(Vatican Radio) 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. They are:
Blessed Antonio Primaldo and companions, martyrs;
Blessed 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.
Relics of the Blessed Martyrs of Otranto are held in the Cathedral crypt
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.
When Laura 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
Following 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.
As 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 the students.
Called to "teach Christ'
Laura began 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'
At 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 catechism.
Laura, however, cared little for public opinion, even if some of the comments made came right from within the Christian community itself.
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.
As 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 sick.
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'
María 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 necessary.
The Sisters also worked in parishes to assist the priests and to teach catechism.
Risking life to help those hiding
From 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.
The 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.