From Maria Rita
to Irmã Dulce

Second daughter of the dentist Augusto Lopes Pontes, professor of the Faculty of Dentistry, and Dulce Maria de Souza Brito Lopes Pontes, born on May 26, 1914, in Salvador, Sister Dulce received the name of Maria Rita de Souza Brito Lopes Pontes. The baby came to the world in Rua São José de Baixo, 36, in the neighborhood of Barbalho, in the parish of Santo Antônio Além do Carmo. The girl Maria Rita was a child full of joy, she loved to play dolls, to climb kites and had special predilection for soccer - she was a fan of Esporte Clube Ypiranga, a team formed by the working class and the social excluded.

At the age of seven, in 1921, she lost her mother Dulce, who was only 26 years old. The following year she made the first communion in the Church of Santo Antônio Além do Carmo, together with his brothers Augusto and Dulce (the beloved Dulcinha).

The vocation to work for the benefit of the needy population had the direct influence of the family, particularly an inheritance of her father that she carried forward, with the decisive support of her sister, Dulcinha. At the age of thirteen, thanks to her fearlessness and sense of justice -marked traces revealed when she was still very young-, Irmã Dulce began to welcome beggars and sick people into her home, transforming the family's residence - at Independence Street, 61, in the Nazaré neighborhood, in a social care center. The house became known as 'The San Francisco Ordinance', such as the number of needy people crowded her door. It was at that time too when, for the first time, she announced the desire to devote herself to religious life, after a visit with her aunt to an area with very poor people. 

On February 8, 1933, shortly after her graduation as a teacher, Maria Rita joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God in the city of São Cristóvão, in Sergipe. On August 13, 1933, she received the nun's habit of the Missionary Sisters and adopted, in honor of her mother, the name of Irmã Dulce.

Sister Dulce's first mission as a nun was to teach at a college maintained by her congregation in the neighborhood of Massaranduba, in the Lower City, in Salvador. However, her thinking was directed at working with the poor. Already in 1935, she assisted the poor community of Alagados, a group of stilts that had consolidated in the inner part of the district of Itapagipe. At the same time, she began to attend to the numerous workers in that neighborhood, creating a medical post and founding in 1936 the Workers’ Union of San Francisco - the first Catholic workers 'organization in the state, which later gave birth to the Workers' Circle of Bahia. In 1937, she founded, together with Frei Hildebrando Kruthaup, the Operational Circle of Bahia, maintained with the raised funds from three cinemas they had both built through donations - Cine Roma, Cine Plataforma and Cine São Caetano. In May 1939, Irmã Dulce inaugurated the Santo Antônio College, a public school for workers and their children, in the neighborhood of Massaranduba.

 

In 1939, Irmã Dulce invaded five houses on the Island of the Rats, to host the sick that she collected in the streets of Salvador. Expelled from the place, she pilgrims for a decade, taking her patients to various places in the city. Finally, in 1949, Irmã Dulce occupies a chicken coop next to the Santo Antônio Convent with her first 70 patients, after authorization from her superior. The initiative gave rise to the tradition propagated among the Bahia people that the nun built the largest hospital in Bahia from a simple chicken coop. In 1959, the Irmã Dulce Social Works Association was officially installed and the Santo Antônio Hostel was inaugurated the following year.

Irmã Dulce had the incentive to build her work from the Bahia people, Brazilians from different states and international personalities. In 1988, the President of the Republic, José Sarney, appointed her at that time, with the support of Queen Silvia of Sweden for the Nobel Peace Prize. Eight years earlier, on July 7, 1980, Irmã Dulce heard from Pope John Paul II, in his first visit to the country, the incentive to continue with his work.

Irmã Dulce and Pope John Paul II met again on October 20, 1991, during the second visit of the Supreme Pontiff to Brazil. John Paul II made a point of breaking the rigor of his agenda and went to the Santo Antônio Convent to visit the religious from Bahia, whose health was already greatly weakened due to respiratory problems. Five months after the Pope's visit, the Bahia people would mourn the death of the Good Angel of Brazil.

