Blessed Maria Romero Meneses: Social Apostle of Costa Rica
On July 7, we commemorate Blessed Maria Romero Meneses (1902 – 1977), a Salesian Sister who was known as the Social Apostle of Costa Rica, due her active initiation of several projects which served the needs of the poor. Some of these included: teaching catechism and vocational skills, setting up a medical center, opening food distribution centers, starting a school for teaching the social doctrine of the Church, and organizing the construction of homes for the poor in Costa Rica.
One of eight children, Maria Romero Meneses was born in Granada, Nicaragua, in 1902 to a wealthy, upper class family; her father was a government minister. She was well-educated by her parents, her aunts, and the Salesian Sisters at the local Catholic school. Because she was artistically and musically gifted, she had private instructors for drawing, painting, piano and violin.
At the age of twelve, Maria became very ill with a serious form of rheumatic fever that paralyzed her for six months. She was not worried, however, but put all her confidence in Mary, Help of Christians and was cured through her intercession. At twenty-one, she joined the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters) and made her final profession in 1929. Two years later, she was sent to San Jose, Costa Rica. She taught music, drawing and typing to the girls from wealthy families. She also trained catechists and trades to the poor. She inspired many of her students to her way of life – to help the poor, the suffering, and the abandoned. An excellent educator, administrator, and fund-raiser, she was known for bringing God to people one on one and to sharing with them her great love for the Eucharist.
She set up recreational centers in 1945, food distribution centers in 1953, a school for poor girls in 1961, and a medical clinic (with volunteer doctors) in 1966. In 1973, she organized the construction of seven homes, which became the foundation of the village Centro San Jose, a community where poor families could live in suitable homes. To spread devotion to Mary Help of Christians, she had a Church built in the Saint José. In her lifetime, she accomplished great things through faith with the help of good people won over to her cause, after they had experienced the effects of devotion to Mary.
She died of heart failure at the age of 75 in Nicaragua. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 14, 2002. Sister Maria Romero Meneses is the first blessed from Central America.
Maria was an active contemplative. She enjoyed a deep and intimate prayer life. Based upon her love for God and desire to do His will, she lived out her faith through her actions. Like Blessed Mother Teresa, she saw God’s face in the face of the poor and helpless. She desired to quench His thirst and to console and comfort Him by loving her neighbor. She effectively served the poor by building them homes, educating them, feeding and clothing them, providing for their medical needs, and encouraging her students to follow in her footsteps. She could have lived a much easier life — one of leisure and luxury, but chose to do God’s will and in doing so, demonstrated her great love for Him. What are we doing today to show Him how much we love Him? What are we doing to console Him and to quench His thirst?
— By Jean M. Heimann
Prayer to Mary, Help of Christians
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.
— Saint John Bosco, Franciscan Tertiary and modern Apostle of young people (1815-1888)