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The Associates, together with the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor of the Geographical Area of Brazil, organized a festive gathering in Jataí, Goiás, on October 8, 2016, to celebrate the 35 years of the Associate program and rekindle the flame of our charism of healing by spending some time together and share our personal gifts. It was an auspicious  moment, a day of joy and light.

As the groups from Goiânia, Ipameri and Pires do Rio arrived in Jataí around midday we were warmly welcomed by our hosts, the Sisters, Associates and friends living in Jataí. We had a wonderful Eucharistic Celebration of the 35 Years of the SFP Associates Program.

The gathering took place in a climate of friendship, prayer, devotion and fervor, with special songs motivating us to remember our dear Father Francis of Assisi. The place, a wonderful farmhouse, with lots of fruit trees, lots of greenery for shade and fresh air, a friendly atmosphere, warm and tasty food, ending with a scrumptious birthday cake. Then we were awarded prizes from a draw.

lgdi 01The Associated Bete, Sr. Helena Paula and Father Joaquim
lgdi 02Preparing ourselves for lunch, a delicious barbecue
lgdi 03The Associate Marli and Ataci, Sister Maria Goretti and Associated José
lgdi 04The Associated Maria Loes, Sr. Lecia and Helena Paula and vocated Jamile
lgdi 05Moment of Communion

Commenting on this day, Maria Aparecida, a friend from Jataí, expressed herself in this assertive way: "It was a day of sharing about our life, of re-encountering amidst smiles, hugs and celebration, as  old and new friends came together from different places to reminisce our personal journey and share our Franciscan Spirituality. I am now preparing myself to become an Associate, as I feel that, in all simplicity, we can help each other  to heal the wounds of Christ in poor and suffering humanity ... "
Sr. Júlia Batista, from Pires do Rio, said: "What struck me most in this fraternization was that everyone mentioned that the joy of living our charism is serving others as a faith group."

Indeed our getting together was marked by a great enthusiasm, not unlike a family reunion, motivated by this anniversary that is a special milestone on our journeying side by side, while learning from each other along three decades and a half.

Associate Maria José, from Pires do Rio, said: "It was a productive day as we gained a lot of knowledge. From our hosts’ warm welcome, through rekindling old acquaintances and being introduced to new ones, this was a day to breathe some fresh air and to refresh our ideas, cherishing the value of fulfilling God’s will and realizing how He is present among us in the places where we live and serve him in the poor."

Associate Ataci Borges de Goiânia put it this way: "This was an opportunity to get to know the city of Jataí and some of the Associates for the first time.  I felt very happy and grateful to God for being there, as a participant Associate of our Congregation, sharing wholeheartedly our greetings of peace and all good things!"

Associate Edna Maria, from Goiânia, added: "It was a very powerful experience, a special joyful occasion for me as it was the very day that I received a healing grace through Mother Frances’  intercession. Thanks be to God!"

What a moving testimony!  What a moment of grace and healing to our hearts!

Associate Cristina Auxiliadora, from Pires do Rio, said: "Meeting others who collaborate in the work of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in different cities was very important for me. I look forward to other moments like this to share our experiences. It is a privilege for me to be an Associate and part of the Franciscan Family."

Associate Aloisio Aguiar, from Pires do Rio, expressed himself saying: "It was so gratifying from the start as we left Goiânia bound to Jataí, particularly for the delicious ‘farofa’, the Brazilian roasted poultry with stuffing we had!  As we gathered in Jataí, we got to know each other better, in a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere. And on the way back to Goiânia, we discovered the musical talents of Sister Lécia and Associate Salomé, it was, perhaps, the launching of a new country music duo who sang for us to our excitement. And they also sang other songs to meet our different musical tastes, with the backing track accompaniment provided by the Internet. The joy of the Franciscan Family touched us all. What a superbly special day we had!"

