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“History is essential in the life of all people. Through history the presence of God is also revealed -- in the life of the Church and in the life of each person.” Sr. Maria Helena Carvalho said.

“The presence of our Sisters is interwoven with the history of all the cities where we serve…Through our ministry with God’s people or our witness within the Church. Our work becomes most apparent in our institutions.

During the 50 years since the Sisters arrived in Brazil, we have worked on behalf of children in daycare centers. Today, now that they are adults, many remember with longing their childhood and the experience of growing up in our centers.”

Not only have we taken care of the children in day care, but we also opened maternity hospitals – and visited their homes – where we delivered them into this world. In fact, Sr. Margie Ferri, one of the original band of Sisters missioned to Brazil, remembers the many nights she arose from her bed, grabbed her bag of equipment and supplies and traveled by whatever means were available to deliver yet another child. She remembers the heat of the days (and nights) and the love and gratitude of the people. All of this came full circle when she returned to Brazil for their 50th Anniversary celebration: she came face to face with a woman whom she had delivered into the world all those years ago. This woman came primarily to meet Sr. Margie, to thank her…and to let her know that, in a special way, her work lives on.

Indeed, through our shared ministry in Brazil, we experience the miracle of the multiplication of gifts as we served the poorest and neediest ones! “We began the work of building a Center, O Centro Communitario Paulo VI quite a few years ago,” Sr. Mary Maloney recalls.

“…our plans and the prayers were coming to life! The people of Boa Vista cleared the land, dug roads, and made bricks. The Bishop purchased the land and hired a contractor to draw up plans. The youth group cleaned it, young people helped in the clinic, and Catholic Charities provided milk, cereal, butter and rice for the children’s breakfast program – and our dreams became a reality! When I returned to Brazil in 2008 for our General Chapter, I visited Boa Vista – and to my surprise and deep joy, the 16 year-old girl who helped me in the clinic was now in charge as coordinator …”

“Freely you have received, freely you are to give.” [Matthew 10:8] Today, in our daycare centers, we still welcome undernourished infants and children. Two Franciscan Sisters of the Poor tell us about these ministries of compassion and hope for children in Ipameri and Jataí:

St. Francis Home and Kindergarten – Ipameri

“Children are a gift from God,” Sister Terezinha de Jesus tells us, “and need protection and care.” At the St. Francis Home and Kindergarten in Ipameri, we serve these precious ones with love, and provide a good education along with physical nourishment. This helps the children grow physically, psychologically and spiritually – and it frees these little ones from some of the worst effects of poverty. When they leave our care, they are more prepared to meet life’s challenges. the Daycare Center in Ipamerithe Daycare Center in Ipameri

The children remain at the Center all day and return to their hard working families in the evening. And while they gain from it, we also are rewarded with satisfaction and joy! Not only do we work with the little ones, but we also extend our welcome to adolescents by offering them educational opportunities, giving spiritual formation and teaching job skills. So, when we give of ourselves, we also experience God’s grace at work! This year we have 108 children and 131 adolescents from 100 families who are receiving our assistance.

In addition to these services, we offer full-time care to several elderly, mentally disabled women. These beautiful women often fill the Sisters with wonder and joy. The Sisters offer them love and dignity, and the women respond with gestures and smiles that come from the depths of their spirits. Sr. Josetta Marie Lonnemann, who served for 22 years in Brazil, adds some history to the women’s presence. She had been director of the Lar (home) and Creche (day care center) in Ipameri when she served in Brazil. “Among our many charges in the early years were ten women who were profoundly mentally handicapped, and who had no family (other than the Sisters). So, while the other children went home at night, they remained with us. When I returned to Ipameri in 2008, I stopped to visit with them, and one of the women looked up at me and said, ‘Irmã Josetta…Irmã Josetta…’ …and that, to me, is everything…” Sr. Josetta described in these few words how she, Sister Terezinha de Jesus and all the others feel about their continuing service to these women.

Lar e Creche João XXIII, Jataí

Jataí is a middle-sized town of one hundred thousand inhabitants. Although Jataí is a large producer of grain, there is little industry and few storage facilities exist for the harvest. This causes much grain to be lost and results in few job opportunities to the many unemployed, generating poverty despite the richness of the soil. “Within this context, our Congregation, in collaboration with the Diocese, offers the neediest families support by daily welcoming their children to our John XXIII Daycare Center and Kindergarten,” says Sister Julia Batista Rocha, “Otherwise the parents would not be able to adequately feed and educate their children – primarily because they cannot find decent jobs to meet the most essential needs of their families.”

Sr. Maria GorettiSr. Maria Goretti The Center is open ten hours a day, and the children receive nourishment, education, hygiene and health care -- and also learn to play together. We serve 170 children ranging in age from infancy through seven years. We are so much a part of the fabric of their lives that it is fair to say that our Center is a real extension of their family homes. The children receive love, care and attention and enjoy learning social skills early. At the age of seven, when they enter the public school system, our children are quite advanced: they have already learned reading and writing at our facility. Many adults and students also donate their time and love teaching these needy little ones.

“Serving these poorest children is very gratifying for me.” Sister Julia Batista Rocha continues, “We develop a close bond with each child and family. This experience makes us feel as if we are members of one very large family!” It is wonderful to meet the young people and adults who have ‘grown up’ at our facility.

They often say that it was the happiest period of their lives! As adults they understand how important our efforts were in their lives. Not only because of the education and nutrition and socialization, but perhaps most important because the Sisters contributed to bringing God to them.

This alone transforms all the difficulties the Sisters experienced into something inherently good. In a sick and often unfair world, the Sisters strive to be hope and compassion -- to heal their wounds so that, one day all people will embrace one another in justice and peace. This makes everything we do even more joyous!