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It All Started with a Question
BRAZIL | RESOURCES | TESTIMONIES
Fr. Ugo Bonazzi Piasentin

Fr.  Ugo Bonazzi Piasentin
Fr. Ugo Bonazzi Piasentin

Bus Ride

I still remember that afternoon bus ride. I was coming back from school with a Catholic friend on the public bus 434. He was talking to me about God and was asking me a couple of questions about my spiritual life. I told him that I sometimes prayed at night before going to sleep and that I was not baptized. The bus ride was really bumpy and crowded, and after a long day of school I was tired, but my friend continued with the conversation. When we were getting close to my stop he asked me: “Do you want to know this God you pray to? Would you like to be baptized?”


Surprised by the question, I had an automatic answer: “Thank you very much, but I don`t think this is for me. I’m happy the way I am.” However, he asked me to think about it, and told me that he would call me in the future.  I left the bus; however, that question would not leave me. Every time I thought about it, it bothered me, because I knew it needed an answer: if God existed, (and I believed He did) wouldn’t I like to know more about Him?

Youth in Rio de Janeiro


I come from an Italian family. My father is a hydroelectric engineer from Dolo, Venice Italy, who came to Brazil first for a project in Rio Grande do Sul, where he met my mother, and then started working in the design of the Itaipu Dam, the hydropower plant in the Parana River first in the world in terms of energy production. My mother was born in Porto Alegre Brazil, a daughter of Italian immigrants and a professional psychologist. They fell in love and my dad stayed in Brazil. My sister and I were both born and raised in Rio de Janeiro.  When she was 18 she left to Italy to study at the University of Padua; today, she is married and expecting a child on December 22, 2011. I am very thankful for everything that my family did and does for me.


When I was young I loved to read about expeditions of different explorers on the ocean. When I read those books the world seemed to be small, and I wanted to do something like that with my own life. I was attracted to the life of an adventurer. I wanted to sail around the world and be a scientist in the remote Antarctic continent.


God also gave me a great love for sports and a mom who made sure I was always active. I played soccer at the school (where I received once the MVP award), beach volleyball (I won a couple of trophies of local championships), capoeira (a martial art that is also a dance developed by African slaves), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, swimming (I also won a couple of medals in that sport), water polo, basketball, and sailing. I had many friends at the school, club, beach, and in my neighborhood.

School Life


When I was nine years old my parents made me change schools and I went to a Catholic American school, Our Lady of Mercy (OLM). I went there primarily to learn English well. I was always an average student, but in sixth grade, after getting bad grades in three subjects, I tried to improve my studies. Later in high school I was part of the Honor Society group and took some advanced placement courses.  I still remember the great trips we took to compete in sports against other schools and the major feast days, which we would organize together with the teachers. OLM turned to be more than a school for me; it was a place where I made great friends, where I learned about team work, community service, and later on where I learned about the faith.

Answering the Bus Question


The bus question was put on the shelf for the summer. During vacation in Rio de Janeiro, I was absorbed in doing many things: I spent the days playing soccer, beach volleyball, catching waves, attending sailing school, accompanying my dad at the farm, and having fun with my friends. I was a typical kid from Rio: I loved my city, and thought it was the center of the world; I loved MPB (Brazilian popular song), I loved to go out with my friends, but one of things I cherished the most was the beach. Sometimes I would be the
Fr.  Ugo Bonazzi Piasentin
Fr Ugo with a group of pilgrims at the World Youth Day 2011 held in Madrid.
first one to arrive and the last one to leave it. Even though Rio was a big city it felt like a small town where I could walk down the street and always bump into people I knew.


After vacation, I asked my mom about her point of view on that one question. I formulated the question in such a way that she only had to nod her head, so that I could forget about this whole invitation to get baptized. However, to my surprise, she told me that it was a good idea, that both she and dad were baptized, and that they had not baptized me before, because they wanted me to choose my own religion. So now the answer was up to me.


When the school year started, my friend called me.  I knew God did not deserve “no” for an answer; nonetheless, I was too busy  with school, sports and study, so I decided to accept it but to wait for the next school year.  Deep inside, I knew this was an indirect way of saying “no,” since I would be just as busy the next year and would postpone it again. I did not want to come out of my comfort zone, and at the same time I did not really want to have extra classes about something I thought was an abstract theme. However, after talking it over and reconsidering it I said “yes” for the same year: I would “try it out,” and take a couple of catechism classes. If I liked it I would continue. If I did not like it; I would leave it at once.

Steps of Faith


I started taking catechism classes once a week. They were very interesting one-on-one classes. I learned more about God and His love for each one of us. Slowly I noticed that my conception of life changed.  Before, I thought it was all about me and all about adventure. Now, seeing it in God’s perspective, life had a deeper sense and a transcendent meaning. It was still all about adventure but now, God and humanity were at the center and not me. I learned that what mattered was not how much I did for myself but how much I did for God and others.


