Joelma Francisca Melo

45 years old; Bachelor of Law and Librarianship; Current Activity: Civil Police Inspector – Rio de Janeiro State; coordinator in the Pilgrim Mother Campaign
Schoenstatt Women’s federation

What experiences have marked your life as a woman?

Being raised in a family with 7 women marked my experience, because through the example of my mother and my sisters, who were much older than me, I was able to learn how a woman should behave in relation to her body, her garments, and that being a woman was not a reason to be dependent on a man, so I should study and work, but I should also behave with modesty in speaking and dressing. In a poor neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, my mother being an elderly person, I was already 65 years old when she adopted me, with little schooling, this marked my youth, because the dream of the girls of that time was to marry a rich man. To have a religious mother, with a personal friendship with Mary, to the point of one day confessing to me that sometimes I was ashamed to love Mary so much and to think I was in sin for it, was fundamental in my moral and religious formation.

Another experience that marked my life as a woman was when I started working in the Civil Police. An environment dominated by men, where most of them have a prejudiced and distorted view of women, where women are seen as impediments at work, like those who want to take the place of men, and who are not capable for the job, is very difficult. During this same period of integration, Divine Providence took me to Schoenstatt and then I was able to become more aware of the proper nature of the divine nature of woman, of the mission given by God to each one and the need to fight, to also be in my workplace the model of the woman desired by God, which I think is one of the great missions that I have and for which I try to educate myself to fulfill.

Where in your life have you had the experience of God?

My first experience of God was at my baptism, when I was 12 years old, and the priest anointed my breast with the oil and said: “May Christ penetrate your life like this oil in your breast”. It was an experience that marked my life greatly. I also had deep experiences with God when I received the sacrament of Confirmation at the age of 18, when the Bishop laid his hands on me. It was something so remarkable that I could not stop crying during the celebration. After getting to know Schoenstatt, these experiences intensified. Through the Eucharist, the meditations, some readings, and events of life, I could feel and perceive the work of God and the Blessed Mother in my life.

What do you consider the challenge for women today?

I consider as the greatest challenge for women today the discovery of their mission in God’s plan. Women need to know the plan that God had in creating them, that they are responsible for generating life, not just biological life, but the life of grace. It is a great challenge to promote actions that help women understand that the nature of their being does not compete with that of man, that true freedom is to let God reign through her, as He did in Mary and so many other holy women, canonized or not, like Gertraud von Bullion. Woman today needs to know that she is loved personally. That the great story of love, heroism and empowerment happens when she discovers this supernatural love that God the Father has for her. Women of today who discover this great love become great personalities in the environment where they live.

What do you want to change in the world through your life?

I want the world to know the love of God. That each person can have a personal experience with God and truly know that God loves her personally, that He cares for her in the smallest details and that He is with her. This experience that I had in Schoenstatt, when I realized that I had a Father, that He loved me and that He always took care of me. When you look at the story of your life and then you perceive his acting, his care in every moment of your history, then you discover your love for the Son that he sent into the world and you want everyone to have this same experience, which is the experience of Redemption. He loved me, loves me and gave his life for me.

I try to lead the people that God entrusts to me to have this experience. Today I am aware that it is no use talking about how a person should behave, or what is or is not a sin. I must first give my testimony. Our Church is the church of testimonies. It was so in the early years of evangelization that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you strength; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). For I am indeed a witness of God’s love and my life and my actions must convey this. If people can see God’s love through me, then I will be changing the world, for God will be reigning.