Santa Maria is located in the middle of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazils southernmost state where, three weeks ago, one of Brazils worst-ever floods killed 155 people and forced 540,000 from their homes. Experts have warned that water levels will take at least another two weeks to drop.

In an ecumenical effort, churches in Santa Maria invited people to bring donations for flood survivors—and the response went beyond any expectations. 

Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, from the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, described the efforts of the Ecumenical Fraternity of Churches in Santa Maria, home to 200,000 people.

In the southern hemisphere, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed around Pentecost. In Santa Maria, Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics, and Methodists held a week of ecumenical celebrations marked by prayer and supplications for the survivors of the flood catastrophe.

Tens of thousands of volunteers, many working with churches, have been responding to the flood, welcoming homeless people as well as donating food, clothes, and essential hygiene items. The federal government has carried out a large-scale effort to rebuild the state.

Donations collected during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ceremony at the Roman Catholic cathedral were allocated to the Santa Maria Food Bank, and were delivered immediately after the closing celebration.

Da Silva said that the ecumenical experience is, in fact, much more than a simple meeting to celebrate our differences in search of true unity. 

It is commitment, dialogue, and strengthening,” he said. It requires us to be committed to justice, truth, and supporting our brothers and sisters, regardless of circumstances.”

He further noted that ecumenism must always transform into a concrete gesture of solidarity in times of people's needs. It is the effective combination of prayer and action that generates fruits of justice!” he said. I felt fulfilled by this gesture, which was worth much more for its meaning as a syfed mbol (which truly unites) than for the material value raised.”

The flood response resonates with the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “You shall love the Lord your God ... and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10: 27). The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is jointly published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches since 1968.