Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes, a Brazilian religious sister who devoted her life to the sick and the poor, will be beatified May 22 in San Salvador de Bahia in northeastern Brazil.
If a new miracle is recognized after her beatification, Sr. Dulce could become the first female Brazilian-born saint.
Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, Archbishop Emeritus of San Salvador de Bahia, will preside over the Mass. Officials expect 70,000 people to attend, including numerous civil and religious leaders.
Maria Rita Lopes Pontes was born May 26, 1914 and in San Salvador de Bahia and later joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.
Sr. Dulce devoted her life to the needy, founding hospitals and a social support network she managed until her death on March 13, 1992, at the age of 77. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 for her charitable works. Then in October 1991 she was visited on her deathbed by John Paul II during his second visit to Brazil.
Her network of hospitals and clinics for the poor in Bahia continue to serve more than five million people each year.
The beatification process of Sr. Dulce began in 1999. Four years later, 10 Brazilian and three Italian doctors certified a “case of extraordinary healing” that was unanimously recognized by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
The miracle occurred in January of 2001 when Claudia Santos de Araujo, a Brazilian woman devoted to Sr. Dulce, suffered severe hemorrhaging after childbirth and fell into a coma. Doctors gave her only hours to live.
A priest friend who knew of Claudia's devotion to Sr. Dulce prayed to her for the woman's health. In a matter of hours, Claudia was completely cured.
Doctors could find no explanation for her recovery, and two days later she was released from the hospital with her baby.
Sr. Dulce was declared venerable by the Vatican in 2009 and last year, when her remains were exhumed and transferred to the Cathedral of San Salvador, she was found to be incorrupt.
One theologian who reviewed her case said, “Her charity was tender and motherly. Her devotion to the poor had a supernatural origin and she was given the strength and means from on high to put into practice an amazing apostolate of service to the poor.”
St. Antonio de Santa Anna Galvao (1739-1822), who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the country in May of 2007, is currently Brazil’s only native saint.