Brazilian 19th century laywoman Francisca de Paula de Jesus, known as “Nha Chica,” is one step closer to beatification after Pope Benedict approved the decree recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession.
On the official website promoting her cause, the Franciscan Sisters of the Lord said they had the great joy of communicating to the Brazilian faithful “that His Holiness Benedict XVI decreed the beatification of Paula de Jesus.”
“Nha Chica, as she is called, is now the first Brazilian laywoman of African descent to be beatified,” the sisters said. They also announced that the date of her beatification would be set by Bishop Diamantino Prata de Carvalho of Campanha.
Francisca de Paula de Jesus was born in 1808 in the village of Sao Joao del Rei in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The daughter and granddaughter of slaves, Francisca was orphaned at the age of ten and devoted her entire life of works of charity.
Although she was never a member of religious community, she was considered “the mother of the poor” and was respected by all who knew her, from the poor to the most powerful of her time.
She never married as she decided to devote herself completely to the Lord. Unable to read herself, she was elated when others read Sacred Scripture to her.
Francisca was known for her devotion to Our Lady of the Conception, in whose honor she built a small chapel next to her home where she interceded for all those asked for her prayers.
In 1954 the chapel was entrusted to the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Lord. Today a ministry for poor children operates next to it.
After a life of prayer and service to those most in need, Nha Chica died on June 14, 1895. She was declared a “Servant of God” by Pope John Paul II in 1991.