There is a church in Brazil where homeless dogs always have a special place on the altar during mass. Padre João Paulo de Araujo Gomes always has a stray dog join him on the altar through mass every Sunday in order for the entire congregation to see them.
While it might seem like a small gesture, it actually has made a big difference to the forgotten dogs of Gravatá.
Padre Gomes has always been an animal lover. And when he arrived as a priest in 2013 to Paróquia de Sant’Ana Gravatá, he found his second calling.
Padre Gomes explained to The Dodo, “Some volunteers came to me selling cookies to help a project with stray animals. I gave them time during masses for the advertising of the cookies and then I started to participate in the projects of this NGO.”
He soon learned all about the abandoned animals and their difficult lives living in the city. In order to assist with helping the dogs find forever homes, Padre Gomes began to invite them into the church and make them a part of his services.
However, wanting to lead by example, Padre Gomes also welcomed the homeless dogs into his own home, helping to nurse some of the critically ill dogs himself.
“I began to adopt some animals who had been mistreated … always with the support of volunteers,” Padre Gomes added.
Padre Gomes, along with the volunteers, have also placed feeders outside the church in order to give strays a place to eat and drink fresh water. Plus, he’s opened the doors to the church for any dogs who may need a rest. Even with all that he has done, Padre Gomes still wishes he could do more for the animals.
“What I do is just a drop of water in the face of the magnitude of the problem,” Padre Gomes stated. “I wish I could welcome all the animals, but we work with many limitations. Everything I do depends on volunteers and volunteers who help me, so it’s not my merits but those people’s, too.”
The priest’s good intentions have recently gone viral on social media after someone posted a photo of him conducting mass with a stray dog at his side.
Padre Gomes is hopeful that his actions will help to raise awareness amongst people and inspire others around him to the action of care so that perhaps, slowly, the world can become a better place.
He hopes that his actions will raise awareness and inspire others around him to care — slowly making the world a better place.
Padre Gomes commented, “Caring for animals and nature as a whole is a great gesture of love for God, humanity and the planet. We need to develop the perspective of compassion. Too much violence, too much aggression and accusation, diversity becomes the scene of war and struggle, and compassion is the only remedy.”
With Padre Gomes, it can be said that the stray dogs of Gravatá will always have a safe place to go. As Padre Gomes believes, the church should always be a safe haven for everyone, including the animals.
Padre Gomes posted to Facebook, “They will always be able to enter, sleep, eat, drink their water and find shelter and protection, for this house is of God and they are of God. If I’m the greatest sinner I can enter — imagine these four-legged angels. Nobody touches my protected.”
If you want to get more info on Padre Gomes and his work with the stray dogs of Gravatá, you can always follow him on Facebook under Padre João Paulo de Araujo Gomes.