Pope Benedict XVI has convoked a public ordinary consistory for a vote on the cause of canonisation of three Blessed for Monday, February 11th next.
* Blessed Antonio Primaldo and companions, martyrs;
Laura di Santa Caterina da Siena Montoya Y Upegui, virgin, foundress of
the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St
Catherine of Siena,
* Blessed Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, (Mother Laura
) co-foundress of the Congregation of the Handmaids of St Margaret Mary
(Alacoque) and the Poor.
Blessed Antonio was a tailor
in the city of Otranto, Italy, in the 1400s. In 1480 the city was
invaded by Turkish Muslims who threatened to kill all the men, but
promised to grant their lives and the freedom of their women and
children if they renounced their faith.
Antonio remained firm, and encouraged his fellow citizens to stand strong in their faith. He was the first to be beheaded, followed by 799 others.
Laura Montoya Upegui was
born on 26 May 1874 in Jericó, Antioquia, Colombia, the second of three
children to Juan de la Crux Montoya and Dolores Upegui.
was only 2 years old, her father was killed defending his Country, and
the family was left in extreme poverty after all their goods were
confiscated. At such a time of deep misery and loss, Laura's mother gave
an example of Christian forgiveness and fortitude that would remain
impressed in her young daughter's mind and heart forever.
Childhood suffering, divine help
her father's death, Laura was sent to live with her grandmother. She
suffered greatly from misunderstandings and the lack of affection,
feeling she had been left "orphaned". However, she accepted with love the sacrifices and loneliness she experienced and sought refuge in God.
she grew older, she was especially sustained by meditation on Sacred
Scripture and the strength she received from the Eucharist. When Laura
was 16, her mother decided that her daughter needed to help the family
in its financial difficulties and told her to apply to become a teacher.
Although Laura was culturally and academically "ignorant", having grown
up without a formal education, she asked to enter the "Normale de
Institutoras" of Medellín to receive training to become an elementary
school teacher. She was accepted and stood out for her high marks among
Called to "teach Christ'
teaching in different parts of Antioquia. She did not limit herself to
educating the students simply in academic knowledge, but sought to
diffuse Gospel teaching and values. She also felt called to the
religious life, her heart set on God alone, and dreamed of one day
becoming a cloistered Carmelite nun; at the same time, though, she felt
growing within her the desire to spread the Gospel to the farthest
corners of the earth, to those who had never met Jesus Christ.
She was ready to renounce her own "dream" of Carmel to be open to God's project, if his will was otherwise.
"An Indian with the Indians'
one time during her teaching career, Laura felt decidedly drawn to
helping the Indian population in South America and wished to insert
herself into their culture, to "become an Indian with the Indians to win
them all for Christ".
Recognizing their dignity as human beings in an
epoch when they were considered by many as "wild beasts", Laura wanted
to destroy this racial discrimination and to personally sacrifice
herself in order to bring them Christ's love and teaching.
On 14 May
1914, she left Medellín together with four other young women and headed
to Dabeiba to live among the native Indians.
This new religious family,
assisted by the Bishop of Santa Fe de Antioquia and known as the
"Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena", was thought
by some to be nothing more than a family of "religious goats", who were
heading off into the wilderness to give the "beasts" a living Gospel
Laura, however, cared little for public opinion, even if
some of the comments made came right from within the Christian community
Pedagogy of love
Mother Laura composed for her
"daughters" a directory and other writings (her Autobiography among
them) to help them understand better their call to serve God among the
Indians, and to live a balance between apostolic and contemplative life.
She taught by example the "pedagogy of love" as the only way to teach
the Indians, the way which allowed access into their heart and culture
to bring them Jesus Christ. Mother Laura died on 21 October 1949 in
Medellín, after a long and painful illness.
The last nine years of her
life were lived in a wheelchair, where she continued to teach by
example, word and writing.
Today her Missionary Sisters work in 19 countries throughout America, Africa and Europe.
María Guadalupe García Zavala was born on 27 April 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, to Fortino García and Refugio Zavala de García.
a child she was known for her piety and made frequent visits to the
Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, which was located next to the religious
goods shop run by her father. Her love for God was particularly
demonstrated in her love for the poor.
"No' to matrimony, "yes' to Jesus
With uncommon transparency and simplicity, María treated everyone with equal love and respect.
Although as a young woman she planned to marry Gustavo Arreola, she
suddenly broke off her engagement when she was 23 years old. The reason:
María "understood" that Jesus was calling her to love him with an
undivided heart as part of the religious life, and she fully believed
that she was called to do this by giving assistance to the poor and
Foundress of the "Servants'
When María confided to
her spiritual director, Fr Cipriano Iñiguez, her "sudden change of
heart", he told her that for some time he had the inspiration to found a
religious congregation that would provide assistance to the
hospitalized. He invited María to join him in this foundation. The new
Congregation, which officially began on 13 October 1901, was known as
the "Handmaids of St Margaret Mary (Alacoque) and the Poor".
"Poor with the poor'
worked as a nurse, giving assistance to the first patients that were
welcomed into "their hospital". Regardless of the poverty and lack of
material goods of the patients, compassion and care for the physical and
spiritual well-being of the sick were the primary concerns, and María
gave of herself wholeheartedly to carry out this task of love. Sr María
was named Superior General of the quickly-growing Congregation, and
taught the Sisters entrusted to her, mostly by means of her example, the
importance of living a genuine and joyful exterior and interior
poverty. She was convinced that it was only through loving and living
poverty that one could be truly "poor with the poor".
Indeed, Mother María was known for her simplicity, humility and willingness to accept all that came from the hand of God.
In times of "dire straits", Mother María asked her spiritual director
for permission to go begging in order to collect money for the hospital.
Together with other Sisters, she would seek offerings until the needs
of the hospital and patients were met, and would ask no more than was
The Sisters also worked in parishes to assist the priests and to teach catechism.
Risking life to help those hiding
1911 until 1936, the political-religious situation in Mexico became
uneasy and the Catholic Church underwent persecution. Mother María put
her own life at risk to help the priests and the Archbishop of
Guadalajara to "go into hiding" in the hospital. She did not limit her
charity simply to helping the "righteous", but also gave food and care
to the persecutors who lived near the hospital; it was not long before
they, too, began defending the sick in the hospital run by the Sisters.
last two years of Mother María's life were lived in extreme suffering
because of a grave illness, and on 24 June 1963, she died at the age of
85. During the lifetime of the foundress, 11 foundations were established in the Republic of Mexico.
Today, the Congregation has 22 foundations and is present in five different Nations: Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.