Interview With Founder Father Hans Stapel
GUARATINGUETA, Brazil, 11 MAY 2007 (ZENIT)
Benedict XVI will visit
Saturday a "Fazenda da Esperanca" (Farm of Hope) in Guaratingueta. The "fazendas"
are centers for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and are present in
The rehabilitation center in Guaratingueta was founded in 1983 by
Franciscan Father Hans Stapel, 62, and is located 30 kilometers (18
miles) from the shrine of Aparecida. Today there are 31 "fazendas"
In this interview with ZENIT the German priest comments on the success
of the centers
84% overcome addiction
and his expectations for the Pope's visit.
Q: What is the secret of your success in fighting drug abuse?
Father Stapel: I believe the secret lies in the fact that we are simple
and uncomplicated: We live the Gospel, we work and take joy in our work
and live like a family. In every house there are between 12-14 young
people, so there is an opportunity for dialogue, to work together and
this is important
to conform their lives according to the Gospel.
The Gospel is a school of love, where we learn to be there for one
another and not think about ourselves. When we can be freed from
ourselves, then the real problem is solved.
What leads someone to drugs is often other addictions that come from
being selfish. What we need to do is stop being so focused on ourselves.
Q: In general, how can a person avoid what you call the "prison of
Father Stapel: It happens when we are able to come out of ourselves. We
must think of others. Only in others can we find ourselves.
Me, me, me
— I must find myself
this is today's mentality and it is fatal. I only find myself when I
Q: How are the young people who are here now able to accomplish this
first step of liberation from self?
Father Stapel: By coming to us and learning this new way of life being
lived by the others who are already here. In that way they can adopt
this new way of life automatically. The all start work early in the
morning, they try to live God's word together and then they can
understand the rest.
When they have problems in the beginning we talk about it in a very
concrete way, never theoretically. They don't take courses or anything
like that, we live life. This is the secret. They must begin. Life is
easy. Wherever things are complicated, the divine element is missing and
there is only the human element at work.
God said things very clearly: Whatever you do to the least of my people
and your neighbor, you do it to me. When you begin living for others you
experience joy. Whoever gives is received; whoever is lost is found.
This is the secret.
The people living here practice this and feel happy. And when someone is
happy they have no need of anything else. One begins using drugs because
they are looking for happiness. They use sex and drugs to be happy.
Q: What are your expectations for the Pope's visit here in particular,
and to Brazil in general?
Father Stapel: The great thing is that the Pope will leave his mark
here. The Pope is essentially saying: I am going to visit those who are
excluded, those who are not accepted by society but are instead labeled
as thieves or unwanted. The Pope is coming to visit them and in this way
is giving them a heightened sense of value. This is very important. This
is the way he will leave his mark here.
The Church has always been on the side of the poor, this is her
vocation. There is no faith without works. If I believe in God and I
don't act concretely with acts of love then my faith is just theory.
Therefore my life and the lives of those around me will not change.
In coming here the Pope is giving this sign. He is saying to these young
people: You are not prodigal sons! You are loved by the heavenly Father!
He loves you and needs you. You have the opportunity to evangelize and
to help others; you have the chance to start a new life because, with
God, there is always a second chance.
What he is saying to them is what he wrote in his encyclical "Deus
Caritas Est": "God is love." And that is fantastic! ZE07051124