Sister Dulce died on March 13, 1992, shortly before her 78th birthday. At the funeral, in the Church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Beach, in Salvador, politicians, executives and artists mingled with the pain of thousands of anonymous people. The fragility with which she lived the last 30 years of her life - she had 70% of her respiratory capacity compromised - did not stop her from building and maintaining one of the largest and most respected philanthropic institutions in the country, a true work of love for the poor and sick.

 

 

  • 26 MAI

    Maria Rita de Souza Brito Lopes Pontes is born, at Rua São José de Baixo, 36, in the neighborhood of Barbalho, in the parish of Santo Antônio além do Carmo, city of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Daughter of the dentist surgeon Dr. Augusto Lopes Pontes and D. Dulce Maria de Souza Brito Lopes Pontes.

     

    13 DEZ

    She was baptized in the Santo Antônio além do Carmo Church.

  • 8 JUN

    D. Dulce, Irma Dulce’s mother, died at the age of 26.

  • Together with her brothers Augusto and Dulce, she made the first communion, in the Church of Santo Antônio além do Carmo.

  • She manifests for the first time her interest to devote herself to a religious life. At that time she was already attending patients at the gate of her house, in Independence Street, 61 - Nazaré neighborhood.

  • She knows in the Convent of Our Lady of Exile, Sister Rosa Schüller who for the first time told her about the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.

    14 FEV

    She was enrolled in the Normal School of Bahia, in the first year of the teacher's course.

  • 20 AGO

    She receives the sacrament of Confirmation from the Archbishop Augusto Álvaro da Silva.

    9 DEZ

    She graduates as a teacher by the Normal School of Bahia (nowadays the ICEIA).

     

  • 15 JAN


    She makes the profession of Third Franciscan, receiving the name of Sister Lucy.

    8 FEV

    She joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God at the Convent of Our Lady of Carmo in São Cristóvão, Sergipe.

    13 AGO

    She receives the habit of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. As a tribute to her mother, she is named Sister Dulce.

  • 15 AGO

    She issues her Holy Profession of simple temporary vows of Novitiate.

     

    SET

    She comes to Salvador, to work in the opening of the Spanish Hospital, in the company of the Sisters Tabita and Capertana, acting as nurse, sacristan, porter and responsible for X-ray.

  • She began the care of the needy community, especially in Alagados, a group of stilts that had consolidated in the inner part of the district of Itapagipe. She begins to attend as well, the numerous workers of that neighborhood, creating a medical post, with the Dr. Bernadino Nogueira’s help, her first collaborator and director. By this time the press begins to call she Angel of the Alagados.

    FEV

    She began teaching in the Children's Course, Geography and History at Santa Bernardete College that belonged to her Congregation, in the Largo da Madragoa.

    JUN

    Starts working with the Itapagipan Peninsule workers. 

     

    6 DEZ

    She inaugurates a library for the workers of Penha’s Factory, in Itapagipe.

     

  • 1 NOV

    She founded with the workers Ramiro S. Mendonça, Nicanor Santana and Jorge Machado, the Workers’ Union of São Francisco, the first Catholic workers' organization in Bahia.

  • The São Francisco Workers’ Union is transformed into the Bahia Worker Circle. 

    15 MAI

    The servant of God initiates her second novitiate. 

     

    15 AGO

    She issues her Holy Profession of simple perpetual vows.

     

    She helps to found the Plataforma and São Caetano cinemas, whose income contributed to the maintenance of the Worker Circle of Bahia.

  • 1 MAI

    She inaugurates the Santo Antônio College, in the neighborhood of Massaranduba, for workers and their children, with 300 children in the morning turn and 300 adults in the evening turn. 

     

    The invasion of five houses in Rats Island takes place; this fact will define the future of the social and religious action of the Servant of God.

  • 8 JAN

    Finishes the Official Course of Pharmacy.

    The Servant of God starts the kilo work in order to help poor families, with the Workers Circle help. 

  • It begins the campaign to enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the factories of Itapagipe.

