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Saint María Josefa of the Heart of Jesus

Feast Day - March 20

Saint María Josefa felt called to religious life at a young age growing up in nineteenth-century Spain, initially believing she was called to join a monastery and live a contemplative life. But when she was just 18, María realized she had a vocation to a more active religious calling. She originally joined the Institute of the Servants of Mary, but soon discovered her call was more specific, and she needed to focus on the sick in both hospitals and in their homes.

María founded a new order in Bilbao, Spain – the Institute of the Servants of Jesus – in 1871, before she was even 30 years old. Sister Maria Josefa was the first Mother Superior of this order dedicated to serving and caring for the sick, for children, the elderly and the homeless. She served in this role for 41 years.

From her childhood on, María showed a strong love for the Eucharist, and dedication to the sick and poor. She felt it was the calling of the Servants of Jesus to accompany the sick “until the door of eternity.”

The importance of having a contemplative spirit when caring for the sick was a hallmark for Mother Josefa and the sisters. She 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. After her death, the Institute of the Servants of Jesus 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.