Friar Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão was born in Guaratinguetá, a city located in the São Paulo state (Brazil), in the Paraíba valley, between the mountain ranges of Mar and Mantiqueira. This place began as a small chapel in honor of Saint Anthony, around 1630. By 1651, there was a village functioning there. Later on many important religious events would take place in this town.
In 1717, the famous statue of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, was found in the Paraíba river, near Itaguaçu port, at the end of the village.
Shortly afterwards, in 1739, Antônio Galvão was born in the village. He was baptized in the main church in honor of the Franciscan saint, Anthony.
Today that spot is the Cathedral of the area. According to locallegends, Friar Antônio Galvão inherited all the gifts and sanctity of his name sake.
Antônio was the fourth of ten children of Antônio Galvão França, shop owner and Governor of the province in Guaratinguetá. His father was born in Portugal, in the city of Faro. Antônio had for a mother Mrs. Isabel Leite de Barros, a descendent of the “Bandeirantes” from São Paulo (a Brazilian type of pioneer). She lived on the Correas estate in Pindamonhangaba.
As a child he was raised in a very devout, catholic family. That house, today reconstructed, was on the corner of the old streets of the Hospital and Theatro, today known as the Frei Galvão and Frei Lucas streets.
Because of his intellectual abilities and desire to lead a religious life, his parents let him leave home at 13 to go to the Seminário de Belém, at Cachoeira in Bahia.
When the Jesuits had to return to Portugal, the seminary was closed down.
At 18, Antônio returned home to Guaratinguetá. His loving mother had died two years before. Since his desire to serve God had not changed, shortly afterwards he went to Convento Franciscano de São Boaventura de Macacu, in Itaboraí, in the Rio de Janeiro area. He adopted the religious name of Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão in honor of his family’s devotion to that saint.
He was professed as a Franciscan in 1761, and the following year, ordained priest in Rio de Janeiro. He was transferred to the Convento de São Francisco in São Paulo, to finish his studies in philosophy. On his trip there, he was able to stop on at Guaratinguetá to celebra te a “First Mass” in his home town. It was a great joy for his family and all those who participated. Thus he began his priesthood celebrating a mass in the same church in which he had been baptized.
One of his first acts as a priest was to consecrate himself as a “servant and slave” to our Blessed Mother, an act which he signed on March 9th, 1766, using his own blood! This event was painted two hundred years later by Friar Geraldo Roderfeld, OFM, and is on exposition in the Hospital e Maternidade Frei Galvão in Guaratinguetá.
Arriving in São Paulo, he quickly made a name for himself as a preacher, being chosen as the official preacher, father confessor of seculars, doorkeeper and father confessor at Recolhimento de Santa Teresa.
He became so notable at this that the city council declared that he was “a new splendor of the convent”.