Associate Maria Lopes, from Jataí, added: "Our meeting was fruitful, with its moments of encouragement and fraternization to strengthen our friendships and sense of belonging ... We improved our knowledge of the Congregation and each other in small group conversations. As we each introduced ourselves, we were able to realize how we all live the charism and mission of the Congregation in our own particular way."

Associate Jairo José, from Goiânia, emphasized: "It was a blessed sharing in the spirit of Mother Frances, an opportunity to bring together all the Sisters and many Associates from all the communities: Pires do Rio, Goiânia, Jataí and Ipameri."

Sister Maria Lúcia Barbosa, from Pires do Rio, remarked: "How good it was to meet old and new friends. Although it was a short period of time we stayed together due to the long distances to cover, back and forth, the beauty of the gathering was not lost. Our human warmth united us in one intention: to celebrate, to feel united in the joy of living among those who are part of our family, making us feel stronger. "

Despite the little time spent together, as mentioned, the event was well worth the effort. The weariness of the long trip was forgotten as soon as we entered the lush vegetation surrounding Jataí, with so many flowers of vibrant colors and the various shades of green.  We gathered in a small farm, on the edge of a wonderful lake, which led Sister Maria Goretti of Pires do Rio to express her delight by saying: "Amidst an exuberant nature many hearts rejoiced in the Lord this day!  The place was very appropriate, the green that surrounded us together as children of our Mother Earth helped us praise God in the words of St. Francis’ Canticle of God’s Creation. The joy of being together was really contagious!"

lgdi 07Card made by the Associated ZuleicaAssociate Áureo Divino, from Goiânia, emphasized: "The place was cozy, it helped us enter in a climate of contemplation right away. I had the feeling of being part of a family integrated in the charism of Mother Frances’ healing charism.  The day went by so fast that we got that feeling of happiness with a taste of ‘I want more’!"

Sister Lécia José, from Ipameri, emphasized: "I had the opportunity to meet Associates that I knew only by their name and picture in the Directory book. Simple joy permeated the whole environment. I will always remember the warm reception, the gifts, the smiles on each face, the confidence and, above all, the laughter."

Associate Maria dos Reis, from Pires do Rio, said: "I had the great happiness to participate in this important moment together with the Sisters and other Associates. May God give me the grace to always share my life in this group, where I learn to better serve God in the person of my brothers and sisters in need."

Sr. Maria Helena, our CCA, living in Goiânia, said: “Celebrating the 35 years of union with the Associates made me remember with what joy we welcomed them in our midst. They were initially our closest friends and family members to whom we transmitted our experience, which then has expanded so that we welcome a greater number of lay people interested in living according the charism of Mother Frances. We, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and our Associates, enthusiastically celebrated our fraternal partnership and shared on this day that was so dear for our religious family.”

As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." In this encounter we felt very strongly the presence of Jesus in our midst. We thank each one of us who shared this moment together. As fellow walkers, we expect to grow in faith and hope by spreading the Healing Charism wherever we are present. May the Holy Spirit be our inseparable companion and Our Lady lead us to Jesus!

We, the Associates, are grateful to the Sisters and, in a special way, to the Congregational Leadership for enabling us to participate in our Charism of Healing and Franciscan Spirituality, and to know ever more deeply the journey of our Congregation and our service to those in need. We ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of unity in sharing the gifts we receive.

May Blessed Frances continue to inspire us and strengthen our charism of healing and mercy, today and always.

May we in the future celebrate together several anniversaries of the Associate Program of our blessed Congregation, which expands and strengthens the spread of the Healing Energy of Christ in a world full of wounds. Congratulations to all the Associates! And from our heart, thank you very much, Sisters who allowed us to belong to the Franciscan Family of the Poor. May Blessed Frances always intercede for us.

Peace and all good things!

lgdi 06Goiânia Associated with the Sisters: Maria Helena and Tânia

Associate Marli Moreira Barbosa, Goiânia, Goiás

Published: January 18, 2017