As all eyes focus on Rio tonight for the opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics, we remember two intrepid Sisters of Charity of New York who spent a summer working in Brazil over sixty years ago.

In 1955 Sister Agnita Miriam Moylan, then assistant professor of social work at the National Catholic School of Social Service, Catholic University of America, gave courses in child welfare throughout Brazil, at the special invitation of the government. Previously, the Archbishop of Porto Alegre had asked for help in bringing modern concepts of child welfare to religious who ran children’s institutions in his diocese.

Sister Marie Leonore Fell, then chair of the History Department at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, accompanied Sister Agnita. They arrived in Rio just in time to attend the 36th Eucharistic Congress, as well as meetings of Pax Romana and other international Catholic organizations.

From mid-July through late August, Sister Agnita gave courses in child welfare for superintendents, board members, and social workers of private and public social work agencies and child care institutions. She also held sessions for students at a school of social work, and spoke to superiors of religious communities in the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

Sisters Agnita and Leonore then visited 4 other Brazilian cities: Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Sao Paolo, and Belo Horizonte. In each place Sister Agnita spoke with similar groups, and ended by conducting an intensive 5-day program in Porto Alegre. A total of about 1,200 persons attended all of the sessions she gave in Brazil.

Sr. Regina Bechtle