Tuesday, May 5, 2015
130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Sorocaba Priory
In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.
On September 28, 1905, Mother General Birgitta and Srs. Alphonsa Kellenberger and Lioba Schledorn, all of them Germans, arrived by train in Sorocaba, Brasil, invited by Fr. Miguel Kruse, prior of St. Benedict Abbey in São Paulo.
The purpose of the new foundation was to give new life to St. Benedict Monastery in the center of the town, without monks since more than ten years. Soon more Sisters came from Olinda which was founded two years ago.
Already in 1906 our school St. Scholastica College began with ten students (now more than a thousand). In 1908 the community bought a big old building at Rosary Square with the church dedicated to our Lady of the Rosary, built still by slaves in the 18th century.
On 31st of December of that year, at night, Indians with typical clothing joined at Rosary square for songs and dances to greet the authorities for the New Year. Thus the surprised Sisters could feel a little bit the soul of the original inhabitants of the country.
EXPANSION AND DEVELOPMENT
Increasing number of students and Sisters.
In 1919 a period of new foundations began according to needs – schools, pastoral assistance, catechesis, health care – some were closed later, others exist till today (Itapetininga, Rio de Janeiro, Araçoiaba, Presidente Prudente, São Paulo, Santa Rita d’Oeste, Cunha).
In 1922 our mission work in Roraima, Amazonas region, was initiated (for 27 years).
Our schools developed according to needs of each epoch: music, boarding school, trade, costless classes for poor, basic education for poor adults in evenings, teaching, nursing.
M. Melania (prioress general from 1920 -27) was prioress in Sorocaba from 1910 – 20 and 1927 – 1937. It was in Sorocaba that the first non-European novice made vows in 1912: Sr. Henriqueta Fernandes d’Araujo (from Olinda, followed by other Sisters from Sorocaba priory). Sorocaba priory sent the first non-European Sister as missionary to Africa (Angola) in 1956: Sr. Cristina Eloy Rosa, still alive. Other Brazilian Sisters followed.
In 1965 and 1985 new construction and modification of our church in Sorocaba with the mysteries of the Rosary painted by the famous artist Claudio Pastro.
Since 1990 groups of oblates were created in our communities. In 1995 the Benedictines of Epiphany (Buenos Aires, Argentina) were aggregated to Sorocaba priory. Now there are two communities in ARGENTINA REGION: Buenos Aires and Los Toldos.
In 1910 financial needs almost led to the end of the foundation; St. Benedict Abbey / São Paulo helped.
During the First World War our school was threatened to be closed, since the Sisters were Germans, but the public supervisor who came for visitation stated that everything was according to laws and the Sisters should continue with their excellent school.
In the seventies a lack of vocations – some years without novitiate – was a big concern of the priory.
BLESSINGS OF TODAY
v Increasing number of students, since families look for serious education according to Christian values.
v Social centers for poor children and youths in three of our communities.
v Pastoral work in places without resident priest, continued formation of lay people who are involved in pastoral activities, religious orientation of couples and families.
CONCRETE RESPONSE TO THE INVITATION OF POPE FRANCIS TO PUT THE NEEDS OF THE POOR AHEAD OF OUR OWN
In spite of our lack of Sisters, two Sisters were sent to our mission in Bulgaria, a country with great poverty and a minimum of Catholics.
Old and lonely people are visited by the Sisters, who also serve as ministers of the Holy Eucharist.
In Sorocaba, weekly two Sisters collaborate with the lunch for the street people, which is served near the cathedral.
In Cunha our Sisters make a big effort to maintain the hospital which serves the big population of the rural county including many poor.