By Matthew Laird
Diocesan Seminarian
Special to The Anchor

HYANNIS — When school custodian Geovana Pinheiro arrived for work early Wednesday morning, she was not expecting there to be anybody inside waiting for her.

However, upon entering the building, she found herself surrounded by a gymnasium full of people and by the roaring sounds of cheers and applause. Fellow faculty members were waving American flags. Students clad in red, white, and blue were on their feet, hooting and hollering with great approval and admiration for their beloved custodian, shouting, “Miss G! Miss G! Miss G!”

Although masked, the strong reaction of Pinheiro to this touching moment was more than evident, with her face buried in one hand and the other raised towards heaven in a gesture of prayer.

For Pinheiro, a woman of deep faith, this was just another moment of grace in a lifelong journey led by God, a journey that had brought her from Brazil to the United States, and more recently, had included the pathway to U.S. citizenship, a goal which she had attained the day before in her passing of the final citizenship examination.

Having been raised in the small district of Serro in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Pinheiro left the country of her birth at the young age of 19 to seek a new life in the States. She had spent 19 years in Brazil, and it would be another 19 years until she would find her way to Saint Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis at the age of 38.

During that intermediary time, she held a number of different jobs at various nursing homes along the Cape. She began to develop a better mastery of the English language and soon discovered a deep love and passion for serving others.

While she very much enjoyed her time in nursing homes, in 2016 she saw an ad in a local paper for the position of custodian at Saint Francis Xavier Prep. and felt that God was calling her to something new.

During her five years at the school, Pinheiro was quickly embraced by all and has since become a truly beloved member of the Saint Francis Xavier Prep. community.

The school principal, Ms. Elizabeth Kelley, who was part of the team that hired Pinheiro in 2016, was quick to sing her praises when approached by The Anchor.

Kelley characterizes Pinheiro, or “Geo” as she calls her, as “a happy, positive, faith-filled individual.”

Kelley told The Anchor that Pinheiro can often be found cleaning the school with her earphones in, “singing joyfully to music, most often songs that give praise to Jesus.”  

When asked if she could describe Pinheiro with one word, Kelley chose “faith-filled.”

Mr. Chris Keavy, the Head of Schools for the Saint John Paul II High School/Saint Francis Xavier Preparatory School collaborative, also had many positive things to say about Pinheiro.

He told The Anchor, “Geovana is a breath of fresh air; she is positive, open, faithful, and hardworking. She connects with all students easily and takes a special interest in our Brazilian students. ‘Miss Geo’ is a blessing to our school community.”

Similar sentiments are reflected by Pinheiro herself in her own characterization of her relationship with the students.

She told The Anchor, “My relationship with the students is joyful, youthful, comfortable, and most of the time fun. The spirit of the school is positive, faithful, and peaceful. It is very gratifying to be working with such great people and around amazing students.”

Reflecting upon her surprise celebration, Pinheiro told The Anchor, “I reacted with a lot of emotion and I was very surprised. God had told me in prayer that he would honor my resilience and hard work towards this goal of citizenship, but I had no idea how he would do so. So, when I received this big surprise, it was a shock, but I was above all very grateful. It was a moment of gratitude and it showed me just how loved I really was.”

Pinheiro had the chance to share with The Anchor some of the long-awaited benefits of citizenship that she is looking forward to enjoying. She stated, “Long story short, having citizenship means everything. It means that God has given me a chance for people to respect me as a citizen and to not only look at me as an immigrant. It means that I will be able to help the U.S. with elections. It means I will not always have to harbor in the back of my mind the thought that I will be thrown out of the country. I am so thankful to Jesus.”

With a grateful heart, Pinheiro is ready to welcome this new chapter of her life with open arms. “I would like to thank Jesus one more time for everything he’s helped me through and everything he’s done and will continue to do for me in the future.”