After that year I received baptism and first communion. My friend, the one in the bus, became my godfather. I was supposed to receive confirmation as well; however, on the same day of the ceremony I talked to Bishop D. Jose Carlos de Lima Vaz, telling him that I thought I was not ready for it. He respected my decision, it was in 1995 and I was 16.


One thing that I had clear was that the only way to grow in my faith was by giving it to others. So I started to get involved and helped out in different activities of my new faith, Holy Week Missions, where we would talk about our faith and at the same time give material assistance to families in poor cities; Catholic boys clubs, helping boys to have a real friendship with Christ through sports and other activities; as a presenter of weekend youth encounters; and many other things, as well. Two years after my baptism I decided that I was ready and received confirmation from Bishop August Jose Zini Filho.

Going to the U.S.


In 1997, I went to the United States to study International Business in Bowling Green State University (BGSU), in Ohio, on an academic scholarship. I still remember the last night in Brazil with some of my friends, when we ate a big churrasco (Brazilian barbecue), and afterwards they gave me a Brazilian flag with a personal message and signature from each one of them.  It was hard to leave all of them, but I knew that my greatest friend, God, would be with me, and that gave me a lot of peace.


After a couple of days in the U.S., I started to enjoy my university life, made a couple of good friends, and met many good families from the area.  I quickly noticed that away from home and independent from everyone, I could choose two different types of life. God was part of the first one, as well as studying hard and being a good friend to others. The second put God on the sideline, in which I would just think of what I wanted to do.  I knew a couple of people that chose the second option, but I wanted to choose the first. So, I tried to go often to Mass, do my daily prayers and participate in a Catholic group called FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students).

University Life


After a year in the US, I got in touch with a Legionary priest who helped me to be more consistent in living out my friendship with God. During the school year, besides studying, I played sports, and work. I had a couple of short term jobs: in the library cataloguing books, in the post office, in the kitchen, cooking Chinese food, and in the language lab. I was blessed as well to be one of the few to represent the University in New York for the 1999 Model United Nations meetings. It was a very enriching experience. I was very happy with my life.


In the summer before my senior year, I decided to do something for God. I had spent the previous two summers working, studying and visiting my family and friends in Rio. I knew that after graduation I would be busy, so in order to thank Him for all I had received in my life, I decided to participate in a volunteer program for a month, and then in a Catholic summer camp, in Cheshire, CT, for another month (which also had a vocational discernment program).

Giving God the Benefit of the Doubt


In the camp there were many Catholic young men, most of whom were discerning a call to the priesthood. I was not thinking of the priesthood at that point, but I did want to use the opportunity to increase my friendship with Christ. My plan from the beginning was to finish the camp and go back to school; however, halfway through the program, during a retreat, I noticed that God was calling me to something more.

I was happy at BGSU and in Rio, but that summer at camp I was happy in a very special way. I loved life in Ohio and in Rio, but I felt God wanted me to change my plans, leave everything and dedicate myself fully to Him. It is not easy to explain, but God was calling me to follow Him. Just like that one day in the bus, now he was asking me if I would like to follow Him more closely.  The calling was not one hundred percent certain. I did not know for sure that this was for me, but I had to give God the benefit of the doubt. Just like my attitude in the catechism classes, I had to try it out, and if it was not for me, I would leave it at once.


So that same summer I came back to Bowling Green, packed my bags, withdrew from my registered classes, cancelled my new job as a Resident Advisor, said goodbye to my friends and came back to Cheshire, CT, to enter the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ. It was a step of faith and many young men took that same step during that summer of 2000. It was a step that came with many difficulties and challenges; it was hard for my family, and I thank them for all they endured with me and for me.

Life in the Seminary


However this step was not the final one, life in the seminary was beautiful and at the same time, long and challenging, full of small daily steps forward in spiritual growth. Just as God renewed His love and calling for me daily, I was able to renew my love daily in response to Him.


Many events throughout these years of formation and study (2000-2011) helped me reflect about the direction of my life’s journey, tested my resolve to follow my vocation, and spurred me on to renew my decision to consecrate my life to God.  Like a good friend sitting by my side for the “bus ride” to my heavenly home, God has always shown me the way… and I thank Him for everything!



On February 10, 1979, Fr. Ugo Bonazzi Piasentin was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he studied at Our Lady of Mercy School. From 1997 to 2000, he studied International Business and MIS in Bowling Green State University, Ohio. On September 15, 2000, he entered the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ, in Cheshire, CT, where he also studied humanities for one year. He helped with the Catholic formation of boys in Washington, DC for 3 years. He holds bachelor’s degrees in both philosophy and theology from the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical College in Rome.



PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-12-12


 
 


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