Peneirei Fubá – Sifting Cornmeal (Part 1)

Written By Call To Action


April 9, 2017


Focus Areas:

Call to Action’s Church Worker Justice organizer Don Pribor is writing a series of blogs titled, “Peneirei Fubá – Sifting Cornmeal” about his trips to Brazil this year and his efforts to develop relationships with progressive Brazilian, and Mexican Catholic organizations. 

“Many of the kinds of changes that the Catholic reform movement would like to see in the US have already happened in the Brazilian church. Brazil has been enacting and doing these reforms for 40 years.” —Don Pribor, CTA Church Worker Justice Organizer 

Peneirei Fubá – Sifting Cornmeal, Part 1

I. Discerning the Movement of the Spirit

At the Call To Action conference in Milwaukee in 2015, our opening song for the closing eucharistic liturgy was a song that is sung by the Base Christian Community movement in Brazil. I had learned this song when I first attended a national conference of these communities in Brazil in 2005. Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world and the progressive Brazilian church has been at the forefront for change in the global church. As conference Liturgy Director, I wanted to give Call To Action a first taste of the exciting energy of the Brazilian church.

Peneirei fubá, fubá caiu.                         I sifted cornmeal, the cornmeal fell down.

Eu tornei peneirar, fubá subiu.                I sifted cornmeal again, the cornmeal went up.

Uai,uai,uai, a nossa vez chegou.            Uai,uai,uai, our time has come.

Uai,uai,uai, venha ver tamanho amor.    Uai,uai,uai,come see such great love.

For the Base Christian Communities, known as CEBs in Portuguese ( Comunidades Eclesiais de Base ), sifting cornmeal is a metaphor for sifting through present-day events in the light of the Gospel and looking for the movement of the Spirit. It is spiritual discernment on both a personal and communal level. Recent events in my life have led me to discern to go back to the Brazilian church and I have a feeling as well that Call To Action can benefit from ties with progressive Brazilian Catholics.

David Saavedra was the acting Executive Director for CTA after the resignation of Jim Fitzgerald, our previous Executive Director. Before I was to leave Brazil, David put me in touch with Rene Reid, coordinator of the global church reform group called Catholic Church Reform International ( CCRI ). Rene had contacted David because she was looking for someone in Brazil who was bilingual in Portuguese and English who could communicate with a team of Brazilians who are planning a meeting of reform-minded Catholics to be held in Brazil in November, 2018.This meeting is called the Global Forum of the People of God and is sponsored by another global Catholic reform group called Global Council Network ( GCN ). CCRI and GCN work together with a shared vision of uniting progressive Catholics around the world to further the dream of a just, inclusive church engaged in the modern world.

Call To Action is focused on the church in the United States, and while we have won some modest gains for Catholic Reform, overall the work is undeniably frustrating. Looking at reform efforts with a wider perspective, we can quickly appreciate that the struggle is global just as the church is global. My experiences in Brazil and my connections in Mexico and Asia truly offer inspiration, and show the church in the US where support is vital to keep reform momentum strong.

I shared with Rene that I am bilingual in Portuguese and English and that I had experience with the progressive Brazilian Catholic church through my involvement with the CEBs. I mentioned to her that CCRI should try to connect with progressive Brazilian Catholics and invite them to be a part of the global network that she is coordinating. Rene invited me to participate in weekly online meetings of the strategy team of CCRI and help connect the team with progressive Latin American and Asian Catholics. In addition to my ties with the Brazilian church, I have connections with the Mexican CEBs and thanks to my Filipino heritage, I have some knowledge of progressive Asian Catholicism.






The Global Forum of the People of God will be held in the Brazilian city of Aparecida, home to the shrine of Brazil’s patron saint, Our Lady of Aparecida . The Portuguese title for Our Lady is Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida ( Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Who Appeared ). In October, 1717, three poor fishermen found a statue of Mary in their net when they were fishing in the Paraíba River. The statue was black and appeared at a time when the Portuguese system of enslaving Africans and bringing them to Brazil to labor on the plantations was fully developed.

As you read this series of reflections consider: 

  • Where you find energy and inspiration for church reform? 
  • How often do we as a church talk about the church outside of the United States or Europe? 
  • How can the church in the Global south serve as a source of inspiration, or even authority in Church Reform efforts in the United States? 

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