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Meet the Postulator

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By Melanie Williams (Feb 19, 2018)
The following first appeared in the spring issue of Marian Helper magazine. Order a free copy.

As a little girl growing up in the 1970s, Sr. Ângela de Fátima Coelho would pray at the tombs of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the visionaries of Fatima.

She could never have imagined that years later she would play a lead role in the cause of their canonizations.

Sister Ângela — who will be the keynote speaker at the 14th Annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics, and Spirituality Conference, followed by presentations at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on May 12-13 — recalls as a child gazing upon the statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Cova da Iria and knowing she wanted to give herself totally to God as a religious sister.

She had another calling on her heart, as well — to become a medical doctor. She graduated with her medical degree in 1995 and was accepted the same year to the Congregation of the Alliance of Holy Mary, a religious order whose mission is to cooperate in the New Evangelization through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, especially by spreading the message of Fatima.

For years, Sr. Ângela practiced medicine — even taking care of some of the Marian Fathers in Portugal, who celebrate Mass daily for her community of sisters.

On June 25, 2009, Sr. Ângela received an unexpected invitation: She was nominated to become the postulator for the cause of canonization of then-Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto. This was a unique privilege: to verify that a healing is scientifically inexplicable and can be attributed solely to the intercession of the little Fatima visionaries.

"When I received the invitation to be [the] postulator ... my first reaction was the sense that I was receiving a mission that was bigger than my strength and capabilities," Sr. Ângela explained. "I was scared. I asked the Lord in my heart: 'Do You know what You are asking me? I will not make it' ... So I went to pray and in my soul echoed the words of Jesus to St. Paul: 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Cor 12:9). I then realized that all that was left for me to do was to say: 'Jesus, I trust in You.'"

For the past eight years, Sr. Ângela has enthusiastically lived her life with great confidence in Jesus and Our Lady.

Every time she received a medical case reported to be a miracle, she had to take a risk — a risk of putting long hours and heart-filled dedication into a study, many times concluding that the case would not be approved.

"That is the risk that a postulator takes," Sr. Ângela said. "In those moments, as expected, is frustration, feelings of deception and discouragement. I had to pray and abandon myself to God's will many times, knowing that He knew better than I did what the right time was to grant us the grace of the canonization of the little shepherds."

On March 3, 2013, in Brazil, a 5-year-old boy, Lucas Baptista, fell out of a window from a height of 20 feet while playing with his sister, Eduarda. He landed on his head.

After surgery, doctors told his parents that Lucas had little to no chance of survival, and if he did survive, he would be in a permanent vegetative state. His parents and a convent of Carmelite nuns turned to Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto for their intercession.

Six days later, on March 9, 2013, Lucas woke up and began to speak. Since that time, Lucas has been completely well and has absolutely no lingering effects from the accident.

Lucas' case was submitted to Sr. Ângela and her team. Sister Ângela shared that from the moment she started sensing that the medical case of Lucas was presenting the characteristics needed to be approved as a miracle, she lived in a constant state of commotion.

She said, "The work that I had ahead of composing the Positio (the official documentation of the case to submit to the Vatican for approval as a miracle), though complex and arduous, seemed light to me. [It] was my joy."

On March 23, 2017, the Vatican promulgated their decree approving the miracle. Sister Ângela said, "It was the moment for me to pray my Magnificat."

Jacinta and Francisco Marto were canonized by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017, during his pilgrimage to Fatima.

"The canonization gave a new meaning to my love for these children, who touched [my heart] since I was little," Sr. Ângela shared. "Until the date of my nomination [to become the postulator], Francisco and Jacinta were only the little shepherds of Fatima. Since then, they became part of my life and mission. And I feel that a postulator cannot desire to have a life different from the life of the saints which he or she represents. Thus, since 2009, Sts. Francisco and Jacinta have become a portion of the identity of my vocation. This is a gift and a privilege that only in eternity I will be able to entirely understand, but for which I already thank the Lord."

Sister Ângela continues to practice medicine to this day. In 2014, she consented to be a vice-postulator for the cause of beatification of the third and final Fatima visionary, Sr. Lúcia de Jesus dos Santos.

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Sonia - Feb 19, 2018

Very interesting and inspiring! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.