Irmã Dulce (or Sister Dulce) (26 May 1914 - 13 March 1992) was a Brazilian Catholic nun who founded the Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce, or the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce, as it is known in English. Her work with the poor population in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, has made her a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church. In 2003, she was named Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.
She was recently named the most admired woman in the history of Brazil by "Estado de São Paulo" newspaper and the most influential religious person in Brazil, during the 20th century, by "Isto É" magazine. In 1949, she started caring for the poorest of the poor in her convent's chicken yard. Today, more than 3,000 people arrive every day at this same site (where the Santo Antônio Hospital now stands) to receive free medical treatment. Sister Dulce also established CESA, a school for the poor in Simões Filho, one of the most impoverished cities in the Metropolitan Region of Salvador and in the State of Bahia.
At the time of her death in 1992, Sister Dulce had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, she had received two personal audiences with Pope John Paul II, and she had, almost single-handedly, created one of the largest and most respected philanthropic organizations in Brazil.
She began to care for the homeless and beggars on her neighborhood, giving them free haircuts and treating wounds. By that time, she had already shown interest in following religious life. Her father, however, did not like the idea and insisted that she became a teacher .
Determined to house sick people who came to her for help, Sister Dulce started to shelter them in abandoned houses, in 1939, in Salvador's 'Ilha dos Ratos' (rats' island) district. Then, she would go in search of food, medicine and medical care. Later, when she and her patients were evicted from the neighborhood, she started housing them in an old fish market, but City Hall denied her the use of the space and told her to leave.
Facing a big problem and already taking care of over 70 people, she turned to the Mother Superior of her convent and asked her permission to use the its chickenyard as an improvised hostel. She, reluctantly, agreed, as long as Sister Dulce could take care of the chicken (which she did, by feeding them to her patients).
OSID provides health, welfare and education services, with a strong commitment to medical education and research.
The Santo Antônio Hospital is the largest 100% free hospital in Brazil, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. It has over 1.000 beds and receives more than 3.000 patients everyday.
OSID also established CESA (Santo Antônio Educational Center), a school for the poor in Simões Filho, one of the most impoverished cities in the Metropolitan Area of Salvador and in the State of Bahia. There, OSID provides free educational programs for approximately 800 children and young people ranging in age from from 6 to 19 years old.
CESA offers basic education in accordance with the guidelines of the Brazilian Federal Ministry of Education. In addition, CESA has developed a complementary program of educational, physical and professional development activities to help students learn more effectively and enrich their lives.
It also operates a commercial bakery and an orthopedic production center, staffed by professional workers, which produce and sell their products in many regions of Brazil and even internationally, following the idea of self-sustainability, which is part of the work concept created by Sister Dulce.
After being hospitalized for 16 months, Sister Dulce died at the age of 77, in Santo Antonio's Convent, and she was buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of Conception. On 26 May 2000, her body was transferred to the Chapel of Santo Antônio Convent.
Since June 2001 the process continues in the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. In June 2003, the Congregation received the Positio. At that same time, the Vatican juridically recognized the possibility of a miracle performed by Sister Dulce.
On 10 May 2007, in a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Brazil, the Governor of São Paulo, and former Presidential candidate José Serra said he will send a letter to the Vatican, in favor of Sister Dulce's beatification..