US SMIC celebrate St. Dulce canonization in Rome
On October 11th, the 11 of us from the United States happily arrived at Villa Serena Santa Maria in Rome. We were six Sisters: from Maine, Srs. Miriam Devlin and Nancy Earle; from Texas, Sr. Eva Hernandez, and from New Jersey, Srs. Kate Conti, Saundra McKeta, and Jane Abeln. Srs. Miriam, Kate, and Saundra had personally met Sr. Dulce. We all were grateful to share this weekend with 5 US lay persons: our Associate, Norah Nolan Cramer with her husband, Doug; and three good friends of Srs. Miriam & Nancy, Elizabeth & Peter Hansen and Rosalie Deri. Of course, Lillian Cristofaro from NJ, Secretary at the Generalate Myriam Chaux, and our Generalate leadership also came from the US.
When we entered the Church on October 12th, we received warm hugs from our Brazilian and German Sisters housed in a closer place. In this 5:30 PM Mass to honor Our Lady of Aparecida, our SMICs and laity, finally all together, shared our Units' diverse gifts, including the first reading by US Sr. Miriam and polyphonic music led by the Chinese and Brazilians. Bishop Johannes Bahlmann (related to Dom Amando) tied our courageous founding on the Amazon with what now brought him to Rome, the Amazon synod. He said, "Saint Dulce had the strong pioneering spirit of your founders as she ministered in Salvador." Sr. Jane imagined "a great cloud of SMICs past and present, from all places, around Jesus on the altar."
On October 13th, sun shone on us as we squeezed through crowds into St. Peter's Square, following the signs held high by tall ones like Doug Cramer. We all felt what Sr. Eva wrote: "What an awesome sight to see our dear Sr. Dulce's picture among four others to be canonized!" During the Mass, Sr. Saundra found her "heart filled with gratitude" and her "eyes filled with tears of joy" when our sister was "proclaimed Saint Dulce of the Poor by Pope Francis." Sr. Kate felt a "welling up of emotion and pride for SMIC" as she "thought of our saint walking the streets of Salvador with single-minded trust in God to help those most needy with utmost compassion."
For the special Mass on October 14th the bus that we were so grateful to be invited on by the large group of Sisters and laity from Taiwan renting it, brought us near the Church where we expected Mass for just SMICs and our laity. Instead, we rushed to huge Saint Andrew's basilica already overflowing with Brazilians. The main celebrant, Archbishop of Sao Salvador, Murillo Krieger, SCJ inspired us deeply with reflections on Saint Dulce. We SMICs sang, as prearranged, our final Tota Pulchra.
Of the whole experience, Sr. Miriam wrote that it was "a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. Never to be forgotten and never to be repeated." Sr. Nancy said it was wonderful but "too short" and that "Sr. Dulce is now with us in a new way." Sr. Eva expressed how all this was "a great tribute to our Saint Dulce of the Poor - she certainly earned her way to God's Kingdom."
Participating in the Celebration in Salvador, Brazil for the canonization of Saint Dulce
Srs. Eleanor Goekler, Janice Jolin and Judine Jacobs
It was such a privilege to be present in the very city and space where Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes gave her life for the people no one else would pay attention to - Salvador, Bahia, Brazil on the occasion of the entire country celebrating her recognized sanctity. Even before arriving in Salvador, we met people in the airport in Sao Pauloheading there for the same reason. They in turn were amazed that members of Saint Dulce's congregation from all over the world were coming to participate.
Arriving at Dom Amando Convent, we participated in the last two Liturgies of a triduum of Masses,each with a different theme of her life - faith, listening, doing. For each of the nights, a different neighborhood community was invited to participate so that their energy and the energy of the Sisters brought great joy to all.
On October 20, 2019 the Fonte Nova Arena was packed with 50,000 Brazilians who came out on this warm day to be present for the festivities and Mass in honor of St. Dulce, the Angel of the Abandoned. A cast of hundreds starred in the production of Sr. Dulce's life. The costumes, acting and singing were spectacular. It was so powerful that even not knowing the Portuguese dialogue, the story of her life wasvibrantly alive to all. This play was so excellent that it could go on Broadway to support the needs of the hospital - or become a documentary. Part of its power was that those portraying it had only a couple of months to prepare and its actors included the children of her school, the people of the neighborhood AND some of the patients form Saint Anthony's hospital.
A very special part of the moments leading up to the Liturgy was the singing of the Tota Pulchra by the Sisters in our common formation program preparing for final vows; they were accompanied by two of their members on the flute and violin. So many priests, young and old, were part of the entrance procession that some of us joked that we hoped no one out in the community needed a priest - they were all present in the stadium! A key moment during the liturgy was when saints' names were invoked and Sr. Dulce's was included. The final moment of recognition came when the more than life-size statue of her was carried out to be placed on the runway, adding to the tradition of carrying huge replicas of the Blessed Mother, the Christ of Bonfin, and Saint Anthony at various important times in the year.