Brazilian Community Celebrates the Acquisition of the First Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Aparecida Parish

The crowded Amber Room Colonnade ballroom radiated an infectious vibe, one that reflected a mix of joy and resilience.

By Angela Barbosa

Over 300 guests, Danbury Mayor Roberto Alves, and local and state dignitaries gathered to celebrate a day that the Brazilian members of our community have longed for - the acquisition and establishment of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Aparecida Parish in Bethel, CT.

At the Parish’s first annual gala on February 10, 2024, Father Leonel Medeiros, the appointed Episcopal Vicar for Brazilian Catholic members in the diocese, recognized the community effort and the importance of its contribution in his opening remarks.

“I have been in Danbury for 12 years. It has been an honor for me to work with the Brazilian community. The new Parish is a way for us to let the church, and the local, state, and federal governments know that we are here to add, to sum, to stay, and to care for this great country, and our great Diocese of Bridgeport.”

The parish is the first dedicated to the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Aparecida in the United States. “It was conceded to us by the grace of God,” Father Medeiros noted.

Rita Kovacs, a member of the Brazilian Catholic community at Saint Peter’s Church in Danbury since 1994, was a dedicated secretary, translator, and assistant to previous priests for over 10 years.

“Today, this gala marks a great victory. I am happy and honored to be part of the beginnings and to pass it on to the ones that are arriving. May God bless and give us the strength to continue working together to help solidify the new Parish,” said Kovacs.    

Junia Ribeiro has been a 30-year member of the Brazilian Catholic community. “There is no special job that I do at the church. Special are the people that I join there every time,” she said, adding, “We are very grateful for Father Leonel, who has faced many obstacles to get here but never stopped fighting and never gave up.”

Father Medeiros is directly responsible for the sacramental life and ministry of the Brazilian-American Catholic Community Our Lady Aparecida Quasi-Parish in Danbury, and oversees the priests and laity ministering to the needs of the Brazilian Catholic Community in Bridgeport, CT. Since he also administers Our Lady of Aparecida Catholic Community Center, under this responsibility he is also the Community Center Director.

“I share a feeling of accomplishment because when we surrender our life to the work of God, despite all the challenges, God will bring the work to completion.” Father Medeiros explained that his determination was inspired by the loyalty, dedication, and generosity of the Brazilian community, which, during the journey to build their church, demonstrated their love for God. He also reminded the community to remain strong and united. “The parish was given to us so we can take good care of it but also take good care of each other.”

Kovacs, Ribeiro, and another member of the Catholic community were designated to present Bishop Frank Joseph Caggiano an Icon of the Virgen Mary in appreciation for his dedication and support in establishing the first Brazilian Parish.

For Father Caggiano, who has been serving as bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut since 2013, the feeling was “jubilation.”

“This has been a long road, but the community has grown, and it has always been united around their faith, their traditions, their families, and it’s grown to the point where they are the first new parish in our diocese in over 30 years.”

“We live in a world that emphasizes our differences, that refuses to see a common good. In the church, we have to walk a different path. My father, who was an old-style Italian immigrant, used to point to his arm and say, ‘Do you see this blood? To you and your sister, it binds us together as a family; however, the grace that we receive in Baptism binds us together as a family too, whether you are Brazilian or Haitian or Italian, whichever origin it is.’”  


Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Aparecida Parish is located at 42 Vail Road in Bethel, CT. For more information about its services, please call 203-730-9071, or visit the Parish’s website at


Paróquia Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida