Maria Antónia Cabral exclusively uses recycled materials to craft traditional Portuguese devotional images, which customers purchase as gifts. All proceeds contribute to supporting Christians through Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
At the age of 97, one might expect Maria to spend her time in relaxation, enjoying the company of her six children, 14 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. However, inspired by ACN's work, Maria creates and sells homemade images of saints, directing all the funds she raises to ACN to aid Christians worldwide.
“ACN entered my life several years ago. It is a charity I trust because I know it is a Catholic organization, and the funds it receives are well spent. With so many desperate situations globally, I am eager to help in any way I can,” Maria states.
While Maria was among the first ten women in Portugal to obtain a degree in architecture, her passion for art predates her academic pursuits. Recalling her teenage years, Maria shares, “When I was a teenager, I’d go to the market in Nazaré with my mother, and the fishmongers there had traditional handicraft images of saints in framed boxes on their stalls. They were so simple, but I loved them and later learned to make them myself.”
Known locally as “registos,” these traditional pieces date back to the 18th century and are typically printed images of saints framed and decorated. Maria's sought-after artwork serves as unique gifts for baptisms, First Communions, birthdays, or weddings.
Despite the ornate nature of “registos,” Maria utilizes simple materials, relying on what she finds or salvages. Her husband’s printing workshop provided boxes and colored glass, and she praises IKEA boxes for their smooth cardboard. Old clothes, curtains, or pillows are repurposed for textiles. Maria refrains from purchasing anything, ensuring that all proceeds from her sacred art benefit ACN.
Currently organizing an exhibition at the local town hall in Benfica, Lisbon, Maria says, “I read all the material ACN sends me, and that motivates me to do whatever I can. I had so many ‘registos’ that I decided to hold an exhibition, and all the money raised will be going to ACN.”
Maria stands as one of many individuals moved by the global plight of Christians, supporting ACN's work in various ways. ACN's 23 national offices receive donations from over 365,000 benefactors worldwide.