A glimpse of my life in Setubal

Before entering the Fraternity, which will soon be fifty years ago, I worked as a plumber in sanitation, in Nantes (France) in an average-sized business. But following a slipped disc, I had to leave this kind of work and I learned watch-making. There is nothing in common between these two professions. During my retraining, I received some valuable help, in particular from the director of the watch-making school in Madrid, and I am still in contact with him. It was thanks to him I was able to take up this career and acquire the necessary skills little by little. Today it is a profession which has almost disappeared, so even though I am retired, I still do a little bit of it. Henrique's workshopHenrique's workshop I have a little workshop near the town centre and every day I visit shops (about a dozen of them) who give me repairs to do, particularly changing batteries in watches which can be quite complicated. My work routine is quite flexible and can be limited, according to what is available at the time. When I feel tired, I stop. I like this occupation, even though it is sometimes demanding, because it is quite varied, from clocks to small quartz watches.

It is 37 years now since I came to live in PortugalSetubalSetubal and began working here as a watchmaker and repairer.
Very quickly I felt the dangers of too comfortable a life, far from people's poverty. The idea came to me of visiting prisoners, and the occasion presented itself more than twenty five years ago. I am part of a group of Catholic visitors from the diocese, and as such, I am recognized by the bishop, but have no direct links with the Chaplaincy, which is rare!
What do I go to do in prison? I do not go to bring social aid, nor for organised proselytising. Although it is sometimes necessary to take on certain tasks in one or other of those areas, that is not my main goal. So why do it? Quite simply, to meet those who suffer and are rejected by society, and to bring them a little friendship and understanding, to give them back some confidence in themselves - in a word to demonstrate, sometimes silently, the love that God has for each one of us and particularly for the most disadvantaged.
Let us open a little parenthesis : true thieves (who divert millions), and large-scale traffickers, who are truly worthy of this name, are rarely put in prison, and in particular would never be placed in the prison in Setubal as it does not have the levels of comfort needed to house one of these gentlemen. Here there are only 'small fry', serving heavy penalties, given by some untouchable judges, who in the end do not even take the time to read the accused's file properly. I could say a lot more but will leave it there.
With certain inmates real bonds of friendship are gradually formed. However you need to know how to remain detached. In fact, on coming out of prison they have a legitimate desire to 'turn over a new page', to forget the past and it is rare for any of them to seek to maintain their ties with us. It seems to me that this leads to a deep internal detachment, without taking account of the friendship to which they have a right and which is so important at this difficult time in their lives. By that the Lord leads us, without doubt, to a still greater benevolence, which allows us to welcome the other just as he is, with his sufferings, his problems and also his plans and hopes.

(It was in 1967 that two student brothers, Henrique and Domingo, arrived there. Thanks to the parish priest, they went to a slum area on the side of the hill that overlooks the town). As you know,since then, the Fraternity in Setubal has consisted of Luis and myself for many years. A deep friendship has grown between us, sometimes put to the test, but that, undoubtedly is part of the cross that the Lord invites us to carry if we want to follow him. We have many friends, they are a great support. Our working class district is a kind of village where everyone knows everyone else and respects one another.Luis and HenriqueLuis and Henrique
It is a joy for us to live here.

In friendship, Henrique