ATANÁSIO, João de Santo, OFM (1659-1711)
Brother João de Santo Atanásio was born in Coimbra in 1659. He professed in the Province of Santo António in Viseu when he was 17 years old and stood out as a missionary in the State of Maranhão and Pará in Brazil. He died in this captaincy on March 3, 1711.
He was a figure that warranted great attention on the part of the chroniclers of his order. He performed important duties in his order, not only in the above-mentioned Province, but also in what would result after its dismantlement in 1706, a time of conflict and division of convents and missions - that of the Immaculate Conception. He was commissioner in both, as well as president and proctor of the missions, where the king ordered his presence in the respective local commission.
His work as a missionary coincided with the time when the missions were broadening their scope to include various religious orders. Except for a brief period at the beginning of colonization (1624-1630), the Company of Jesus dominated this sector, penetrating into the Amazon region in all directions and founding villages on both banks of the river. In 1686, a first measure would permit Franciscans to establish missions in Cabo do Norte, culminating in the division of vast regions among the four institutes of the State in 1692-1693 (along with the already-mentioned Carmelites and Mercedaries).
In relation to his missionary activity and to the new phase brought on by the said repartition, Brother João de Santo Atanásio left two manuscripts, which unfortunately were lost: the Moral itinerary for Missionaries made for the court of Maranhão that may serve for the additional conquests of the Portuguese crown, in which is treated with the necessary brevity all that is necessary for the administration of the Sacraments and the privileges conceded by the Missionary Priests, and Many curiosities about the natives, adjusted to the Pontifical condemnations of the Holy Fathers Alexander VII and Innocent XI and the Doctrinal itinerary. Of a considerable dimension (the first itinerary alone contained 1,145 folios), these works allowed for the reconstitution of the missionary pedagogy of the Franciscans in the north of Brazil, in connection to their spirituality. The writing possibly included an internal regulation (a specific regimen for this part of Brazil is unknown, although it is thought that the regimen that was instated was that of the monstrance of Olinda, approved in 1607, although it was comprised of only two pages).
Also worthy of note is a project that he authored to found a missionary seminary for his institute. Presented in 1698, when he was commissioner of the Franciscans of Saint Anthony, this project warranted the attention of the Overseas Council. The proposal was presented in detail and with erudition and, among other objectives, the seminary was to function as a school of native languages for those that came from the reign to initiate missionary work.
LARCHER, Maria Madalena PESSÔA JORGE OUDINOT, Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie Ecclésiastique, vox Jean de Saint Athanase. Idem, A Vida Religiosa no Estado do Maranhão - A Diocese de S.Luís, da Fundação ao Desmembramento do Pará (1677-1720), doctoral thesis, Universidade Católica de Lovaina, Louvai-la-Neuve, December of 1997 (photocopy).
Author: Madalena Larcher
Translated by: Rosa Neves Simas