Remembering Maria de Lourdes Machado Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary

Posted November 19, 2021

Remembering
Maria de Lourdes Machado
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary
March 21, 1924 – November 7, 2021

Maria de Lourdes Machado was born March 21, 1924, in Rio Casca, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Before she entered the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary in 1947, she was an elementary school teacher. As a religious she taught for many years in Rio and was headmistress of the school there. She served twice as Provincial Superior of the Brazilian Province and as General Councillor to Sr. Marguerite Marie Gonçalves.

Sr. Maria de Lourdes was elected ninth General Superior on August 16, 1975. She was responsible for implementing the directives of the 1975 General Chapter document, “Mission: A Call to Justice.” As part of this implementation each province was asked to send sisters to parts of the world where people are poorest and religious are fewest.

Continuing the work already begun on the renewal of religious life, Sr. Maria de Lourdes established a commission that led to the writing of the new Constitutions which were approved at the 1980 General Chapter. A woman of the Church, Sr. Maria de Lourdes was invited by the Holy See to attend the meeting of the Latin American bishops in Puebla, Mexico, in 1978.  Her term as General Superior ended August 3, 1980.

Sr. Maria de Lourdes contributed fully to the life and mission of the Institute through every phase of her life. To mark the Centenary of Father Gailhac’s death, in late 1989/early 1990, she gave a retreat on our RSHM charism in all four countries where we were present in Africa. When asked to contribute her wisdom, knowledge, and experience to serve on the Institute Committee which planned an Experience of Internationality for Newer Members in 1992-1993, she generously said, “Yes”.   Sr. Maria de Lourdes brought these same gifts and generous spirit to the service of the Brazilian Province. She continued to be engaged with province ministries, contributing to the dialogue on significant issues and participating actively in the work of committees.

 Profoundly wise and prophetic, she accurately read the signs of the times and used her voice to inspire and empower others. With a broad world view and a fierce passion for justice, she named structures that oppressed and boldly proclaimed the Gospel’s preferential option for the poor. Her life was a witness to solidarity with and commitment to “those most in need of justice”.

Sr. Maria de Lourdes was dearly loved by her RSCM sisters globally and by all whose lives she touched.  She was a gracious and kind woman, with a gentle presence that exuded warmth. Maria de Lourdes was greatly admired and respected by all generations. With a gift for listening deeply and her patient heart, she guided and mentored our sisters, friends, and neighbors.  Sr. Maria de Lourdes had a wonderful sense of humor and was delightfully spontaneous. Skilled with a needle, her handiwork can be seen in many communities and homes.

Throughout her religious life, Sr. Maria de Lourdes offered herself and her gifts to the building up of God’s reign. Well into her later years, she lived with and among the marginalized of society where she continued to participate in Ecclesial Base Communities, lending her knowledge of Scripture and her lived spirituality to their growth and development. She was a force for what was good and made an impact and lasting impression on the lives of many.

Sr. Maria de Lourdes will always be remembered for the ways that she loved. We who mourn her loss will find consolation in the knowledge that our sister and friend is at peace and lives in the presence of the One who is love.

Throughout her religious life, Sr. Maria de Lourdes offered herself and her gifts to the building up of God’s reign. Well into her later years, she lived with and among the marginalized of society where she continued to participate in Ecclesial Base Communities, lending her knowledge of Scripture and her lived spirituality to their growth and development. She was a force for what was good and made an impact and lasting impression on the lives of many.

Reflections and Gratitude

Maria de Lourdes Machado had a big influence on me and I believe on our Area. I met her first when she visited our community in Skipton and she came into a Religion class I was taking and started to talk to the boys and girls about Brazil and football. In 1977, I was helping at the EGC which took place in Hillingdon and we realised that there was something serious going on.  It seems that Maria de Lourdes was not happy that Provinces had done very little to implement the decisions of the 1975 Chapter.  That was when the resolution was made to send a group of Sisters from each Province to live and work with the poor in places where there was not a strong Church presence. That changed my life, as our Province decided to send sisters to Brazil – and I was very happy to be one of the group. I do believe that it was the beginning of change in many Provinces, as the fact of sending a small group to the very poor impacted on the other sisters. It meant that more of us left the traditional schools where we were teaching and went into roles where we were more directly in touch with the poor and vulnerable. When we went to Brazil and had finished language school, it was Maria de Lourdes who helped us to discern where we would go in Brazil. That was a new thing too – imagine, that in 1979 we were sent out as a group without a superior and told to decide where we should go! We were so grateful to have the help of Maria de Lourdes who led us wisely and left us free to make our decision. It was always a joy to meet her, to see the light in her eyes and the lovely smile. We are grateful for her presence and her leadership at a crucial time in our Institute.

Mary Jo McElroy, RSHM

 

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”    Albert Schweitzer

These words caught my eye recently and express how genuinely and profoundly Maria de Lourdes Machado has impacted my life as a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.  I met her when she visited California as a member of the General Council.  Her warmth and life-giving energy was palpable and her being Brazilian resonated with my own Latin roots.  As a young member, this RSHM sister from afar, made me feel even more welcome within the RSHM family.    As General Superior she had the responsibility of implementing the 1975 General Chapter Statement: Mission—A Call to Justice.  Maria de Lourdes communicated this call with strength, passion, and courage.  Over all the years since then when I have been asked to name a prophetic person in my life, I always say without hesitation Maria de Lourdes Machado.  When I was impatient and very discouraged with what seemed to “young me” as a sluggish response to embracing justice as an integral part of our mission, it was the prophetic voice of Maria de Lourdes that rekindled the flame within me.  During all these years since then she has remained a light that has inspired me for mission.   For me and my generation she has been an authentic prophetic voice.

Cathy Garcia, RSHM

 

 

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