Sister Isabel da Costa Araujo

Araujo, IsabelCurrent Ministry Location: Brazil

A bubbling, enthusiastic fountain of joy is how most people describe Sister Isabel.  She is the first woman from East Timor to become a Maryknoll Sister!

Sister Isabel was especially excited when she received her first mission assignment to Brazil.  “My brother speaks Portuguese,” she explained, “and while I was visiting the Philippines once, I met two people from Brazil.  I prayed, ‘Lord, please send me to Brazil.’ And now I am saying ‘Thank you, God! You are GREAT!’”

Sister Isabel had been drawn to religious life since she was a teenager.  In 1991, she joined a Secular Institute, the Community of Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  This Institute is dedicated to empowering the poor to be self-reliant by developing cottage industries and agriculture, as well as spiritual growth.   While there, Sister Isabel taught reading and math and was helping to mainstream the students into the regular school system.  During her time with the Community she was assigned to study in Asmi Santa Maria Yogyakart, Indonesia, and got her diploma in Factory Management. She was with this community until 2003.  She said of her time in that Community: “I learned how to love and serve my own people. I am grateful for all experiences that I have had.”

Sister Isabel first met Maryknoll Sisters in 1990, when they arrived in her District Aileu, East Timor.  Some of the Sisters were her teachers in High School.  In 2004, Sister Isabel started working with Maryknoll Sisters and Lay Missioners, assisting people with disabilities at the Saint Francis of Assisi Workshop.  Together with Ellen Villeckey, they provided education programs for families and schools.  This was her first experience working with missioners. From them she said that she learned selflessness by the way they go out beyond themselves, going to foreign lands, learning a new language, history and customs of the local people, and by their willingness to work with the people.  She said: “It was amazing to me to see all that the Sisters and lay people have done for my people.  It was here that my call to become a Maryknoll Sister began.”  During this time of working with Maryknoll Sisters, several Sisters, particularly Sister Susan Gubbins, began to inquire about her plans.  Feeling an increasing energy inside her when she considered the possibility of becoming a Maryknoll Sister, the still young woman said to herself, “Why not?”

Sister Isabel entered Maryknoll in August, 2009 and made her First Vows in 2011.  She was assigned to Brazil in 2012.  There she was involved in various types of pastoral works: visiting the sick and elderly in their homes, in hospitals, at a children’s shelter, and elderly shelters, as well as working with the Legion of Mary.  Sister Isabel’s creativity was shared as she also worked with women making handcrafts, paintings, crocheting, embroidering, etc.

Sister Isabel returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in August 2017, where she entered into a time of discernment before Final Vows called the Reflection Phase.  On August 12th, 2018 Sister Isabel, together with three other Maryknoll Sisters, made her Final Vows.  Later that year she returned to Brazil to continue her mission work with the people there.