Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 22, 2005
Two children hear Christ's call
Brazilian nuns, about to take their final vows, discerned their path as children
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Aprecocious child, Oslarina da Silva wore a handkerchief on her head to imitate the veils worn by local Brazilian nuns. Her family had recently moved from a farm to the capital city of Brasilia while her parents were Baptist, the young girl wanted to join her friends who went to a Catholic church. There she saw the nuns and became curious.
Why do these women dress this way, she wondered? Because they are wives of Jesus, she was told. They have dedicated their lives to serving the poor and the sick, as Jesus did.
She was only seven years old, but da Silva recalled recently that the statement rang true because she felt the same way.
"I was baptized Catholic because Brazil is a Catholic country, but I was not brought up in a Catholic family," da Silva said. "We were poor. When we moved to Brasilia, I was curious why my friends went to church. I asked my mother if I could go with them. I didn't know the difference. We had catechism and the teacher told us to write the Our Father. I wrote from my heart what I thought she meant, but when I compared it with other children, I wondered why mine was so different. I folded the paper and hid it in my pocket."
Now in her 30s, Sister Oslarina da Silva will profess her commitment to the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (Polish) by making final vows Aug. 27 at Holy Rosary Church. Sister Lazara Maria da Trindade will also make her final vows at that time.
Archbishop Thomas Collins will celebrate the service slated for 6 p.m.
Da Trindade said she believes her call to religious life came at an early age. "I think my vocation developed in my crib because my parents were very religious."
Originally from Goias, a small town in central Brazil, da Trindade was teased that she would become a nun. She prayed the rosary as a nine-year-old. She had a desire to be a nun, but she also had a lot of growing to do.
Goias had a small group of cloistered nuns, but da Trindade did not see them often. So her mother arranged for her to visit the convent. "I was still only nine years old. I remember one sister who told my mother that I was too young, but keep praying and I will come back later."
Sister Ewencja Dada, superior of the Edmonton house of the Sisters Servants, said having the two women join the order is a blessing.
"It was a great surprise, especially in Canadian society," Dada said. "If someone is interested, they search and look, but that is it. They never enter a convent.
"Suddenly, these two young women did something totally different. From their experiences with the previous order, they bring stability and maturity. It is a great blessing from God that after so many years of praying, they came," she said.
"This is an example for people who feel the call of God."
The women did enter religious life in Brazil, joining the same congregation in Sao Paulo - the Missionaries of the Poor. They became friends. Although they were serving the sick and the poor as they had hoped, they felt their spiritual needs were not being met. In 1995, they were sent to Terrace, B.C.
"We are going to a mission in Canada? The missionaries should come to Brazil," da Silva recalled thinking at the time.
"I never made the connection that Canada would have poor people too. There are the material poor, but also the spiritual poor," she said. "My family did not want me to go. But now, they are very proud of me because I am strong and they know they have the support of my prayers."
Da Trindade feared the news about going to Canada would break some hearts in her family. She asked her superior to tell her parents. "My parents had no idea of snow. They see it on television, but it is difficult to have a picture of it."
After five years in Terrace, Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George suggested they attend a retreat in Edmonton in 2000 at the Grey Nuns Centre. Two days after arriving in Edmonton, they met the Sisters Servants who were a perfect fit for what the women were seeking.
First glance, first love
"It was like first glance, first love," da Trindade said, who had not heard of the SSMIs previously. "They had a more intense prayer life. They were directly involved with children and parish life. We were also drawn by the congregation's (Polish) roots."
SSMIs run the Sisem daycare for pre-schoolers, teaching the young ones catechism. The order also helps to prepare students in Polish ethnic elementary schools for First Communion.
The women discerned joining the order. They gathered information while talking with several people. They agreed it was the right move to make.
Their immediate families will not attend the ceremony but da Silva and da Trindade will be reunited with them next year when they travel to Brazil for a pilgrimage.