Brazil: Active elderly religious sisters thank ACN for support

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) provides health support to elderly religious sisters in northeast Brazil. Despite their age, the sisters remain very active in their communities, and continue to pray for their benefactors.

Sisters selling their handmade products at the Saints Cosmas and Damian fair in Igarassu.
Sisters selling their handmade products at the Saints Cosmas and Damian fair in Igarassu.

Being a consecrated religious is a lifelong commitment, and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in northeastern Brazil take their vocation very seriously. Over half of the 62 sisters who serve in different communities in this region of Brazil are over 65, but they continue to be as active as possible.

Naturally, as the years go by these sisters require more medical care, but though Brazil has a national healthcare system, it faces many challenges and for timely and more adequate assistance the sisters sometimes need to resort to the private sector, which entails expenses. ACN has been supporting the congregation by funding medical care for 12 elderly sisters.

Sisters Rosa, Letícia and Isabel live in a community on the outskirts of the city of Olinda. Their convent is very active in the local parish, and the three sisters, who are all over 80, participate in organising and running prayers, retreats and formation services. Sister Rosa, 84, is a gifted cook and enjoys baking traditional Brazilian cheese bread which is sold to raise funds for renovation work on the order’s mother house.

Sister Maria Silva, who lives in a community in Abreu e Lima, is a skilled seamstress and does sewing jobs for the other religious, besides producing crafts for fundraising. In her case, ACN funding has mostly gone to providing dentistry services, which are difficult to obtain through the national health service.

A sister sewing for the poor and needy
A sister sewing for the poor and needy

Sister Helena, 93, and Sister Regina, 83, both live in another community in Olinda and they spend most of their days working with the poor and helping to organise prayer services and liturgies. Despite her advanced age, Sister Helena also keeps busy preparing welcome packages with essential baby items that are then sent to the local maternity hospital, to be given to newborns. She tells ACN that “I have received many graces from God. All I can do now is give thanks!”

Sister Carminha, 77, lives in the congregation’s mother house in Igarassu and can often be found welcoming visitors and speaking to young mothers and teenagers who go to the convent for assistance. Recently, however, Sister Carminha has been suffering from a neurological problem, and with the help of ACN’s funding has been able to see a specialist.

Finally, Sister Escolástica, 78, is responsible for much fun and laughter at the Santa Zita community, because of her gift for writing verse and composing musical skits, and is a fixture at all the community celebrations and festivities. In 2023, however, her health took a turn for the worse, and has needed more medical attention, which she has received thanks to ACN.

God bless the benefactors

“We have been going through a calmer period in 2023, compared to the years of the Covid pandemic. However, human suffering, both locally and around the world, touches us deeply and moves us to solidarity, and to sharing both of bread and of the Word of God, listening, counselling, hospitality and constant prayer. The elderly sisters keep up to date with everything through conversation with the younger ones and social media, and are tireless witnesses to the dynamic of prayer, listening and charity”, says the General Superior of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Silvânia dos Santos.

Sister Marina Nunes in a catechetical meeting with teenagers
Sister Marina Nunes in a catechetical meeting with teenagers

“We thank ACN with all our hearts for helping us with this support for our elderly and sick sisters, and in return we offer constant prayer and the good each of them contributes in their own community. The sisters who benefit from this project speak about the wonders the Lord has performed and ask that God be praised in the hands of our benefactors, outstretched to the needy in the world, and may His blessings come down upon them.”

ACN has committed to continuing this project in 2024, with financial support for sisters in need of medical assistance.

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