To love and to serve
Publish date 01-06-2021
Maria Rita Langes Pontes de Souza Brito (Salvador de Bahia 1914 - 1992) was not a favelada. Her father was an esteemed dentist and university teacher, the stay-at-home mother. Orphaned by her mother at the age of 7, little Mariinha grew up serene, thanks to the affection of her family.
At thirteen, an aunt invited her to go with her to visit the sick poor. After the initial bewilderment she not only accepted but she took the initiative, helped by her sister Dul¬cinha, to welcome in the house whoever came for her help. She begins a journey. She entered the missionary nuns of the Immaculate Conception with the name of Sister Dulce, she was first assigned to the Spanish sanatorium in Salvador and then to the Santa Bernardetta college, where she teaches.
Nearby is the Massaranduba favela, and she Dulce she asks to be able to teach the workers by involving some students and professors. Over the years she started the Unione Operaia San Francesco, the Collegio Sant'Antonio, she opened an outpatient clinic and obtained a former chicken coop in use to accommodate abandoned, sick, lonely elderly children. The Sant'Antonio Hotel is born. To those who criticize her, she writes: "Many people believe that the poor should not be given the same attention as others, but for me they are the image of Christ".
In 1964 the new supervisor calls her and the sisters to a complete observance of the Rule, which however conflicts with work for the poor. Those who do not obey must leave the congregation. Dulce refuses, and for ten years only two lay volunteers remain to make common life with her. When all of Brazil dies, Carnival and the football championship are suspended.
Now almost a thousand young people study in the Sant'Antonio Educational Center and the Sant'Antonio Hospital is one of the most renowned in the country. Pope Francis declared her a saint on October 13, 2019.
NP Febbraio 2021