A little History
Close to Curitiba, there was a fazenda called FAZENDA SANTA BARBARA; it belonged to the Ferreira da Costa and Martins Franco families. Dr. Arthur Martins Franco, the father of Sr. Belém, owned part of the land, and Dr. Arthur’s family had the habit of going there on weekends to rest.
Sr. Belém told us that since her childhood, when she came to Santa Barbara, she liked to pray and to dream of a place of prayer on one of the hills of the fazenda.
After finishing her studies at the Cajuru high school, she discovered that the Lord was calling her to religious life in Sion, where she had been a student when she first started school. She had not been able to continue her studies there, as the Sion high school had been closed for a while.
After her years of novitiate in Petrópolis, she made her first religious vows and was sent on mission to the Sion high school as a teacher in Sao Paulo, Higienópolis Avenue. She very soon became the school’s student adviser.
In the years 1947-48, when Mother Scholastique, a general councilor, visited Sion in Sao Paulo, she expressed the desire for a contemplative life. Mother Scholastique welcomed the idea, but it was never spoken of again, although in what followed, this fact influenced the decision to have a contemplative house in Brazil.
The desire for a contemplative life slowly matured, and one day she spoke of it to her confessor, Canon Antonio Maria Alves de Siqueira, who also did not take it into consideration. Seven years went by without the subject being broached. One day, he told her: “From now on, the Holy Spiritwill be your director…” That same day, she wrote to Mother Amédée and asked to transfer to the contemplative life.
It was only in 1950 that she received permission to leave for Grandbourg in France. Sister Belém began again her time in the novitiate, which was now directed by Mother Christine who was both the superior and the formation mistress.
The Curitiba Solitude
In January 1957, Sr. Belém and Sr. Anne Joseph arrived from France to examine the possibility of making a foundation in Brazil.
Several options were presented, but there was no adequate place for a convent. That is when they remembered the dream of having a house of prayer on the Santa Barbara fazenda…
Dr. Arthur Martins Franco offered beautiful land on a hill, where the “Solitude” convent was built with the blessing of the archbishop Dom Manoel da Silveira d’Elboux. In addition, that part of the land touches the part that Sr. Belém was to inherit.
At that time, Mother Isabel was provincial; she welcomed the project with great love. That same year, the convent’s construction began under the supervision of Dr. Arthur Martins Franco and Dr. Joaquim Monteiro Franco, Sr. Belém’s brother; it was also followed closely by Mother Geralda, the superior of the Sion high school in Curitiba.
On November 27, 1958, the feast of the Miraculous Medal, our Curitiba Solitude was founded, the first foundation in a mission country, which is to say, outside of the old Europe. Today, we would say: in the Developing World.
The sisters sent to the foundation were:
Sr. Belém, a Brazilian from Curitiba, who was to be in charge of the community for several years;
Sr. Silvia Maria, Brazilian;
Sr. Véronique Marie, French;
Sr. Marie Yvonne, French;
Sr. Bernadette Marie, from northern Italy.
November 27, 1958:
Rise at 5 a.m. Lauds at 5:30, followed by breakfast. The celebration took place at 9 a.m. Final preparation: the sisters from the high school arrived, bringing with them what was necessary for the coffee, and they helped us prepare the table. Dom Manoel, archbishop of Curitiba, arrived with two priests: the one in charge of ceremonies and another assistant. Several Jesuit priests were present, as well as the father and one of the sisters of Sr. Silvia Maria; the parents and other members of Sr. Belém’s family, and also friends and various sisters. Some members of Mother Isabel’s family were present as well.
At the time of the homily, Dom Manoel manifested his great joy over this foundation, precisely on the day when “Thanksgiving” was also being celebrated.