Mother Maria Rafols
Foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of St. Anne
Extract from the Decree of "The Congregation of the causes of the Saints".
"The Venerable Servant of God, Maria Rafols, was born on 5th November 1781 in Villa France del Panades (the Province of Barcelona in Spain). The Superior of a small group of women; which was recognized later on as a Congregation of Sisters of Charity of St. Anne, dedicating themselves in the hospital of Our Lady of Grace of Zaragoza in the assistance of the sick, the poor and the orphans, as also in the formation and government of the Congregation in its beginnings. With fortitude and the spirit of sacrifice she suffered many difficulties, including imprisonment and exile. On acknowledging her innocence, she returned to the hospital of Zaragoza where she was outstanding for her charity, total poverty and apostolic fervour. She died in the odour of sanctity on 30th August 1853". The following are testimonies from the Decree of "The Heroic virtues" and the Historical Books of the Congregation.
"In the exercise of Charity, so great was the tenderness of her heart that the same sick people although bad and hard to win over used to say to the sisters, that she robbed their hearts and that she seemed to be their mother when she helped them."
"Always available to help day and night anyone who needed help".
"She served the sick and those suffering from every kind of pain…..the foundling, the insane, the unwed mothers, the venereal and contagious sicknesses, the whole of the sick humanity."
She welcomed the socially marginalized: the prostitutes, the convicts, and the abandoned children.
Open to all kinds of persons, needs and places, Maria Rafols neither looked at the faces, nor surnames, inclinations, nor groups while loving and serving. She was there where any type of misery would be where anyone needed a word and a gesture of welcome, service and love.
"Mother Maria Rafols personally risked her life more than once to save the life of some noble men who had fallen into the hands of the enemy." She came to know that several Spanish prisoners had been condemned to death. In the company of another Sister, through many difficult situations and dangers, she arrived at the enemy's camp, and obtained pardon for the ones who had been condemned and were on the point of being executed. She appeared before the French General who yielded to the pressure and request from the servant of God."
"In the midst of bullets and great fighting, she went to Torrero to ask the General who was besieging the city, for provisions for the sick."
"In the persecutions in which she was a victim, (2 months in jail and 6 years in exile) she always remained serene and resigned and endowed with an admirable patience and meekness, without ever uttering any word of reproach against her persecutors…."
"The chosen sphere of the Charity of Maria Rafols was the foundlings with all disabilities, their helplessness, squalid conditions, misery and frightful mortality". "…her figure remained for ever connected with the foundlings, the most forsaken and helpless of all beings in the whole Hospital."
She breathed her last on 30th August 1853, close to 72 years of age. For 49 years, she was a sister of Charity. The end came peacefully.
She committed her soul to `the God of Love' for whom she had lived and given herself unsparingly.
She was beatified by His Holiness John Paul II, in Rome on the 16th of October 1994.
Today, following the footsteps of our founders, 2700 Sisters of Charity of St. Anne serve humanity with preference for the most poor and needy, a charity without frontiers.
The Congregation renders its service in all the five Continents.
Europe: England, Italy, Spain, Russia.
Africa: Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Cost, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Gabon.
America: Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela.
Asia: India, Macao, Philippines, Hong Kong, China.
Pacific: Australia, Papua New Guinea.
Today the Sisters strive to become, day by day, women with a deep rooted faith simple and humble, hardworking, generous and compassionate, loving those whom no one else will love, women who keep commitments and are ready to take risks.
They continue in the knowledge that if the grain of wheat does not fall to the ground and die, it will not bear fruit, they continue in the knowledge that the cross is beautiful and the only guarantee of permanence.
The first sisters arrived from Spain in India in 1951 and today more than 400 Indian Sisters serve those who suffer the oppressed and the marginalized, educate the young, heal the sick excluding no one. Striving to respond to different needs as they arise; in different ways as called for, in the various states where they serve.
Their apostolic action in India covers:
Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Andaman Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.