Paz e bem! (Peace and good).
In March, I traveled to Brazil to learn about the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany’s work and ministries there. I received an invitation to make the trip from Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF, Allegany Franciscan Ministries’ board member and congregational minister of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. We have funded community projects in Brazil through the ACOR (Allegany Community Out Reach) Grant Program since 1998. As program officer for the ACOR grants, I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to see some of our funded projects first-hand.
On this journey, I had four travel companions: Patricia Klemm, OSF and Margaret Magee, OSF, congregational leaders from Allegany, NY, Marinez Arantes, OSF, regional minister for Brazil and Pat Tyre, OSF from Tampa who served as our guide and translator. We visited six towns across the states of Goias and Tocantins and stayed in five convents. The hospitality was extraordinary. Often the Sisters gave up their rooms (and air conditioning) to accommodate our group. We ate family style meals and engaged in conversations that lasted into the evening. As the only lay person, I appreciated the Sisters’ openness and the opportunity to experience living in community with them. The Sisters have much joy and a strong infectious faith.
The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany have had a presence in Brazil since 1946 and currently have 57 Sisters residing there. Their ministries vary but focus on spirituality, education and health with an emphasis on serving the poor and marginalized. Near Araguacema, the Sisters travel to remote settlements to train lay leaders and build faith communities. In Palmas and Cristalandia, Sisters serve as principals of local schools incorporating values of peace, care of creation (environment) and dignity of the individual with high quality education. In Anapolis, the Sisters administer a large Catholic hospital where they advocate for adequate funding to provide quality care for those with limited financial resources. Lastly, in Ceres the Sisters demonstrate compassion delivering food to those who are homebound and providing spiritual care. Our group was fortunate to witness the Sisters engage in this work.
My biggest takeaway from the trip was that the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany have made a significant impact on the people living in the states of Goias and Tocantins in Brazil. Children are receiving quality education and afterschool opportunities. Healthcare is being provided with dignity and accessible to the most vulnerable. The environment is being protected and resources are being thoughtfully used. Lastly, among the people there is a sense of peace and desire to grow in their faith. It was really moving to witness. I left hoping to take some of this with me. It was a good reminder that the values central to the Franciscan teaching also guide and influence our work at Allegany Franciscan Ministries.