Sr. Clemência de OLIVEIRA, Heading to the Altars of Sainthood
A Brazilian Daughter of Charity from Ceará is heading for the altars of sainthood! The Servant of God, Sr Clemência de Oliveira (Francisca Benícia de Oliveira), widely known simply as Sr Clemência, was born on 23 August 1896. She came from a humble family in Redenção, a mountainous region of Ceará. She was the eldest of 13 children of José Joaquim de Oliveira and Franscisca Saraiva do Nascimento. Benicinha, as her relatives affectionately called her, nourished her faith and intimacy with God through her Marian and Eucharistic devotions since her youth. Unexpectedly orphaned at the age of 18, she took care of their home and her 12 siblings.
At the age of 23, after a period of discernment, she entered the postulancy of the Company of the Daughters of Charity in Fortaleza, capital of Ceará and, after only three months of postulancy, given her deep spirituality and the virtues of humility and charity, she was sent to the novitiate in Rio de Janeiro.
In obedience, she was sent to the Immaculate Conception School in Fortaleza and received her name from the superior; from that moment on she was called Sister Clemência. She took on the tasks of the laundry, the sewing room, and the kitchen where, as cook, she had to prepare meals for 300 people daily. She stayed in this mission for 12 years during which she contracted a serious kidney and lung infection as well as diabetes.
In 1933, with the purpose of resting, she was sent to found the Patronage in Pacoti – CE. But prioritizing the needs of the people, she put aside her tiredness and pains and threw herself at the service of those who suffered from various illnesses due to hunger and lack of hygiene. In Pacoti, she spread her gift of healing even without having taken a nursing course and gave comfort and encouragement to the hundreds of people who came to her. However, she spent a short time in this mission and in obedience to her superiors, returned to the College of the Immaculate Conception in Fortaleza, Ceará.
In January 1943, Sr. Clemência was sent to the city of Baturité-CE, to a nursing home to take care of the older persons in the village and an out-patient clinic since at that time there was no hospital in the city. In Baturité, Sr Clemência developed her apostolate heroically: in caring for 700 large families, in seeing hundreds of people each week, in being a pioneer in home care for patients who could not reach the out-patient clinic and in her constant begging for alms whether at the market in Baturité or in the capital of the state. The strength of this woman of slender build and frail health was truly impressive.
After 23 years of mission in the city of Baturité and already enjoying a reputation for holiness during her lifetime, her illness worsened and she had to have her foot amputated which led her to fall into a coma. She died in the odor of sanctity on July 2, 1966 at the age of 70, with 47 years of life consecrated to God in the Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The whole city mourned and a multitude from all corners of the country gathered at her burial and lamented “The mother of the poor is dead.”
Sr. Clemência’s process of canonization began in April 1995 with the then Archbishop of Fortaleza, Dom Aluísio Cardinal Lorscheider. On August 10, 2001 the diocesan process was concluded with the presence of the Most Rev. Dom José Antônio Aparecido T. Marques. At the moment, the “Positio super virtutibus” is being prepared which, once approved, will raise Sr Clemência de Oliveira, Daughter of Charity, to the title of Venerable. A first miracle is still awaiting to be approved so that she may be elevated to the tile of Blessed and a second miracle will declare her a Saint.
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