Hunger and the throwaway culture affect the marginalized in a special way, resulting in precarious lifestyles. In order to face this issue, a group of volunteers from the Colégio Espírito Santo (ces) organizes acts of solidarity to help the disadvantaged in Canoas, a city in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. While the condition of poverty causes disdain and dehumanization, lack of action and closing one’s eyes before those who live on the margins of society strengthen inequality and prejudice. The poorer one is, the harder it is. And in this situation of pain and suffering, pollution and disease are inevitable. Faced with so many silent cries for help, echoed in socially vulnerable and in central parts of Canoas, a solidarity project aimed at reducing hunger was created on 17 August 2021, thanks to the school community’s willingness to support the work of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS). Given the name “ces Mãos em Ação” (Hands in Action), the group is coordinated by Sérgio Velasques Garcia, an employee of the school run by SSpS.
The missionary action in Canoas takes place mostly through education, but as a congregation, we have a very wide field of mission in the world. SSpS ’ missionary charism calls women from different countries and cultures, chosen as an instrument of the Holy Spirit, to serve in proclaiming the Gospel. Founded by Saint Arnald Janssen, Blessed Mother Maria and Blessed Mother Josepha on 8 December 1889 in Steyl, the Netherlands, we are present on all the continents and in more than 50 countries, thus making us an international congregation. In the various dimensions of our work, we try to make the Triune God known, loved and glorified by all peoples. Although the “ ces Mãos em Ação” project is carried out within our educational missionary field, it is laypeople who are the protagonists. School bus drivers, for example, make their buses available to those who leave their jobs and homes to deliver meals in the city’s streets. While some work to promote food collection campaigns, others donate, organize and prepare the food to be distributed. On average, the group distributes a total of 150 “action” meals, in addition to occasionally supplying clothing, shoes, blankets, personal hygiene items, medicine and food for animals.
Moreover, there is the participation and voice of students who are part of the project and have a leading role in it. ces has many projects that involve the entire school community in solidarity campaigns, but the opportunity to do some good to other people was expanded by the creation of this group. Among social responsibility activities in Gincana, the students generously donate food, jumpers and other goods to those in need. During festivities such as Easter, Christmas and the World Day of Children, students are asked to collect donations of sweets and toys, which the volunteers, with affection and joy, use to organize special moments of play and snacks. These charitable gatherings usually take place in Vila Tabaí or in the “Mother Josepha” educational centre which assists preschool children. Located in the Fátima neighbourhood, the latter also belongs to the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit.
The volunteers also offer affection to homeless people because they are conscious of the value and dignity that we all have as human beings, and they know that an important part of the mission is also to bring love, a contribution that can somewhat alleviate suffering, thus fostering human fraternity. Many members of the group say they feel profound gratitude for the work they do. They try to raise awareness on the importance of this noble and urgent cause, generating perhaps future agents of transformation and sowers of hope. As a recipient of this “action”, Daniele Silva dos Santos, who lives in Vila Tabaí, says she is very happy with all that she receives from the group, explaining that she supplements the income to support her children and the animals she owns by working in recycling.
Thus, learning to give, to share and to reject consumerism without forgetting the poorest can and should proceed at the same pace as education. The trinitarian spirituality of the SSpS is focused on the relationship between Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and contains a model of community and society that we are called to build through dialogue, sharing and communion. Looking at the nature of the Most Holy Trinity, we are encouraged to commit ourselves with all our strength, so that all human beings in the world may live with dignity and see their rights respected, according to God’s will, and to promote life with the transformative power of love, especially where it is most threatened.
Sr Patrícia Zeponi, SSpS