The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, in Recife, northeastern Brazil, are involved in various social, health and education activities. Faithful to their charism and driven by Pope Francis’ invitation to go to the margins of society, they felt the desire to move beyond their everyday work in order to respond to the needs of their homeless brothers and sisters. The vulnerability of people without homes and food insecurity are growing problems in Brazil that were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020 and 2021.
The Micro da Caridade project arose from the social action of distributing daily meals to the homeless and making rounds in the city of Recife. There was a clear need to offer essential hygienic services, such as restrooms, clean clothes and basic health care, which were inaccessible luxuries to them. Thanks to international funding, a minibus with showers, an infirmary and a barbershop was set up. The initiative is geared towards some 60 homeless people, and provides restrooms, clean clothes, personal hygiene products, medicine and meals, in accordance with the Christian principle of personalized assistance. The project relies on the participation of volunteers from different sectors, including drivers, hairstylists/barbers, nurses, doctors and support staff. These volunteers donate their time and skills once a week, offering guidance on aid centres, like the Fazenda da Esperança, and helping reorganize personal documents.
As Daughters of Charity, we proclaim God’s merciful love through our service, following Saint Vincent de Paul’s example. We collaborate with other branches of the Vincentian Family to promote charity, mobilizing people of good will and organizing a network of services and assistance for the poor. The project is transformative and seeks to foster good health and well-being, aligning itself with the third sustainable development objective. The beneficiaries of Micro da Caridade report feeling welcome and that they are treated like human beings. There has been a weekly rise in the number of people who receive assistance, thanks to its being diffused through word of mouth. Our service must be disinterested, allowing God to work in us through all the people we meet. We must work creatively with others and be courageous, committed, flexible and open to collaboration. As Daughters of Charity we are called to help our homeless brothers and sisters, including children, young people, adults and the elderly, who face other forms of poverty, like loneliness, abandonment and invisibility. We must seek out and find those who are forgotten, and offer them practical help, remaining faithful to our Founders who answered the call to serve Christ in the Poor.
Throughout 2023, the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, present in 97 countries, commemorated 400 years since its foundress, Louise de Marillac, was first inspired to establish the Community. On 4 June 1623, the day of Pentecost, Saint Louise de Marillac went to the Church of Saint Nicolas des Champs, in Paris, to pray and participate in Mass. She was worried about her future as a wife and mother, and she had doubts about the faith. That day, she received inspiration, known as the “Lumière,” regarding the foundation of the Community. Louise received clarity regarding the need to stay with her husband, and the need to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a small community dedicated to serving others. However, given the numerous commitments she had, she did not know how to do this.
Saint Louise de Marillac realized that she would be able to live in a community at the service of her brothers and sisters, accepting Vincent de Paul as her spiritual director. Ten years later, in 1633, they founded the Company of the Daughters of Charity together. Dedicated to the poor, the sick and abandoned children, the Company spread to Paris and other areas. Today, the spirit of Pentecost continues to guide the Daughters of Charity in projects like Micro da Caridade in Brazil.
A. Oliveira, P. Almeida
and M. E. Alves