Like caring for roses

By Sr. Mona Kelly, O.L.M.
March/April 2009

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Our daily paper here in Fortaleza recently published an article about teenagers who live and die on the streets of our city and other major cities in Brazil. The article said that 1,000 young people died tragically during 2008 in Fortaleza alone. That means roughly three victims of violence a day. Drugs and alcohol are the basic causes of most of the robberies, motorcycle accidents, gang activities, and so on.

 Sr. Mona Kelly visits Genaina in the hospital. Fortaleza, Brazil. Sr. Mona Kelly visits Genaina in the hospital. Fortaleza, Brazil.

And in the middle of it all we members of the Pastoral team of the Archiocese of Fortaleza try to reach out to these precious ones. We want them to feel that they are loved and cared for despite their lack of capacity to care even for themselves.

Genaina is one of the young women that I met on the street some years ago. She had left her home at the age of five to live on the street with an older sister, Adriana. Her mother, an alcoholic, also lives on the street.

Our pastoral team has accompanied Genaina from the age of five to this present time. She is now 22. Caring for people like Genaina is like caring for roses. You know there is a beautiful person in there but years of abuse have hardened the roots and it takes persistence and constant care to bring out the real beauty.

This past year Genaina was literally dying on the street. We visited her regularly, trying to convince her to have treatment. Finally, her older sister, Adriana, who is still on the street with a young baby, managed to get her into a hospital that treats people with TB as well as alcohol and drug addictions. The staff in this government hospital is very dedicated and treat their patients with dignity. After just two weeks, Genaina had gained weight, was smiling, and obviously feeling much better about herself.

Scarboro missionary Beverly Trach, Conceição, a retired university professor, and Lucivania, a mother of three teenagers take turns visiting Genaina once a week. The miracle is that she has stayed in the hospital six months. The TB is under control and she has been off drugs all that time. Her doctor is very concerned about what will happen when she is discharged and will not let Genaina go until she is sure that a safe place will be available for her.

While Genaina was in the hospital, her street friend Diogo died of AIDS. Genaina was devastated. Diogo was kind and had always looked out for her. We were very concerned for Genaina because of this loss that she experienced, but she seemed to gain peace with the death of her friend. She told us she was praying to Diogo to help her. With tears in her eyes she said, “I will really, really miss him. He was my best friend.”

We are encouraged in our pastoral work, knowing that, like Genaina, it is possible for young people living a harsh existence on the streets to respond to love and with love.

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