Brazilian scholar says 'sacrifice' of academic study will bear great fruit

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Brazilian scholar says 'sacrifice' of academic study will bear great fruit

By Heather Walker

ROME — Diogo Pessotto set off from Brazil in January to complete his doctoral research at the library of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Determined to complete his doctoral studies, despite the obstacles presented by the pandemic, Pessotto obtained a grant from Adveniat, the German episcopal charity-organization for Latin America and the Caribbean, to cover the costs associated with his research, travel and accommodations. Having contacted The Lay Centre at the start of the pandemic last year, his plans eventually came together.

On his fourth trip to Rome, this time for three months of research, Pessotto left behind his 18-month-old son, Bento, and his wife, Andressa, who is expecting a baby girl in a month’s time.

“My heart is in Brazil,” he said. “But we only do authentic things in life with sacrifice. This is a sacrifice, but it is also a gift. The result of this sacrifice will not be immediate. It is a process.”

A lay vocation

Pessotto grew up in a non-practicing Catholic family of Italian origin in São José dos Pinhais-Paraná, Brazil. His desire to deepen his faith grew as a boy in his parish catechism class. Drawn increasingly to church, he participated in prayer groups and parish activities. He entered São José Minor Seminary of the Archdiocese of Curitiba and, during this time, discerned a vocation to lay pastoral work. Subsequently, he returned to his family and continued his pastoral activities in his parish and diocese.

His current academic journey also began, first earning a philosophy degree from the public university in São José dos Pinhais-Paraná, and then a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná.

He decided to pursue doctoral studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and to focus his research on the theological concept of church reform, from the Second Vatican Council to Pope Francis. His moderator is Monsignor Antonio Luiz Catelan Ferreira, a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. His co-moderator is Father Marcial Maçaneiro, SCJ, a member of the Vatican’s International Commission for Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue.

Translating learning into practice

While Pessotto, 35, is grateful for the opportunity to study, it is also one of his passions. He is convinced many lay people want to work for the Church. And while they may not have a theological background, they can do much to evangelize.

Almost six years ago, he started pastoral work in earnest in his hometown and towns nearby. He has taught about the sacraments and missiology at the diocesan theological school, and works on a diocesan catechesis team. He is also involved in Mission Somos Um, an ecumenical initiative in the Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, that promotes encounter, dialogue, communion and the joint witness of the Gospel between Catholics and Pentecostals.

With the pandemic, he took his pastoral work to social media: Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

“People look for everything on the internet,” said Pessotto, “particularly during the pandemic.” 

He feels strongly that parishes should not use internet only to livestream liturgies. Rather, social media can be used effectively in pastoral work.
An enriching experience    

Being part of  The Lay Centre community has given Pessotto many opportunities for dialogue and sharing. As a talented musician, he has contributed to the liturgy committee, which helps to plan the weekly community Masses.
“My experience at The Lay Centre is that of being part of a community,” he said. “I would even say like the first Christian community, where we talk, pray and eat together.” 

At the end of an intense period of research, Pessotto participated in the Good Friday and Easter Vigil services at St. Peter’s Basilica, presided by Pope Francis.

“Despite the distance from family and the challenges and tragedy of the pandemic, I have had the opportunity to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with brothers and sisters I do not know,” he said. “But I feel more united than ever before to my family, friends, brothers and all who have suffered mourning, discouragement and insecurity due to this pandemic.”

His research in Rome coming to an end, Pessotto is looking forward to being reunited with his family and to celebrating the birth of another child during this Year of  St. Joseph.

St. Joseph did everything possible so that his Son, Jesus, could realize his mission, Pessotto said, reflecting on the saint’s message for  fatherhood. St. Joseph’s life had meaning in Jesus’ growth and flourishing, he added.

“Just as St. Joseph worked in the background in Jesus’ life for many years,” he continued, “one day, I too will pass onto my children my experience and what I am learning today here in Rome.”


The Lay Centre welcomes scholars from around the world each year. For more information, please contact:

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