[Province of Rio de Janeiro – Brazil] Saint Joseph School is in the city of Vila Velha, in the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil. It is a Catholic and Vincentian School that seeks to collaborate with the evangelization project of the Church, preparing students to participate actively and consciously in building a more just and equitable society, and sensitizing them to the reality of those who are poor, in whom Saints Vincent and Louise saw the suffering Christ present and served as Christ himself. It strives therefore to socialize what the school believes, witnessing to what motivated the presence of the Daughters of Charity in the Brazilian educational system.
Visiting the poor, characteristic of the Vincentian charism, to feel close their needs and distresses provides teenagers and young people knowledge of other realities. It touches their hearts, awakens in them a desire to be fraternal and the conviction that to be Christian is to witness and announce that another world is possible if there is love, generosity, solidarity and sharing.
In this context, the visit called “Solidarity Mission” happened on August 22, 23 and 24. Students, collaborators, Sisters and mothers made visits to the “Casa dos Pobres” (House of the Poor), in the city of Friburgo, state of Rio de Janeiro, directed by the Daughters of Charity. There 150 people, including handicapped and elderly of both sexes, are welcomed and cared for the Sisters, as our Holy Founders wanted. This “Mission” was lovingly planned and handled by all students of the School, who contributed to the Solidarity Campaign, donating food to be taken to Nova Friburgo.
Most of teenagers and young people were not used to approaching severely handicapped people, so at the beginning they were very shy, but little by little, they became spontaneous. Music and dance filled the room with joy, revealed special talents, and gave space to expressions of longing and remembrance by the elderly.
Then a text from Isaiah invited all to thank God for loving creatures “just the way he/she is” and two teenagers dressed as angels presented a box containing a gift from God to the handicapped and elderly. As it was opened, each one was surprised seeing himself/herself reflected in a mirror. At the end, a member of the Vincentian Marian Youth explained: life is the greatest gift that God gives us and every person who was there was very special to God. We ended with the Our Father and the Hail Mary.
The rest of the time spent at the “Casa dos Pobres” (House the Poor) was dedicated to recreational activities, listening to the elderly with their stories rich with experiences, struggles, joys, sorrows, sadness for the abandonment of relatives, but always showing affection to where they live and for the care received . And because the mission also demanded service, at meal times all were on hand to help those who could not eat alone and to take them to where they needed to go. On Sunday, after Mass, the play Cinderella, performed by the students, amused them.
On the long trip back to Vila Velha, there was a wonderful time of sharing where they expressed the emotion felt in the “Solidarity Mission”. As one of the mothers who accompanied the mission said: “The teenagers and young people who were there will never be the same, because they have learned these days what gives meaning to life and it is not contained in any textbook or in classrooms, or in social media”.
Sisters of St. Joseph School and of the Casa dos Pobres (House of Poor), employees, mothers, teenagers and young people praised God and thanked Him for this rich experience.
Sr. Rizomar B. Figueiredo, DC
Principal of Saint Joseph School