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Biography

Maria da Conceição Santos was born in the town of Diamantina, Minas Gerais State, Brazil on August 16, 1907. From a simple family, she received the true Christian values of the Catholic religion from her parents. Since early childhood, she manifested divine gifts and a vocation to religious life. She used to take part in celebrations of the Holy Mass, coronations, processions and rosary praying. In her homeland, Sister Benigna began her studies in primary school and learned to play various musical instruments. She was a very virtuous young girl. As a catechist and guitar teacher, she evangelized children and adults. She inspired her childhood and youth friends with great love for divine things.

On February 11, 1935, a day dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, Maria da Conceição Santos joined the Congregation of the Auxiliary Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. On March 19, 1936, a day dedicated to St. Joseph, she made her first religious vows in that congregation of Minas Gerais, changing her name from this date on to Sister Benigna Victim of Jesus. For love and divine inspiration, she chose such name, a true surrender to the full will of God.

She began her ministry providing religious services in locations selected by the congregation. The House of Charity Manoel Moreira Gonçalves de Souza, in Itaúna, in the state of Minas Gerais, was the first place she worked for. There, she made her perpetual vows on January 6, 1941 and graduated in nursing. On January 1, 1943, she was appointed as the Mother Superior, thus taking over that house. In her new role, she founded a maternity hospital designed to assist the needy mothers. After 12 years of dedication and hard work, Sister Benigna ended her mission in the city of Itaúna with great honours, certain that through faith and devotion to Our Lady, she had brought light to many families.

Typical of saints, Sister Benigna also suffered slander, such as rumours of a possible pregnancy and the charge of being a communist nun. Therefore, in 1948 she was transferred in a police car to St. Louis Nursing Home, in Serra da Piedade in Caeté / Minas Gerais State, where she found out about the maternity house demolition in Itaúna.

In Serra da Piedade, Sister Benigna was placed in a pigsty, thereby acquiring several diseases. Dr. José Nogueira, doctor and friend, in a visit to Sister Benigna realized the extreme fragility of her health, thus fearing the worst, announced the fact to the headmistress of that house, telling her that the congregation would be blamed for anything that might happen to the religious.

In 1950, Sister Benigna was nominated to provide services in a Nursing Hospital in the town of Lambari in Minas Gerais State. Tirelessly, she left her marks there, developing a great job as a midwife and nurse, dedicating care and love to everybody without distinction, as well as teaching that the prayer is the strength to overcome all difficulties and the way to obtain the grace of God, next to Our Lady. The number of people in town who recognized her extraordinary and divine gifts was constantly increasing.

In 1955, Sister Benigna went to Our Lady of Lourdes School in Lavras in Minas Gerais State. There, she taught the students the meaning of mercy, faith and the importance of the devotion to Our Lady. It was usual to find some desperate students asking for prayers to succeed in their tests. Sister Benigna always prayed with them, showing an example of abnegation, work and mainly charity. To honour Our Lady of Lourdes, Sister Benigna built a marvellous cave which was destroyed after she moved to the city of Sabará, also located in Minas Gerais State. There, in 1960, she worked at the Holy House of Mercy, where she dedicated time, affection and love to the needy people. Through the Hail Holy Queen, she taught that everything could be solved through Jesus and Our Lady. A number of people received benefits and were healed though her prayers. Among doctors, the sick and residents, she has acted superbly, showing the path to reach God.

In 1963, Sister Benigna again provides services at St. Louis Nursing Home (a house for the elderly), remaining there until 1966, when she was called to help in the reconstruction of Augusto Silva Nursing Home (located in Lavras in the state of Minas Gerais). Her arrival there was a blessing for the elderly, orphans and children who were passing through countless difficulties.

Sister Benigna lived in that house for the last sixteen years of her life. As a devout apostle of Jesus and Our Lady, she helped and healed those in need. She fulfilled her religious vocation as a missionary and assistant. People of all social classes were always looking for her. She used to receive everyone equally, always with a wide smile on her face, radiating joy and faith. She used to have great friends in Belo Horizonte, Lavras and other regions of the state, which always supported her. When there was no food in the Nursing Home, she would call these friends and they were always of great help.

On June 30, 1977, in recognition to her work to Lavras community, the City Hall, by unanimous vote, conferred the title of honorary citizen to Sister Benigna. (Draft Resolution: 003/77).

On August 16, 1980, Sister Benigna, with the help of friends and great sacrifice, launched the construction of the Chapel of St. Joseph, allowing Eucharistic celebrations for the elderly in the nearest elderly house. On August 16, 1981, in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes, she opened a beautiful cave in front of the Chapel of St. Joseph.

In the night of October 12 of that year, Sister Benigna entered the ICU of the Hospital Prontocor in Belo Horizonte, with severe chest pains. A pacemaker was placed in an attempt to save her life. Even with very poor health, she used to pray with every one that was looking for assistance in that hospital.

On October 16, 1981, after a life of dedication, donation and sharing, the great heart of Sister Benigna stopped, leaving deep scars on how to tread the path of Christ himself, through the exercise of charity. Her work had finished here on Earth.

DEVOTION TO SISTER BENIGNA: Sister Benigna, even after her death, remains a guardian angel for all. Her name elevates and enhances the Congregation of the Auxiliary Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Thousands of devotees continue to ask for her intercession with God, making her tomb, located in vault 145, block 9 of the Cemitério do Bonfim, in Belo Horizonte, one of the most visited for more than 28 years, due to the numerous miracles attributed to her.

Sister Benigna is recognized as the "Santa da Hora", and "the Saint of the Holy Queen and Wealth", due to the strength of her intercession. On all Mondays, from 2 p.m. on, the faithful used to gather around her grave, where the Holy Mass was prayed and celebrated, following the Novena of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. After the transfer of the religious remains to Novitiate of Our Lady of Mercy, both the Mass and Novena were transferred to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception at Lagoinha neighborhood, in the city of Belo Horizonte, where the faithful devotees, duly observing the same day and time, continue to gather in prayer craving that she will soon be on all the altars of Brazil and the world.

Source: communication team of AMAIBEN - Association of Friends of Sister Benigna.

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The Legacy
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