Lindalva Justo de Oliveira was born on 20 October 1953 at Sitio Malhada da Areia, in a very poor area of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. Lindalva’s father, João Justo da Fé, a farmer, was a widower. His second marriage was to Maria Lúcia de Oliveira. Little Lindalva was the sixth of 13 children born to the couple. Lindalva was baptized on 7 January 1954.
Her family was not well-off, but rich in the Christian faith. João moved his family to Açu so his children could attend school, and after many sacrifices he was able to buy a house where the family still resides today.
Besides following her mother’s good example, Lindalva demonstrated a natural inclination toward the poorer children and spent much time with them.
At age 12, Lindalva received First Holy Communion, and during her school years she was always happy to help the less fortunate. Later, while living with her brother, Djalma, and his family in Natal, she received an administrative assistant’s diploma in 1979.
From 1978 to 1988 she held various jobs in retail sales and as a cashier at a petrol station, sending some of her salary home to help her mother. Lindalva found time to visit the local home for the elderly every day after work.
In 1982, as she lovingly assisted her father in the last months of his terminal illness, she reflected seriously on her life and decided to serve the poor. She then enrolled in a nursing course, but also enjoyed those things typical of young people: building friendships, guitar lessons and cultural studies.
In 1986 she participated in the vocational initiatives of the Daughters of Charity. After she received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1987, Lindalva applied for admission to the Daughters. On the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February 1988, she entered the postulancy and edified her companions with her joy and genuine concern for the poor.
Her character was marked by a sweet disposition but also by truth. In a letter to her alcoholic brother, Antonio, she wrote: “Think about it and reward yourself. I pray for you very much and I will continue to pray and if necessary I will do penance so that you are able to fulfil yourself as a person. Follow Jesus, who fought until death for the life of sinners and gave his own life, not as God but as man, for the forgiveness of sins. We must seek refuge in him; only in him is life worth living”. A year later her brother quit drinking.
On 29 January 1991 Sr Lindalva was assigned 40 elderly male patients in the municipal nursing home in Salvador da Bahia. She undertook the more humble tasks and sought out those who suffered the most and cared for their spiritual and material well-being by encouraging their reception of the sacraments. Sr Lindalva would sing and pray with them, and she even took her driving test so she could take them out for rides.
During January of 1993, a certain Augusto da Silva Peixoto, a 46-year-old man with an irascible character, managed to be admitted to the facility through the recommendation of another even though he had no right to be there. Sr Lindalva treated him with the same courtesy and respect as the other patients, yet he became enamoured of her.
She prudently distanced herself from him and was cautious in his regard. Nonetheless, he explicitly declared his lustful intentions towards her. A simple solution would have been for Sr Lindalva to leave, but her love for the elderly caused her to declare, “I prefer to shed my blood than to leave this place”.
By 30 March Augusto’s advances became so insistent and frightening that she sought the help of a health-care official to restrain this unruly patient. Although he promised to improve his attitude and behaviour, he harboured hatred and vengeance that developed into a murderous plan.
On 9 April 1993, Good Friday, Sr Lindalva took part in the parish Way of the Cross at 4: 30 in the morning. By 7 a.m. she was back at work to prepare and serve breakfast as she did every day. As she served coffee from behind a table, Augusto approached and thrust a fishmonger’s knife above her collar-bone.
Sinking to the ground, she cried “God protect me” several times. Patients ran for cover. Enveloped in an insane rapture while holding up her body, Augusto stabbed her 44 times shouting, “I should have done this sooner!”.
He then suddenly became calm, sat down on a bench, wiped the knife on his trousers, threw it on the table and exclaimed: “She did not want me!”, and turning to the doctor, said, “You can call the police, I will not run away; I did what had to be done”.
The next day, Holy Saturday, Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, O.P., Primate of Brazil, celebrated the 39-year-old Sister’s funeral and commented: “A few years were enough for Sr Lindalva to crown her Religious life with martyrdom”.