St. Irmã Dulce Pontes (1914-1992)
Sr. Dulce was born as Maria Rita to an upper middle-class family in Salvador, Brazil in 1914. Her mother died when she was six years old. At the age of 13, an aunt took Maria Rita to see the poor area of the city, which left a strong impression on her, and from that time she began to care for the poor and beggars in her own neighborhood.
After graduating from high school at age 18, her father allowed her to join the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. For her religious name she took “Dulce,” the name of her mother.
Not long after joining the missionary sisters, Dulce became determined to shelter the many ill people she encountered on the streets of Salvador. She would house them in abandoned buildings and bring them food and medical care.
Eventually she and her more than 70 patients were kicked out of the building. Left with nowhere to take them, she asked her mother superior for help, and was given the convent’s chicken yard to turn into an improvised hotel.
As part of the agreement, Sr. Dulce was asked to care for the chickens, which she did by butchering them and feeding them to her patients.
This eventually became the site of the Santo Antonio Hospital, which continues to serve Brazil’s poor and disabled.
Bl. Dulce founded the Sao Francisco’s Worker’s Union, the first Christian worker’s movement in the Brazilian state of Bahia, which she later transformed into the Worker’s Center of Bahia.
She also founded the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce (Obras Sociais Irma Dulce) in 1959, which continues to be one of the most well-known and well-respected charitable organizations in Brazil.
In 1988, Sr. Dulce was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the President of Brazil, Jose Sarney.
She died in 1992, at the age of 77, after battling lung problems for 30 years. She met Pope John Paul II twice during her life, the second in 1990 while hospitalized.
She was beatified on May 22, 2011 under Pope Benedict XVI.
(From: Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency.)