Sarah Figueiredo was pregnant with her last child when doctors advised she abort her unborn baby. Early in the pregnancy, Sarah was prescribed the thalidomide sleeping pill to help with morning sickness, a pill that was discovered to cause severe birth defects in unborn babies.
The children of mothers who took thalidomide often had phocomelia, a condition that consists of shorted or absent limbs, Catholic News Agency reported. Doctors suggested Sarah have an abortion, but Sarah and her husband, both Catholic, instead chose life for their baby.
Their son Anthony was born with a crippled arm, but that did not stop him from succeeding in life. Their son was ordained in 1994 and is now a spiritual director to seminarians at Pontifical North American College in Rome, CNA reports.
Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, who is now 52 years old, explained that his parents told the doctors that “if God has allowed us to conceive a child, that child will not be wasted. On the contrary, God will have a mission for that child, which they believe very strongly is that I would be a priest.”
Msgr. Anthony has done a great deal in the Catholic Church. He was able to meet with Mother Teresa and worked as a personal assistant for St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, according to the report.
One day while strolling in the Vatican Gardens, Msgr. Anthony received a phone call from Pope Francis. The pope told Anthony that he wanted to meet his mother Sarah, who was coming to Rome for the Jubilee of Priests. Pope Francis invited Msgr. Anthony and his mother to come to his home after a Mass, the report states.
On June 3, Pope Francis met with Sarah and her son at the Vatican’s St. Martha Guesthouse. Msgr. Anthony described the meeting: “It was very, very beautiful. He was just like an ordinary parish priest the way he made my mother welcome.”
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Catholic New Agency explained the visit:
Pope Francis also administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to Sarah, who has suffered from two strokes in recent years and in 2010 was diagnosed with aggressive, stage 4 breast cancer, but today is cancer-free.
The Pope “took his time, there was no rush, and he was particularly compassionate,” the priest said, noting how when his mother attempted to stand up for the anointing, Francis told her sit down and himself got up.
“I think that’s amazing from a Pope. There’s really no sense of being in authority, he’s really a servant, a servant of the servants of God. We touched that that day in his residence.”
This story is a beautiful reminder of the potential every person has. Sarah courageously gave her son life, and Anthony has used this gift to serve God and neighbor.