André de Castro Deus never planned on moving to Canada or on joining a language branch.
But the Lord had other plans for him and his family, and now he’s the president of Canada’s first Portuguese-speaking branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Centennial Branch was created on Dec. 31, 2023, under the direction of Calgary Alberta Fish Creek Stake President Brad Stevens, the Church posted on its Canada Facebook page.
Portuguese-speaking members first expressed a need for the new branch in August 2023. The North America Central Area presidency approved a group in October, later determining that there were enough members for a branch.
“The faithfulness of Brazilian Saints who immigrated to Canada in recent years has made possible the creation of this branch which will provide support to other Portuguese speakers, from various countries, who will make their home in Calgary,” the Facebook post reads.
President Castro Deus said he is “honored” and “humbled” to be serving in the new Portuguese branch.
“The Lord knows me and cares about me enough to bring me where He needs me to be,” President Castro Deus said.
Worshipping in Portuguese
President Castro Deus is from Brazil and was comfortably settled there with his family, a good job and his calling as a bishop.
But his wife felt strongly that they should move to Canada, despite having no family or job connections there.
President Castro Deus said he was uncertain at first, but doors began opening. He found a good job opportunity, the visa process went smoothly, and so a year ago, he and his family moved to Canada.
Still, he didn’t feel the need to be part of a language branch. President Castro Deus served his mission in Salt Lake City and lived in the U.S. for several years after that, so he was comfortable worshiping in English, he said.
But a friend in his area, another Brazilian, was advocating for a Portuguese branch and asked him to attend what was then only a group.
Upon arriving, he realized he’d underestimated how meaningful worshiping in his native language would be. “The Spirit was so strong,” President Castro Deus said.
People often hear the Spirit more easily in their own language, he added, because they are not focused on correctly translating everything being said. Instead, they can think fully about what’s being taught, making them “100% open to feeling the Spirit because [they] don’t have that barrier anymore.”
Branch growth and missionary opportunities
President Castro Deus said his family eventually fasted and prayed to know if they should attend the Portuguese group. When his teenage son — who had been more against the change than anyone else — said they should attend the Portuguese group, President Castro Deus knew it was the right decision for his family.
That group is now a branch of about 50 people, President Castro Deus said, and is growing all the time.
It’s offered him some unique missionary opportunities, such as when he and wife were shopping at Costco and talking about a Portuguese product. Another Brazilian overheard and began chatting with them, so President Castro Deus and his wife invited the man to a branch activity. The man, who isn’t a Church member, brought his wife and two kids to the event.
“After seeing all that has happened, and how the Lord has led us to Canada... I feel that I was really meant to be here at this time to support the branch the way that I am,” President Castro Deus said, adding that, “The people are just amazing. I love them so much.”