Gaudet who she knew has co-ordinated delivery of many packages to Fr. Roy.
“It’s sort of hard to understand until you actually see it,” Gavin said of the value in sharing. “They were quite proud,” Gavin described her daughters’ reaction to the photo.
Kara immediately went to her room and returned with other items she thought she’d like to send.
“It’s something we’ll probably be doing a couple times a year now.”
June Gaudet confirmed there are several regular contributors of clothing and other items, and some people make monetary donations to help with the postage. “There’s always a way,” she said.
Gaudet said they try to send at least two bags a week.
One long-time contributor was Velda Bernard from Tignish Shore. Following her death in February, her family recommended the Fr. Roy Shea Mission Fund for anyone wishing to make memorial donations. Those donations, Fr. Shea indicated, might need to be put towards repairs for his truck. Of the package containing the fruitcakes and the blueberry jam, he said the jam would be mixed with the batch of natural yogurt he was preparing.
He tells of sharing one of the fruitcakes he received with visitors.
“They enjoyed it – first time (they) ever ate something like that.”
Sisters Kya and Kara Gaudet from Tignish were pleased to see a photo showing the doll they donated was now in the care of a little girl in Brazil.
Fr. Roy Shea from Waterford, P.E.I., has been a missionary priest in Brazil for 49 years. He’s shown here with a young girl from his parish. She’s holding a talking doll that was included in a recent delivery from Tignish.