  • 11 JUN

    She installed the Santo Antônio Convent, together with the Sisters Plácida and Hilaria, and the Servant of God as their 1st Superior, always next to the Worker’s Circle of Bahia.

    15 NOV

    Receives the title of Social Work Assistant.

     

  • 15 NOV

    Inaugurates the Roma Cinema.

     

  • She occupies the chicken coop next to the convent inaugurated in 1947, after the authorization of its Superior, with the first 70 patients, giving origin to the tradition propagated among the people from Bahia, of which the Servant of God built the largest hospital of Bahia from a simple chicken coop.

     

  • Starts the attendance service to the prisoners of the chain known as "Korea", due to the poor conditions of local hygiene, in the Dendezeiros.

    16 ABR

    Inaugurates in the premises of the Operational Circle of Bahia the SAPS (Food Service of Social Security) with lunch at popular prices (2 pennies).

  • 26 MAI

    Founds the Social Works Association Irmã Dulce.

     

    15 AGO

    Officially installs the Social Works Association Irmã Dulce.

     

  • 8 FEV

    Inaugurates the Santo Antônio Hostel, with 150 beds.

     

  • She inaugurates the Santo Antônio Educational Center (CESA), in Simões Filho, to host children with no family reference. The Government of Bahia, in the management of Lomanto Júnior, donated the farm where CESA works.

  • Beginning of the exclaustration period of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception’s Missionary Sisters of God’s Mother.

  • In Santo Antônio Hospital another pavilion called "Lar Fabiano de Cristo" was inaugurated, exclusively for people with disabilities. The pavilion was built with donation made by Capemi, through Colonel Jaime Rolemberg.

  • The period of exclaustration ends and Irma Dulce returns to her relationship with the Immaculate Conception’s Missionary Sisters of God’s Mother.

  • 26 FEV

    Her father, Dr. Augusto Lopes Pontes, dies, who in addition to being a bulwark next to his daughter, in the construction and consolidation of her works, was a great incentive for other social works, especially among them "Abrigo Filhos do Povo", located in the neighborhood of Liberdade.

  • 7 JUL

    The Servant of God has her first meeting with Pope Jonh Paul II.

     

  • 9 MAR

    Creates the Irmã Dulce Foundation.

  • 8 FEV

    Inaugurates the new Santo Antônio Hospital, with 400 beds.

     

  • 17 JAN

    Founds the Maria’s Daughters poor servants Association, With the intention of maintaining the charisma of his Work

  • José Sarney, the President of the Republic in that period, appointed the Servant of God for the Nobel Peace Prize, with the support of Queen Silvia of Sweden.

  • 11 NOV

    The Servant of God is hospitalized with respiratory problems.

     

  • 20 OUT

    She receives, on her sickbed, the visit of Pope John Paul II, for the last time.

     

  • 13 MAR

    She died on a Friday, at 16:45, aged 77, at the Santo Antônio Convent, located on Av. Dendezeiros, after suffering for 16 months.

    15 MAR

    At 20:00, she is buried on the altar of the Holy Christ, in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Conception of the Beach, in the Lower City, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.

See Also

Canonization

Related facts to the Process of Beatification and Canonizationd of Irmã Dulce.

Sanctuary

Known also as the Immaculate Conception of God’s Mother church, or the Blessed Dulce of the poor Sanctuary, is next to the headquarters of the Social Works. During the month of August, especially on the 13th, the shrine receives thousands of faithful to celebrate the liturgical feast of the Blessed.

Memorial

Permanent exhibition on the legacy of love and charity of the Blessed Dulce of the poor, gathering more than 800 pieces that help to preserve and keep the ideals of the religious alive.

Radio Program

Reflections inspired by the life lessons of the Good Angel of Brazil. The Today’s Irma Dulce program goes on air from Monday to Friday, from 3:40 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. on Radio Excelsior 840 AM.

Chaplaincy

A religious space, always with open doors and able to give spiritual support to those who need it most.

Tour Virtual

A walk through the memory of the Good Angel of Brazil.

Testimony

Leave your testimony
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