Saint María Josefa of the Heart of Jesus - Feast Day: March 20
Born in Vitoria, Spain, on September 7, 1842, Saint María Josefa felt called to religious life at a young age. Her childhood was marked by a strong piety to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was also known for her concern for the poor and the sick. Her father died when she was age 7, and at age 15, her mother sent her to live with relatives in Madrid so she could receive a better education. When she returned home at age 18, she expressed to her mother the desire to entered cloistered life.
She had originally intended to join a contemplative community, but an outbreak of typhus put those plans on hold. Saint María Josefa then realized the Lord was calling her to a more active religious life. She decided to enter the Institute of the Servants of Mary, an order that had been recently founded in Madrid, but then experienced doubts, feeling especially called to care for the sick, children, and the elderly, both in hospitals and in their homes.
Along with three other Servants of Mary and with the permission of the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, Saint María Josefa started a new religious order in 1871, the Institute of the Servants of Jesus. She was 29 years old at the time and served as superior of the order for 41 years. She felt it was the calling of the Servants of Jesus to accompany the sick “until the door of eternity.”
Saint Maria Josefa once wrote: “Don't believe sisters that the assistance consists only in giving medicines and food to the sick. There is another type of assistance that must never be forgotten, and it is the assistance of the heart that adjusts and enter in sympathy with the person who suffers and go to meet his necessities.”
At the time of her death in 1912, Sister María Josefa had founded 43 homes with more than 1,000 sisters. The Institute of the Servants of Jesus later expanded to more than 100 houses in 16 countries, with a special focus on the poorest areas of Asia and Latin America.
St. María Josefa was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000.