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William F. McKee, CssR

SHE said: “She’s dying.  Will you come and bless her?”

I said: “Yes.” and hurried into the other room to dress in my clerical garb of Redemptorist white habit, black cincture and 15 decade rosary and picked up my sick-call kit.

SHE took me in her car.  I was surprised.  There were very few cars in our parish here in the slums of the city of Belem, Brazil.  When she started to leave the confines of the parish I asked her "Where are we going?” She said, “To the city.”  We entered the city and then went on to a section called “The Red Light District.”  I mentioned that to her and asked her if the dying woman was a prostitute.  She said, “Yes”.

WHEN we got to the brothel, there were eight women gathered around the dying woman’s bed.  She was unconscious.  But when I bent down and whispered in her ear that I was a priest and was here to bless her, she opened her eyes.  I asked her if she could blink her eyes.  She blinked them and started to cry.  I was deeply moved.

I got close again and asked her to ask God to forgive her all her sins and to blink if she understood me.  She blinked.   I then went on to give her the Sacraments.   Then we started the rosary in which all the women joined.  During the rosary, the woman died.

WE talked for an hour or so, mostly about the dead woman and then about the life of a prostitute.  At one point I asked them if they had ever thought about giving up the life.  Only two of them said yes.  One said:  "We have no other means of living and supporting our children.”  Another said, “You are a priest and you do not know anything about sex.”  I said I did but they were not impressed. 

WE talked a lot more and then I asked them all to kneel down and I would give them my blessing.  They did and I blessed them silently, asking God to bring them all into a new life.

THEY took me down to the waiting room to leave.  There were two men in the room.  When they saw me, one got up and said “O meu Deus, que e” bom?" (O my God, what’s this?)  I said to them “Deus e’ bom.” (God is good.)  And I left.

AS we were going back to the parish I asked my driver what made her come to our parish to get a priest.  She said that all the ladies came every Tuesday to the devotions in honor of our Mother of Perpetual Help.   I knew that the devotions were very popular (we have about 18,000 come to the 16 services we have every Tuesday) but I did not know that the ladies for The Red Light District came.

WHEN I got out of the car, I went to our house chapel and knelt down and prayed for them.  All of a sudden I remembered something that our founder, St. Alphonus, said about prostitutes: “They are more sinned against than sinning.”  I believed him.


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