St. Dulce of the Poor was born on May 26, 1914, in Salvador, Bahia, as Maria Rita de Souza Pontes. When she was 13, Maria’s aunt took her through the poor area of the city, and the young girl was deeply impacted by the poverty she saw there. She began caring for the poor in her own neighborhood, giving them free haircuts and treating their injuries. 

At 18, Maria entered religious life, joining the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God in Sergipe. When she received her habit a year later, she took the name Dulce, in honor of her mother, who had died when she was six. 

Shortly afterwards, Sister Dulce founded the “Sao Francisco’s Workers Union,” the first Christian worker’s movement in Bahia. The next year, she began working with the poor communities in Alagados and Itapagipe, and those she ministered to began calling her the “Angel of Alagados.” 

In 1939, Sister Dulce began sheltering the sick in abandoned houses, bringing them food, medicine, and healthcare. After she and her patients were evicted, Dulce asked the mother superior of her convent to turn the chicken yard into a hostel. That hostel eventually became the Hospital Santo Antonio, a medical, social, and educational complex for the poor. Today, it has over 1,000 beds and sees over 3,000 patients for free every day. 

In May 1959, Sister Dulce established the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce, now known by its Portuguese acronym, OSID (Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce). It is one of the most well-known philanthropic organizations in Brazil. In 1988, Brazilian president José Sarney nominated Sister Dulce for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Today, OSID provides health, welfare, and education services. It is a private charity chartered under Brazilian law. 

In the last 30 years of her life, Sister Dulce suffered from lung failure and respiratory problems. She was hospitalized, and received St. Pope John Paul II from her sickbed. 

After 16 months in the hospital, Sister Dulce died on March 13, 1992, at the age of 77. She was buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. In 2000, her body was transferred to the Chapel of Santo Antonio Convent, and in 2010, she was finally buried at the Imaculada Conceição da Madre de Deus church, in Salvador, Bahia. Her body was found to be incorrupt, with even her clothes still preserved. 

Sister Dulce was canonized on October 13, 2019. She is the first Brazilian female saint.