The Daughters of Charity Province of Curitiba (Brazil), at the time of the 350th anniversary of the Founders’ death (2010), 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’s 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 layout of the house Acolhida São José has been carefully planned by the Province and includes a refectory, a covered area, space for group and individualized care, bathing and laundry room. There, on a daily basis, we welcome an average of 70 poor people who are fed, bathed, (and have their clothes washed). In accord with our charism, we seek to be God’s presence in the life of these people and we also want to be signs of God’s tenderness by the way we serve them. We attempt to live in accord with the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul: “It is only for your love alone, that the poor will forgive you for the bread you give them”! We speak to them about God not just by our words, but rather by the care that we take in welcoming them and listening to them. We feel that Christ is 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, human, 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 them tenderly and deeply respect them.” The poor accept the care we offer them when we know them and call them by their name. They also bless us daily as we distribute coffee or clothing: “God bless you, Sister, God help you, God keep you…” These words of blessing engender solidarity, commitment, and love.
Sister Janete Casagrande, one of the Daughters of Charity who ministers in this house, 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 same situation in the street, 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 people for five years and I am constantly surprised. 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 the little they have and teach us to trust in God. They prove that where a Daughter of Charity is present, the Company is present because, through our service in this 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.” With the Poor, we realize that we are responsible for breaking this inexplicable indifference which makes the poor almost invisible. By the bond of care and affection that we have established with them, they help us to become aware of the structures of sin in the world and to decipher the effects of the perverse mechanisms that generate evil, injustice, exclusion, misery, marginalization and exploitation.
True work with the poor makes us question ourselves and at the same time demands that we confront our lifestyle and community projects. It makes us prayer in a more incarnate manner. We express our gratitude to the Province of Curitiba, to its Superiors, who have provided us with this opportunity through our ministry in this Provincial Project.
Sr Janete Casagrande, DC
Province of Curitiba, Brazil