Dona Lucilia Corrêa de Oliveira – Daughter, Wife and Mother According to the Heart of Jesus

Under the discreet appearance of mother of a family, Dona Lucilia lived a life of constant ascent, her soul forged in solitude, suffering and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Lucilia Ribeiro dos Santos was born on April 22, 1876 in Pirassununga, in the interior of São Paulo, and was baptized on June 29, with Our Lady of Penha as her godmother.1 The daughter of Dr. Antônio Ribeiro dos Santos and Gabriela Rodrigues dos Santos, she was a descendant of members of the São Paulo aristocracy of yesteryear.

Childhood surrounded by innocence and faith

Her childhood was particularly marked by her excellent upbringing, combining values from Portugal and the splendours of French culture, which governed the traditional families of São Paulo in the 19th century. In Lucilia’s formation, refinement and good manners were united with broad horizons and a spirit of faith, inherited from the practice of the Catholic religion at home.

Pirassununga appealed to young Lucilia for its calm. From an early age, her soul was open to contemplation and prayer, which was favoured by that tranquil setting. Life away from turmoil formed in her spirit a keen sense of wonder, born of continuous reflection and attention to everyday events.

Lucilia naturally enveloped the souls and creatures around her in a primeval vision of innocence – which she would maintain unscathed throughout her long life – and mythologized them, always considering their qualities. In her company, others encountered an ambience of seriousness, distinction and grandeur, an inclination that was fostered by the trips her family made to the little São Paulo of the time to visit relatives or attend aristocratic gatherings, where she experienced refined manners and good taste.

In 1893 Lucilia moved permanently to São Paulo, when she was seventeen years old. The family took up residence in a mansion in the Campos Elíseos neighbourhood, in the style characteristic of the splendours of the Belle Époque.

A lover of nature, music and poetry

Lucilia’s thoughts were focused on lofty considerations, which can easily be seen in the photographs of her that have survived. Her physiognomy denotes the depth of someone who understands the sublimity of suffering, and reflects her constant resignation and conformity to God’s will.

It was in this context that her ceremonious demeanour blossomed, which she would maintain even in her simple home pastimes. Lucilia mastered the piano and the mandolin, and also enjoyed composing poems or transcribing well-known ones to recite during family evenings.

Hiking, horseback riding on her father’s farm and contemplating the wonders of the sea on the family’s trips to Santos were also beneficial diversions that brightened her youth, fuelled her sense of the supernatural and which she would later remember with nostalgia.

Home formation and great suffering

During her long hours of prayer in which she placed herself in the presence of God, Lucilia felt a longing for religious life. Providence, however, destined her for marriage, according to her parents’ advice. Dr. Antônio suggested a suitor from an illustrious family in Pernambuco: Dr. João Paulo Corrêa de Oliveira, an accomplished lawyer. She agreed to her father’s wish, and on June 15, 1906 the wedding ceremony took place.

The state of marriage would add to Dona Lucilia’s supernatural spirit, as difficulties, disappointments and illnesses took their toll on her as a new wife, mother, and lady of the house. It was amid suffering, financial setbacks, family misunderstandings and the isolation caused by not conforming to a society that eagerly welcomed the abysmal changes that characterized the 20th century, that she would reach the pinnacle of herself.

In order to resist the invitations of the world, her life of piety became greatly enriched, nourished by a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which she drew the true torrent of goodness that would indelibly mark her relationship with her neighbour.

Over the years, she became so configured to her “Good Jesus” that anyone who approached her had the impression of being touched by a special unction, the fruit, no doubt, of the divine grace introduced into the soul of the baptized.

Sublime maternal spirit

Providence blessed the couple with two children, Rosenda and Plinio, upon whom Dona Lucilia poured all the goodness of her heart. Motherhood brought out one of the most sublime aspects of her soul, allowing her to take her dedication, friendship and understanding to unimagined limits. A heroic example of this was the fact that she vehemently preferred the life of her son Plinio to her own, after realizing that she would run great risks during the pregnancy…

The bonds of her affection, coupled with her overflowing patience and firm convictions, were to always be appreciated by those who came close to her. Irreproachable in this respect, Dona Lucilia would also be known in the family as a staunch Catholic, inflexible in matters of customs, an excellent educator in Christian principles, with which she knew how to form her children and help her nephews and relatives.

A legacy left on crossing the threshold of eternity

Dona Lucilia lived until the eve of her ninety-second birthday, surrendering her soul to God on April 21, 1968. To persevere unscathed in her principles in the midst of a world in deep crisis, was for her an honour as well as a real cross, one that led her to spend the last years of her life in almost complete isolation – mitigated only by Dr. Plinio’s filial solicitude.

She outdid herself in her maternal vocation, through her elevation of spirit
Dona Lucilia at age sixteen; shortly before her marriage; holding her son Plinio; and at eighty years of age

Having climbed the ladder of perfection until achieving full union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the secret of her soul seemed to be to outdo herself in her maternal vocation through a constant elevation of spirit. And it is from this towering vantage point, free of all superficiality, that we are able to see her true stature. The natural qualities of her noble soul, of an exemplary and affectionate nature, together with the supernatural virtues she practised, make her story immortal, especially for those who have already tasted the sweetness of her protection.

Indeed, the fact that Dona Lucilia continues her outstanding maternal mission from eternity is a constant affirmation for those who consider themselves her spiritual children. And each one of them is her most precious legacy to the world. ◊



1 This article is based on the biography of Dona Lucilia written by Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP: Dona Lucilia. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, 2013.



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