According to her son – now Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, 52 – what his parents told the doctors was that “if God has allowed us to conceive a child, that child will not be wasted. On the contrary, God will have a mission for that child, which they believe very strongly is that I would be a priest.”
The priest said that his parents didn’t like to talk about the doctors’ push to abort, and that they only informed him that had happened on the day of his ordination.
Despite his crippled arm, Msgr. Figueiredo was ordained in 1994 and has vast experience in missionary work and a hefty academic background in theology. He currently serves as a spiritual director to hundreds of seminarians studying at Rome’s Pontifical North American College, advises cardinals on their writing and speeches, and works closely with the Pope.
He has also met Mother Theresa and was able to work as a personal assistant to St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI for several years.
The priest largely credits his parents and their faith for encouraging his vocation, telling CNA that they “never discouraged me from being a priest.”
“With great sacrifice they sent all of us to Catholic schools and now with old age my mother is the happiest woman in the world, one would say, because she has a son who is a priest.”
Sarah, 84, told CNA that she and her husband had prayed that one of their three sons would become a priest, and that she knew this prayer would be answered in Tony, as she calls him, because “I dreamt that one day. I had a dream that one of my sons, the last one,” would be ordained. “I (knew) he had mission.”
While there are “a lot of blessings” in having a son who is a priest, one of the biggest came during a trip Sarah made to Rome to visit her son during the June 1-3 Jubilee for Priests.
Msgr. Figueiredo said he had been walking in the Vatican Gardens one day in April when he got a phone call from the Pope himself.
The Pope said that he knew the priest’s mother would be coming to Rome for the Jubilee of Priests, and wanted to meet her. Since he was busy throughout the three-day event, which concluded with a Mass June 3, Francis told Msgr. Figueiredo that “I would really like her to come to my home prior to that Mass.”
It was Pope Francis himself, then, who “completely organized everything,” and welcomed both the priest and his mother into his residence at the Vatican’s St. Martha Guesthouse the morning of June 3.
“It was very, very beautiful. He was just like an ordinary parish priest the way he made my mother welcome,” Msgr. Figueiredo said, recalling how Francis spoke about the number of children in their families and the biblical roots of some of their names.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
One particularly touching moment for Msgr. Figueiredo was when the Pope told him that he recognized the priest’s mother from a photo he had given him.
“I gave him the photo three years ago,” Msgr. Figueiredo said, saying it’s “quite extraordinary that this Pope, who is probably the most photographed man in the world, remembers each person. It’s as if he has them in his heart.”
Pope Francis also administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to Sarah, who has suffered from two strokes in recent years and in 2010 was diagnosed with aggressive, stage 4 breast cancer, but today is cancer-free.
The Pope “took his time, there was no rush, and he was particularly compassionate,” the priest said, noting how when his mother attempted to stand up for the anointing, Francis told her sit down and himself got up.
“I think that’s amazing from a Pope. There’s really no sense of being in authority, he’s really a servant, a servant of the servants of God. We touched that that day in his residence.”
Sarah, who carried the chalice up to the altar during the Mass after their meeting, said to visit the Pope was “a gift from God…I felt very proud that God had chosen me to come to this special occasion.”