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Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton / Lindalva Justo de Oliveira

Two models of service for the marginalized

In a study entitled “Care for those persons who are Poor” Fr. Mizael Donizetti Poggioli, CM draws on the lives of two saints celebrated during this first week of January. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 4th) and Blessed Lindalva Justo de Oliveira (January 7) were known for their service for the marginalized.

During this year of 2017, we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Vincentian charism. This event leads the members of the Vincentian Family to be ever more attentive to the root of their origins. Therefore, this is an appropriate time to reflect on our past and to analyze the steps that were taken by thousands of people who made a decision to follow Vincent de Paul by dedicating their lives to the process of evangelization and service on behalf of those men and women who are Poor. This is also a time to reflect on our present reality and the situation in which we find ourselves… a time to ground ourselves more deeply in the Vincentian charism so that we can view the future with hope and envision a better world for those people who find themselves on the peripheries, the Poor who are our lords and masters.
This week, the first week of the new year, we (as members of the Vincentian Family) have the example of two individuals who dedicated their lives to service on behalf of the Poor … one of these individuals from North America and the other from South America.
On January 4th, we remember Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, who was born in New York City (the United States), married and was the mother of five children. After the death of her husband, she dedicated herself to works of charity and education.  In 809, in the Diocese of Baltimore, she founded the Institute of the Sisters of Charity for the purpose of reeducating girls.  Like Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, Elizabeth understood that education was a primary tool that was capable of raising up the Poor from their situation of misery and oppression.  She had the same attitude as Paul VI, who in his encyclical, Populorum Progressio, stated: Lack of education is as serious as lack of food; the illiterate is a starved spirit.
Also this week, on January 7th, we remember Blessed Lindalva Justo de Oliveira, a martyr. She was a member of the Daughters of Charity (the Province of Recife, Brazil). On  April 9th, 1993, Good Friday, Sister Lindalva took part in the parish Way of the Cross at 4: 30 in the morning. By 7 a.m. she was back at work to prepare and serve breakfast to the elderly and the infirm at the home for the elderly where she ministered. As she served coffee from behind a table one of the residents approached her and stabbed her 44 times. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been individuals who point out the path that leads to God.  Holiness is not limited to people of any one race or nationality.  Rather holiness is a universal call that is addressed to all people.  Indeed, we are all invited to preserve and develop, through the grace of God, that divine element which make us like our Creator. Brazil is a fertile and fruitful land… a land made such through the blood of the martyrs.  The martyrdom of Sister Lindalva occurred at a particularly critical moment… a time when so many people were caught up in clouds of darkness, in clouds of selfishness, hedonism and religious indifference. In the midst of that situation, Sister appeared in our midst in order to tell us that God was depending on us and that God continues to call people to service and to proclaim with their very life that it is worth the while to leave everything in order to be a light in the midst of the darkness of sin. Through her life and her death, Sister Lindalva teaches the world how to love God and how to love our neighbor. Blessed Lindalva Justo de Oliveira is a saint of the modern era.  She wholeheartedly offered her life and thus followed the example of so many other members of the Vincentian Family who also offered their lives to God during some other difficult and tumultuous times in the history of the Church. May Saint Vincent de Paul, our Holy Founder, and Sister Lindalva intercede for us so that, enflamed by the fire of charity, we might be tireless apostles of God’s infinite love and mercy toward the Poor, our lords and masters.

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM

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