Feature Woman: Gabriela de Faria Lira – Pediatric Chaplain

Gabriela de Faria Lira

Pediatric Chaplain for the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

By Meredith Kay

Photography by David Teran

“Walking Patients and Their Families Through the Spiritual Journey of Healing”

It’s not very often that you hear someone say that they felt a calling to follow a particular life path as a child, but that is exactly what Gabriela de Faria Lira will tell you. She grew up in Recife, Brazil, where her family was very involved with their church and served on missionary trips throughout Brazil.

In 2009, Gabriela decided that she wanted to pursue a life in ministry, and she felt that this path would require her to learn English, so she traveled to San Antonio to enroll in ESL classes and attend Baptist University of the Américas. She earned a full scholarship and graduated with her B.A. in Biblical Theological Studies in 2014.

Gabriela then moved north to Abilene to attend Hardin-Simmons University for seminary school, graduating with a Master of Divinity in Family Ministry in 2016 while also completing her residency with Christus Santa Rosa Health System. The Director of the Clinical Pastoral Education program, Mary Davis, was so impressed with Gabriela that she encouraged her to apply for a full-time position with The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Her interview took place on the day of her graduation, and she was given the gift of her dream job in healthcare ministry.

Today, Gabriela brings emotional comfort and spiritual support to young patients and their families throughout the hospital as a chaplain. Gabriela says, “Each patient has a different story. The child changes throughout the treatment process, as their lives are affected by illness or injury. I’m honored to be the person to walk through this journey with them.”

Gabriela works with the Hematology Oncology Team and acts as an advocate for bone marrow transplant patients and their donors. She also works with the Child Life Department to educate young patients about the process before and after surgery. However, one of the more difficult aspects of her chaplaincy is her work with mothers in Labor and Delivery. It is Gabriela’s job to both celebrate and sometimes console women during this experience. She states, “When a mother loses a baby, there are no words. Sometimes it is just having a spiritual presence there that brings comfort and allows a family to move through the grieving process.”

The hospital holds a beautiful monthly funeral service for those babies who pass prematurely. There is a ceremony in the hospital’s garden on the second Friday of each month, and then, if a family chooses to participate, there is a common grave burial at San Fernando Cemetery to “honor the journey” and celebrate each little angel’s life. 

Gabriela beams when she speaks of her own family. She met her husband, Fabio Melo de Alcantara, a professional soccer coach, when her father called her and asked her to speak to a young man at their church in Brazil who was interested in coming to Texas to study. She resisted at first, but after their first meeting in 2017, they quickly fell in love. Their daughter, Maria Julia Lira de Alcantara, is now three years old, and Gabriela continues to give her gratitude to God for her path that has led her to San Antonio and into the lives of those youngest patients who need her most. 

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