Our Province, based in Santa Maria/Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, includes three Schoenstatt Centers in the far northeast: in Salvador/Bahia, in Recife, und Garanhuns/Pernambuco (PE). There are seven Schoenstatt Sisters total who live in this region and do apostolate there. In view of the mission in this vast area and the minimal number of sisters, we could do nothing else but trustingly pray time an again: “Lord, send laborers into your vineyard.“ Interestingly, in recent years young women especially from this region in the northeast have decided to join our sisters‘ community.
Courageous young women
In the year 2019, six young women joined our community; five from the Northeast of the country. In 2020, we had seven candidates, and again six were from the Northeast. Despite the pandemic, they participated in a vocation retreat at our Schoenstatt Center in Garanhuns. The courage they display in leaving their friends and family to come to Santa Maria which is almost 4,000 km away is amazing. It is also astonishing that they have remained healthy because they come from different states in which many people die every day of COVID -19.
Vocation ministry in the Northeast
Sister M. Glória Maria de Melo is responsible for our vocation ministry in the Northeast. Leite, who herself is from Lajedo/PE and joined our community in 2004, confirms, “The states here in the Northeast give promise of good religious vocations because there is great religiosity; also many priests and families are committed to it. We have vocation meetings quite often at the shrine here in Garanhuns. The parents support us and send provisions with their children so that the attendees for the weekend have sufficient food. Nevertheless, during this pandemic the pastors of these youth have taken care that there are always sufficient supplies necessary for hygiene and sanitizing.“
She reports further: “We are experiencing amazing things with this new project for young people. One day a young person wrote to us: ‘Sister, I heard Sister Maria Jaci on the radio and I felt a vocation in me. May I also attend the vocation meeting to gain clarity?“
Towards investiture, the solomn reception of the uniform dress of Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
After our six candidates had spent a year in Juvenat, Santa Maria, they flew home before Christmas in 2020 to say farewell to their parents, to their relatives and to their parish. Since then, that trip has not been possible because the round trip costs about 150 euros and that is too expensive. Now they are together again in Santa Maria preparing for their future path as Sisters of Mary. A candidature of two months began on March 1 after which a year of postulancy follows. So that their relatives and many young people can participate, they will travel in November by plane back to Garanhuns for the solemn investiture. Two years ago the first investiture celebration took place there. This year’s group is a fruit of it!
Apostolate in their home state
Our candidates were busy during their Christmas vacation.
Nayane who is from Garanhuns reports: “I could do much apostolate with my family. I also met a popular young person who had completely distanced herself from the Church. I told her what I was experiencing, and she was very interested. I invited her to Mass, and soon she invited me to pray the rosary.”
Fabrícia who is from Paulo Alfonso/Bahia, relates: “I invited some young people to a vocation retreat in Garanhuns. We prayed the Rosary with the Pilgrim MTA. In my parish, I had the opportunity to give a testimony about my vocation.“
Karolayne who is from Garanhuns had to answer many questions. Her friends and family wanted to learn more about what she experienced in the south of the country. Because of the pandemic she could not meet with the youth in large groups. She met with two or three and many questions arose regarding why she made this decision and what she did in Santa Maria. In between she was asked: Are you happy? Again and again Karolayne repeated the words of Pope Francis: Vocations are the fruit of prayer and only through prayer do they remain faithful and bear fruit.
Hortencya, who belongs to the Diocese of Caruaru/PE reports: “Vacation was a good opportunity to do apostolate. While still in Santa Maria I asked the Blessed Mother to help me. So when I arrived home in Cachoeirinha/PE, I had the strong desire to begin a youth group for young women. Seven joined and each can be considered a miracle of the Mother of God. They asked me why I went so far away to the south of the country. I responded that it was not easy in the beginning, but out of love for the mission I am undertaking I took this upon myself.“
Juci Nara, whose parents live in the city of Jupi/PE wohnen, relates: “During my vacation I could enthuse some young people for their vocation. Early on in my vacation, I could participate in a vocation weekend and actually give a talk. I was even asked to speak on the radio about my vocation. Initially, I could not believe it, but then I did so with much joy and gratitude.
I spoke about my decision, my experiences, and about the joy we have together. Two of the young people were interested and are now doing an extended stay with the sisters in Garanhun.”
Daniela stammt aus Serrita/PE. She is actually a “fruit“ of the vocation retreat this past year. She tells us: “I could speak with some young people. They are interested in religious life, were very curious, and asked many questions about life in Juvenat, about my decision, and about the cold in the south. With deep gratitude, I observed the enthusiasm of these young people, and they saw my enthusiasm and joy. I helped Sister Glória Maria organize a recollecton day with the theme The Awakening of a Vocation. Sixteen people attended.“
Simone, the only one in this group who is from the south, comes from Seberi/RS. She, too, used her recent vacation before the beginning of postulancy to organize a gathering of young people.
We hope that after their investiture and formation, these young women can do ministry in their home states. And we cordially invite you to continue praying with us: