Diocesan News

Brazilian Man Moving From Rock ’n’ Roll and Mosh Pits to the Priesthood

Prayer and music have always been sources of comfort to Deacon Caetano Moura de Oliveira throughout his life. (Photo: Paula Katinas, Courtesy of Deacon Oliveira)

FLUSHING — Deacon Caetano Moura de Oliveira clearly remembers when he first heard Jesus calling him to the priesthood. It was 2012, he was 19, and he was on a church pilgrimage in his native Brazil. 

During a stop along the pilgrimage route, he heard Jesus and he said to himself, “Caetano, you don’t know what you’re missing.” 

Deacon Oliveira didn’t hesitate. When the leaders of the pilgrimage asked those who felt called to the priesthood to step forward, he jumped up. 

Fast forward 12 years to 2024: Deacon Oliveira, 31, is eagerly awaiting his ordination on June 1. He and three other men will be ordained by Bishop Robert Brennan at a Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights. 

The men were ordained as transitional deacons in 2023 and were assigned parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn to serve in while they completed their seminary studies. Deacon Oliveira is studying at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Queens Village, and was assigned to Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica. 

Deacon Oliveira has a connection to another church in Queens — St. Gabriel Church in Flushing — that is one of the parishes in the diocese that has a large community of believers in the Neocatechumenal Way, the movement in the Catholic Church that works to rekindle the faith in people who have already been baptized. 

Deacon Oliveira, the second oldest of five children, grew up in a family that followed the Neocatechumenal Way. 

At first glance, it might not seem surprising that he is entering the priesthood. After all, his family was deeply religious and not only attended Mass at Our Lady of Exile Cathedral in Brazil, but participated in monthly retreats. 

Yet, he admitted that in many ways, his vocation came as a surprise to him. He described himself as a lost and troubled soul growing up in Jundiaí, a city 60 miles from São Paulo. 

“My life before was a constant search for meaning,” he said, adding that he also felt a great deal of anger and frustration with life. While his family was religious, it was also troubled, he said. His parents fought a lot and he felt bullied by his older brother. 

“And I always failed to fit in that box that I needed to fit into. I felt myself a failure,” Deacon Oliveira recalled. 

And so he turned to music. “The kind of kid I was — was a rocker. I had long hair and old scratchy jeans. There was a shirt that I loved that was from Metallica and I cut the sleeves. My life consisted of rock ’n’ roll concerts and mosh pits,” he explained. 

Deacon Oliveira threw himself into mosh pits at heavy metal concerts, played guitar, and got drunk on Fridays. He felt aimless. 

Church was a constant in his life, “but it’s not that I was this pious kid who prayed the rosary every day,” he said. 

Still, the times the family prayed together brought him closer to his parents, Vera and Fabio. And it gave Deacon Oliveira the chance to see God’s loving hand at work. 

His argumentative parents were able to reconcile with the help of prayers and the support of the Neocatechumenal Way community. 

He felt himself moving closer to God and wanted to open himself to His will. So when the pilgrimage leaders beckoned anyone considering the priesthood to step forward, he did. 

After years of feeling lost, he felt he had found a home. “With the Lord’s call, I found meaning,” he said. “What makes me sure that this is the thing for me is that I’ve been happy, the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.” 

Deacon Oliveira came to the U.S. in 2013 and entered the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Newark, spending five years studying there. 

In 2018, the seminary moved to Queens Village and Deacon Oliveira moved too. 

In 2019, he took a break from his studies to do missionary work with Neocatechumenal Way communities in New Jersey and California. 

His mother Vera suffered a stroke and passed away on June 2, 2022. Deacon Oliveira was moved by the way the Neocatechumenal Way community embraced his family in its time of need. More than 300 people came to her funeral. 

In a twist of fate, Deacon Oliveira’s first Mass as a priest will take place on June 2, the anniversary of his mother’s passing. 

As he prepares for his ordination next month, Deacon Oliveira said he is open to whatever God wants him to do. 

He is aware that he will serve in whatever parish Bishop Brennan sends him to and that it might not necessarily be a Neocatechumenal Way parish. “I’m here to serve. The bishop will decide where he needs me,” he explained. 

He expressed confidence that he will have no problem relating to parishioners because like them, he is an ordinary person with flaws and struggles. “I’m the same person I was in the seminary,” he said. 

Deacon Oliveira hasn’t been in a mosh pit for a while. But he still likes heavy metal music and plays the guitar.