‘Renascer’: A home in Brazil for pregnant women and victims of abuse

In the southern part of Brazil, the Carmelite Sisters Messengers of the Holy Spirit welcome at-risk pregnant women into a group home, offering them “the heart of God that welcomes those society does not want.”

By Sr Emanuela Prisco

Joinville, southern Brazil. Ever since 2012, a community of six sisters belonging to the religious family, Carmelite Messengers of the Holy Spirit (cmss), has been running the group home, “Renascer”, which was initially established as a non-profit organization. The facility has been around for more than 30 years and has as its mission, welcoming and providing physical, social, psychological and spiritual assistance to socially vulnerable pregnant women and their children, throughout the pregnancy and until their babies are three months old.

As the name of the Home indicates, the Carmelite Sisters’ essential work in the Home offers the women staying there a true and proper opportunity for rebirth. Women arrive there not only from Brazil but also from neighbouring Latin American countries. They are young, some even as young as adolescents, victims of domestic violence or prostitution, without prospects in life or any other way out except abortion.

Sisters spend time with the women

Sisters spend time with the women

In addition to welcoming the pregnant women, the religious also provide support and affection for the women’s other children, giving them the opportunity to attend school. Moreover, they help the women start a new life when they leave the group home, finding them a dignified job and a home to live in.

Sister Marli is one of the religious involved in the project. Speaking to Vatican News about the Home, she says, “It is an initiative that is a true mission in the social field and in defence of life, and it provides a service of ‘Special Social Protection’”. This is why many of the women housed there “have to remain anonymous, since in some cases they are fleeing from situations of violence and abuse. In other cases, especially in dealing with under-aged girls, their parents decide to entrust them to the centre in order to help them develop a sense of responsibility”.

Two sisters with two newborns assisted by the home

The sisters’ work, or better, mission, is first of all to welcome the women with an evangelical spirit, with love, joy and hope. “We want to help them in the process of psychological, spiritual and social reorganization”, Sister Marli adds.

Sister Ana Maria, a social worker who lived in the Home until 2022, shares what she describes as “a beautiful experience”: “We can see God’s mercy and love in each mother and child we welcome. God is great. He wants to save, to redeem, to tend to their wounds and lead them down a new path, one fit for a true daughter of God. This Home is something more than just an institution. It is the heart of God that welcomes those society does not want”.

One of the characteristics of this Home is its complete reliance on Providence. The structure receives no state or regional funding, and is sustained by the donations of generous men and women who choose to offer their help. Thanks to the volunteers and encouraged by the Sisters, the women are also taught how to make various crafts which are sold and used as funding. These profits are used to support the facility and to help the women have some money when they leave it. The many volunteers help the community support itself (sometimes also financially) and promote charity events for the maintenance of the building and the future of the young women.

A sister helps a woman cook a meal

A sister helps a woman cook a meal

One of them is 33 years old. She is a mother of five children and has custody of her three brothers. “I was pregnant with my fifth daughter and had recently separated. I could not support my pregnancy or pay my rent or support my daughters and my brothers”, she wrote in a letter. “A friend of mine told me about the existence of Renascer. She took me to visit the Home and speak with the sisters…. I was welcomed into the facility where my life was transformed. They gave me all that my children, my brothers and I needed, in addition to the necessities for my baby, freeing me from all worries. I thus had a more peaceful pregnancy with all the necessary medicine that I had not received from the healthcare system. I was also given access to medical visits to keep the situation under control, as well as to courses to teach me a dignified trade. Moreover, when I left the Home, I received all the assistance I needed to begin a new life. The Sisters helped me find a home for my children and my three brothers, and also a school. They helped me with furniture, which I did not own, with clothing, food baskets, vegetables, bread, school materials… Every Christmas and on other celebrations with the children, the Sisters always organized a small party and prepared something special”.

“For me, as someone who was unable to provide for all of this, it was very important,” the woman concluded.

A pregnant woman stitches clothes for two dolls