“My vocation is to serve with joy”
My vocation originated from an early age in a Christian, Catholic family in the small town of Catarina in the interior of Ceará, Brazil. Thanks to the example of my parents and the faithful witness of my maternal grandmother, Maria Ezequiel Domingues (deceased), my family became attached to the things of God, especially devotion to Our Lady: the rosary that we saw my grandmother praying every day, grace before and after meals, prayer before going to bed and upon rising, and the habit of seeking of blessings from parents and the elderly with respect and obedience. These practices instilled Christian values and the charity to the needy that the family observed our mother doing, sharpened our sense of generosity.
After my first Communion, I continued the prayer meetings and became a catechist. I felt happy, fulfilled in this mission, and always longed to go further. After my confirmation, I clearly felt the call to consecrated life and the Holy Spirit gave me the courage to speak, to announce the marvels of the Lord with joy and without fear. The missionary zeal, the prophetic stance of priests, the renewed Church, the vibrant parishes, and the committed and animated young people were and still are God’s dream, finding an echo in my heart and nourishing my vocation.
Common in small towns of Brazil, young people migrated from their homeland to study and obtain a profession in other states. I also left my homeland for Recife where my aunt, Sister Ester, had obtained a place for me to study and later, to teach together with other young brothers at Maria Tereza College under the direction of Sister Irene Jacob and other Daughters of Charity. I am grateful for all that I received and learned from the Sisters. It was during this time that I sought out the Sisters responsible for Vocation Animation and I was able to participate in the sessions they gave. When I finished the course, I was admitted to the Postulancy on February 11, 1988. It was one of the greatest joys of my life. Sister Diva Pinto Freire who welcomed me and always trusted in my vocation, introduced me to the Community. Today at 94 years of age, she is lucid and continues to serve and teach manual work to poor children whom she has always loved.
I entered the seminary on July 16, 1989, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Soon my group will celebrate 31 years of vocation. My Sister-companions are Sisters Maria de Jesus Santiago, Josefa Luiz Ribeiro and Rita de Cássia Cerqueira. Blessed Lindalva Justo de Oliveira whose canonization is in process, was with our vocation group; I had the privilege of living with her in the Seminary where we spent time of deep silence and prayer. Sister Lindalva was mature in her faith, reflective, aware of her decision and committed to service. After the Seminary, I was sent on mission to Salvador, Bahia to the Community of Our Lady of Salette’s Institute where I spent 13 years of service; it remains a pillar for ongoing formation especially in the values of fraternal life, friendship, obedience to superiors and true joy in the mission. In the midst of difficulties, I am given the courage to persevere without ever getting tired. I remain firm and am continually in the process of conversion, trusting in the goodness of God who keeps me strong in faith and inspired in the great gift of my vocation.
Today, my Community (St. Joseph’s School) is located in a port area where fisherfolks make their living; there is unemployment, hunger and all sorts of addictions. It is in this context of vulnerability that I developed the work directly with the children and their families in evangelization, social assistance, and collaboration for human and Christian formation. I am assisted by my Sisters, the Vincentians, and volunteers of our parish. In the school, I work in pedagogical coordination, school pastoral and First Communion Catechesis. We are welcomed in the parishes and accepted by the laity; our work is reliable in the Educational Community and in the social milieu in which we operate. Despite the many difficulties that we face, we endeavor to be God’s witnesses for the people and they, in turn, respect the Daughters of Charity who began a mission here more than 80 years ago.
In this time of pandemic that has brought world-wide crisis and challenges, we are distributing food, fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis as well as masks to many families; we also train them in proper care to avoid contamination of the Covid-19.
Each day is a new challenge but God surprises us with His infinite mercy, renewing our unconditional love for His service.
I want to deeply thank Our Lord for the life, mission and vocation He has given me.
Sister Maria Dejânia Domingues de Oliveira DC – Province of Recife- Brazil