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Fr. Anthony of Saint Anne Galv„o (1739 - 1822)

Franciscan Priest and Founder of the Conceptionist Sisters

 

Anthony Galvão was born in 1739 in Guaratinguetá, São Paulo State, Brazil, to a deeply religious family of high social standing.

His father, Antonio Galvão de França, who was active in the world of commerce, belonged to the Third Order of St Francis and was known for his generosity. His mother, Izabel Leite de Barros, who bore 11 children before her premature death in 1755 at age 38, was equally known for her generosity. In fact, when she died, none of her clothes could be found because she had given them all to the poor.

When Anthony was 13 years old his father sent him to the Jesuit seminary in Belém, but due to a growing anti-Jesuit climate, his father later recommended that he pursue his vocation with the Franciscan Friars instead.

At age 21, on 15 April 1760, he entered the novitiate of the St Bonaventure Friary in Macacu, Rio de Janeiro. During his novitiate he was known for his piety, zeal and exemplary virtues.

He made his solemn profession on 16 April 1761 and took the Franciscan vow to defend the Blessed Virgin Mary's title of the "Immaculate"; at that time it was still a controversial doctrine.

A year later he was ordained a priest and sent to St Francis Friary in São Paulo, where he continued his studies in theology and philosophy. In 1768 he was appointed preacher, confessor and porter of the convent, an important post.

In 1769-70 he served as confessor to the "Recolhimento", the Recollects of St Teresa in São Paulo. Here he met Sr Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit, a prayerful and penitent nun who claimed to have visions where Jesus was asking her to found a new "Recolhimento". Fr Galvão, her confessor, studied these messages and consulted with others who recognized them as valid and supernatural.

He therefore collaborated in the new foundation and Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence was established on 2 February 1774. It was modelled on the Conceptionists.

After Sr Helena's sudden death on 23 February 1775, Fr Galvão became the new head of this young Institute, a post he assumed with humility and prudence.

During this time a change in São Paulo's Government brought an inflexible leader who ordered the closing of the convent. Fr Anthony accepted the decision with faith, the Sisters obeyed but did not leave the premises, and due to popular pressure and the Bishop's efforts, the convent was soon re-opened.

Subsequently, the number of vocations increased and more living space was required. It took Fr Anthony 28 years to build the convent and church, with the latter being dedicated on 15 August 1802.

In addition to the construction work and duties within and outside his Order, Friar Galvão committed himself to the Recollect's formation. The Statutes he wrote for them is a guide for the interior life and religious discipline. In 1929 this convent became a monastery, incorporated into the Order of the Immaculate Conception.

Just when things seemed more tranquil, another government intervention brought Fr Anthony a further trial. The Captain General sentenced a soldier to death for having slightly offended his son, and the priest was sent into exile for having come to the soldier's defence. Again, popular demand succeeded in having the order revoked.

In 1781 Fr Galvão was appointed novice master in Macacu. He was later named guardian of St Francis Friary in São Paulo in 1798, and was re-elected in 1801. But the "Recollects" and the Bishop of São Paulo appealed to the Provincial:  "None of the inhabitants of this city will be able to bear the absence of this Religious for a single moment...". As a result, he returned.

In 1811 he founded St Clare Convent in Sorocaba, São Paulo. After 11 months, he returned to São Paulo to St Francis Friary. In his old age, he obtained permission from the Bishop and the guardian to stay at the Recolhimento da Luz. He died there on 23 December 1822.

Fr Anthony of Saint Anne Galvão was laid to rest in the Recolhimento Church, and his tomb continues to be a destination for pilgrimages of the faithful who obtain graces through the intercession of this "man of peace and charity".

    

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