Brazilian students treated to a Mississippi snowstorm

Our thanks to Laura Grisham of Sacred Heart Southern Missions for sharing this story

For the second year in a row, Sacred Heart School in Southaven, MS, hosted exchange students from Colégio São Luiz (St. Louis) in Brusque, Brazil, a school sponsored by the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians).

The idea of an exchange between Sao Luiz and Sacred Heart came about several years ago when Sacred Heart’s principal, Bridget Martin, met Fr. Silvano Joao da Costa, SCJ, principal of Colégio São Luiz. Both were at an international meeting of Dehonian educators in Rome.

Sacred Heart students have been pen-pals with students from São Luiz for several years. As part of the Dehonian educational community, students connect with schools throughout the United States and in other parts of the world via Zoom. However, the onsite exchange program takes the conversations to a different level and helps students realize that the Dehonian charism is the same everywhere.

“The Sacred Heart students love to welcome the exchange students and show them life as a young teen living in Mississippi,” said Bridget. “They also enjoy hearing about the differences in school experiences.”

The four students — Ana, Helena, Maria and Wilson – along with their teacher, Mariane, arrived in Mississippi just after the New Year’s, traveling over 5,000 miles in 24 hours.

Traveling suitcase

One of the things that the Brazilian students brought with them was their Traveling Suitcase. The project, which originated at São Luiz under the direction of Fr. Silva, was created to help connect Dehonian schools through their shared mission. So far, it has traveled to all of the Dehonian schools in Brazil and Chile. Inside the suitcase, there is a “Little Fr. Dehon” doll and the story of the good Samaritan, along with a log book. Our students were asked to add to the log book, describing how they help their neighbors and show their availability. The outside of the luggage is decorated like a vintage trunk, covered in art and stickers from all the countries and places it has been, including an emblem from Sacred Heart School. The Traveling Suitcase’s story is not finished, as it will continue its voyage around the world, eventually stopping at all Dehonian Schools.

While in Mississippi, the exchange students participated in the daily lessons and routines at Sacred Heart School, including homework assignments. As part of their classroom projects, Ana, Helena, Maria and Wilson made presentations to Sacred Heart students about a Brazilian comic book writer, Mauricio de Sousa. In the coming weeks, SHS will receive a box of these comic books to read and share.

In addition to attending classes with SHS students, the guests enjoyed dining at some of the area’s most popular restaurants, as well as the homes of school and parish families. The visitors visited the Memphis Zoo Lights, toured Graceland, went ice skating and watched the famous march of the Peabody ducks. They also joined Sacred Heart students on a planned field trip to the National Civil Rights Museum.

“For our exchange students, it was another great cultural and learning experience, aligning the struggles for equal rights and the search for respect between all races that are also happening in our country,” said Mariane.

In Brazil, January means hot and humid summer weather. The visitors knew it would be winter in Mississippi, but they didn’t expect the uncharacteristic snow and arctic temps. that greeted them. Actually, nobody did! For some of the Brazilians it was their first time seeing snow. They made snow angels, snowmen, and had snowball fights. Local families lent the visitors clothing to stay warm.

During their final Mass in Mississippi, the Sao Luis students were presented with a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to take home; they received blessings for safe travels and success in the new school year.

In June, a group of Sacred Heart students will once again make the trip to Colégio São Luiz to continue the cultural exchange.