50 Years of the St. Francis of Assisi School
Grande Bahia Journal / by Juarez Duarte Bomfim [1] - 06/10/2013



Mestre Daniel Pereira de Mattos In 1945, Mestre Daniel Pereira de Mattos settled in Vila Ivonete (Rio Branco / Acre), on the confines of a road of the rubber plantation Empresa, in the area belonging to Captain Manuel Julião de Souza, his friend.

Next to his humble home, Daniel built a small chapel, facing east, measuring about three by five meters. It was a rustic construction of mud and wood, covered with straw, which he dedicated to St. Francis of the Wounds.

This little church was called "little chapel" by Mestre Daniel, and came to be known as the Little Chapel of St. Francis by the rubber tappers and hunters in the region who, along with their families, sought the little black gentleman with glasses for advice, to pray over children and get rid of bewitchment. His spiritual works were carried out with the sacramental drink Daime, or Ayahuasca, used since time immemorial by the indigenous of the western Amazon.

Around the chapel and the house of Mestre Daniel was established a religious community, participant in the spiritual works. A Catholic priest who befriended the Mission, which he met in the early 1960s, compares the community to a sort of Franciscan monastery. It turns out that the children of the families who attended the Prayer Meetings of Mestre Daniel and his successors suffered discrimination and prejudice in the schools they studied because they were children of parents who communed with Daime. This led the members of the Chapel to organize themselves to avoid this persecution.

In 1963, the vice president of the institution, called Spiritist Center and Prayer Meeting House of Jesus Source of Light, Mr. Manuel Hipólito de Araújo (1921 - 2000) took the initiative to give classes to the children of the community in the Church grounds itself. Thus was formed the St. Francis of Assisi School, held in the living room of his house, a little shack with one bedroom, built in mud and roofed with open kerosene tins and measuring four meters wide by six long.

There, Manuel Araújo lived and taught. The makeshift primary school initially had night classes and then daytime classes.

- When I had about 30 students, in a little shack that was roofed with kerosene tins, inside a living room, I invited the governor Jorge Kalume and showed him the conditions in which I was trying to help our brothers and sisters of school age.
- Manuel, I am personally going to give you the money to start a brick-built school.

With the resource made available and some workers assigned for the construction, Manuel Araújo immediately started to build the school, owned by Mestre Daniel's mission.

Over the years, Vila Ivonete began losing its forested areas, with a rapid urbanization. From 1967, the school expanded its care to children from neighborhoods that were being formed around the Daime Chapel, becoming a reference for educational support.

The school was registered with the Department of Education and later signed an agreement which formalized the transfer to the government. The school board remained under the responsibility of the Spiritist Center and Prayer Meeting - which was registered with the NBSS (National Board of Social Service) in 1970.

Brother Manuel Araújo remained as the principal of the St. Francis of Assisi School until 1981. Currently, the school is a consolidated educational complex that serves 300 children, enrolled from 1st to 5th grades of the elementary school.

50 Years of the St. Francis of Assisi School

Current St. Francis of Assisi School, in Rio Branco / Acre.

Today, June 10, 2013, the anniversary of the birth of Manuel Hipolito de Araújo, is also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the St. Francis of Assisi School. The celebrations began early and will extend throughout the day.

This is a story of the selflessness and surrender of Padrinho Manuel to fraternal aid. His motto always was, and is, "do good, without regard to whom".


[1] Juarez Duarte Bomfim is a college professor at UEFS-Bahia, a sociologist and Master in Business Administration from UFBa and having PhD in Geography from the University of Salamanca, Spain.
English review by Moonvine.