Maria Rita de Souza Brito Lopes Pontes, known as “Irma Dulce” became Sunday the first woman born in Brazil to be declared a saint.
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Born in Salvador de Bahia on 26 May 1914, the Brazilian nun was officially baptized as “Saint Dulce of the Poor” in the presence of a crowd that included several Brazilian faithful, including the country’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, and Paolo Vilotta, the postulator for her canonization.
During her life, Sister Dulce dedicated herself to serving the poor, the sick and the marginalized, and developed an important social work in her home state of Bahia, where she founded several charity hospitals and a social support system which she directed until his death, on 13 March 1992 at the age of 77.
Her canonization comes 27 years after her death, the third-fastest process in recent history after Pope Saint John Paul II (nine years after his death).
The process began in 2000 when the Brazilian nun was considered a “servant of God.” Nine years later, Pope Benedict XVI granted her the title of “venerable.”
Benedict beatified her in 2011.
She was among five to be granted sainthood by Pope Francis during Canonization Mass at the Vatican.
The pope also canonized two other nuns: Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911), an Italian who founded a religious order; Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyn (1876-1926), an Indian who also helped the poor.
He also canonized Marguerite Bays (1815-1879) a Swiss lay woman who was said to have the stigmata, the five wounds of the crucified Jesus.
As is custom, Francis proclaimed the sainthoods in Latin and asked that their names be written into the Church’s book of saints.
All five of the new saints were attributed with interceding with God to perform miracles.
The Church teaches that only God performs miracles but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them. A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of a person.