[Province of Curitiba – Brazil] The Province of Curitiba, in 2010, on the Jubilee of the 350th anniversary of the Founders’ death, began a project with Homeless People. This reality directly and daily challenges our Charism: to serve the poorest of the poor with humility, simplicity, and charity. St. Joseph Welcome House is a space created to welcome this population, which teaches us to live the Gospel passage in a radical way: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.” (Matt: 25, 35-36)
The space of the house Acolhida São José has been carefully assembled by the Province and includes a refectory, a covered area, space for group and individualized care, bath and laundry room. There, daily, we welcome, on average, 70 poor people who are fed, bathed, their clothes and shoes washed; hygiene kits, clothes, shoes and warm clothing received. Following our charism we seek to be God’s presence in their life and signs of God’s tenderness by the way we serve them bread, trying to live the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul: “For your love, your love alone, can the poor forgive the bread that you offer them ”! We speak to them about God, more than by words, but rather by the care we take in welcoming and listening, done with love and mercy while respecting the freedom of choice of these frail people. We feel Christ so present in them that our love is revealed in service, and service springs from a passionate love that causes conversion and evangelization. For us the poor are sensitive, caring, humanized, suffering, grateful, kind, demanding, docile and understanding. St. Louise recommends to us: “Be very kind and kind to the Poor, you know that they are our Lords and Masters and that we must love tenderly and respect deeply.” The poor recognize the care we offer them when we know them and call them by their own name. They also bless us daily as we distribute coffee or clothing: “God bless you, Sister, God help, God keep you…” These sincerely given blessings engender affinity, commitment, and love.
Sister Janete Casagrande, one of the Daughters of Charity who attends the house named Acolhida, reports: “When I am asked if there is any sense in offering coffee, a bath and clean clothes to those who will return to the street situation, I remember Christ the Son of God. God who gave himself to death on the cross, only for love to rescue us from the death of sin, a gesture that humanity has not understood until today – And she adds: I have been with these poor for five years and I am positively surprised daily with interesting experiences. Being with the poor we experience how much they evangelize us because they are persevering despite such exclusion; they are kind and smiling, despite suffering and abandonment; they know how to share their little and teach us to trust in God. They prove that where a Daughter of Charity is present, the Company is present because, from our service in the welcoming house, the homeless people in Curitiba create relationships and bonds of affection with all the sisters. We are recognized and called by name on the streets where we pass.” With the Poor, we realize that we are responsible for breaking this inexplicable indifference for this part of the population, almost invisible people who suffer prejudice and discrimination. By the bond of care and affection we have with them, they help us to know the structures of sin in the world, to decipher the effects of the perverse mechanisms that generate evil, injustice, exclusion, misery, marginalization and exploitation.
True work with the poor inquires, converts, and confronts our lifestyle and community projects with the living situation of these people. It makes us assume a more incarnate prayer and to recognize that the grace of God is abundant and it is to him that we give ourselves and entrust the poor. Our gratitude to the Province of Curitiba, in the person of its Superiors, who have provided us with this experience through taking on this Provincial Project.
Sr Janete Casagrande Province of Curitiba, Brazil