How I followed St. Francis of Assisi and found my path
By Mayra Santos
Program Coordinator, Portuguese-speaking countries
Global Catholic Climate Movement
My love for the stories of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi has been with me since I was a child. My parish is cared for by Franciscan Friars Minor, where I had my first contact.
Knowing that Francis was the patron saint of ecology for the love and harmony he had for God’s creation made me curious.
As a teenager I wanted to study veterinary medicine, and with little knowledge of my inspiration for Francis, it crossed my mind that I would have to take a course on the environment.
Thus, I was invited to get to know the Franciscan Youth (JUFRA) in the fraternity of my parish which, incredible as it may seem, even though I was frequently there as an altar server, I did not know about the group.
Here I learned about the St. Francis who was “an example par excellence of care for the fragile” and who “was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast” (LS 10).
From this, my desire to study and care increased, however, my parents did not have the financial means to support me in a course of veterinary medicine outside my city.
At that moment of deciding on a course in my city, it came to my mind that Francis and Clare, even in their time, showed care not only for all creatures, but also for all creation in which everything is connected and has to be in perfect balance. I remembered that as the patron saint of ecology, St. Francis inspired all those who study and work in the field of ecology.
The word “biology” appeared in my mind, and I understood that this was the way to learn about this balance.
I was studying biological sciences and continued in JUFRA, talking about small gestures for creation in the regional secretary service of Human Rights, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (DHJUPIC).
In 2016, I had my first contact with the Global Catholic Climate Movement, through an invitation from the National Secretariat of DHJUPIC, represented by Igor Bastos. I enrolled in the first class of Laudato Si’ Animators.
In 2017, with all this excitement as an Animator, I got a scholarship to study a master’s degree in zoology in the area of biodiversity conservation.
I continued as a Laudato Si’ Animator and in JUFRA, participating in events for awareness and collecting signatures for the Laudato Si’ Pledge, and I volunteered at GCCM events.
The year 2019 brought me more joys. I started my doctorate program in ecology and biodiversity conservation and as an Animator, I started to be part of GCCM’s team for Portuguese-speaking countries as its program coordinator.
I try to invite/motivate more people to live an ecological conversion, to which we are all called.
The “translation” of what science speaks in local examples and the importance of simple gestures for the environment give me strength and hope every day for a world with socio-environmental justice and equal rights for all.
And, in this way, I want to continue without losing sight of my beginning, as St. Clare says in her letters.
Mayra Santos is a biologist and holds a master’s degree in zoology, with an emphasis on conservation of biodiversity. She’s also a doctoral student in ecology and conservation. She is National Secretary of the Franciscan Youth of Brazil for the Northeast Area A and the Regional Ceará and Piauí. She also serves as the Program Coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for the Global Catholic Climate Movement.