St. Maria Josefa of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Today’s saint of the day is St. Maria Josefa of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1 in the Jubilee Year 2000, St Maria Josefa was the Foundress of the Institute of the Servants of Jesus of Charity.
“Do not believe that caring for the sick consists only in giving them medicine and food; there is another kind of care which you should never forget, that of the heart which seeks to adapt to the suffering person, going to meet his needs.” These are the words of one whose mind and heart were fully seized of a mission, Saint Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus. The mission: to be a “neighbor” to the sick and the suffering in the world.
Maria Josefa was the eldest daughter of Bernabe Sancho and Petra de Guerra. Born on September 7, 1842 in Vitoria, Spain, she lost her father when she was barely 15. Very early in life, she nurtured a strong devotion to the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart and our Blessed Mother. She was deeply inclined towards solitude; however, a severe bout of typhus put an end to her plans to join the contemplative Conceptionists of Aranjuez in 1860. Feeling called, then, to an active religious life, she joined the Servants of Mary, an Institute newly founded in Madrid by St Soledad Torres Acosta. Realizing now that her vocation lay in exclusively caring for the sick and the suffering in the hospital and at home, she left the Institute together with three other sisters who shared her vision and embarked on her hew venture.
During the Carlist wars, Josefa and the Servants of Jesus heroically cared for patients suffering from highly contagious diseases, such as cholera and tuberculosis. She was superior for 41 years and founded forty-three communities before heart disease confined her to the house at Bilbao, from where she maintained her contacts wholly via correspondence. Ardent adorers of the Mystery of the Redemption, her ideas are well expressed in her theses, Directorio de Asistencias. Sharing intimately in the suffering of the crucified Lord, she passed away on March 20, 1912. As in life, so in death, her holiness had such an impact on Bilbao and beyond as to have led her mortal remains, laid to rest in the municipal cemetery at Bilbao, to be transferred to the chapel of the motherhouse of her institute, where they are now preserved.