BLESSED MARÍA ROMERO MENESES (1902-1977), religious
Today, the Church honors Blessed María Romero Meneses, the “Social Apostle of Costa Rica”, and the female counterpart to Saint John Bosco, who devoted her life to teaching and working with children in order to develop within them vocational skills, together with a sound spiritual foundation.
María was born in 1902 in Granada, Nicaragua, one of eight children to an upper class family, her father being a government minister. She was well educated by her aunt and parents; and since she had artistic talent, her parents had María trained in drawing and painting as well as in piano and violin by renowned teachers. She was also enrolled as a student in the School of the Salesian Sisters.
In 1914, at the age of twelve, she was extremely sick and became paralyzed for six months with rheumatic fever. The miraculous cure of her ailment led to her total confidence in our Blessed Mother under the mantle “Our Lady, Help of Christians”, and the cure also led her to a desire to become a Salesian Sister herself.
In December 1915, María joined the Marian Association, “Daughters of Mary”, offering herself with great confidence to the Mother of God. Her Salesian spiritual director helped her discern her vocation, and in 1920, at the age of eighteen, María joined the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters). Her spiritual director gave her prophetic advice which sustained her for the rest of her religious life: “Even though difficult moments will come and you will feel torn to pieces, be faithful and strong in your vocation.”
María made her final profession of vows in 1929, and two years later she was transferred to San José, Costa Rica. She taught music, drawing and typing to girls from affluent families. She also trained catechists and vocational skills to the poor. She inspired many of her students to join her in her work with the disadvantaged, and was also known for helping people come to know God in a personal way.
More and more, Sister María’s ministry became focused on social development, guiding the rich to better understand how they could help the poor. She set up recreational centers in 1945, food distribution centers in 1953, a school for poor girls in 1961, and a medical clinic in 1966.
In 1973, she organized the construction of seven homes, which became the foundation of the village of Centro San José, a community where poor families could have decent homes. Within the community, there was also developed a farm, a market and a place for school where they were able to receive religious formation, catechesis and job training.
In Sister María’s social apostolate, she always joined love and devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. Sister María was very limited in terms of available funding; but, with total confidence in Divine Providence, she always left everything in the hands of “Our Lady, Help of Christians”, since it was God’s work.
In her old age, Sister María retired from full time teaching, but never from catechesis of both the young and the old. On July 7, 1977, in Leon, Nicaragua, in the Salesian house where she had been sent for a much needed rest, María died of a fatal heart attack at the age of 75.
Sister María Romero Meneses was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on April 14, 2002. Her remains rest in the Salesian chapel at San José, Costa Rica.
We commemorate her feastday on July 7.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Women ~ ministering to the underprivileged)
“Lord God, You teach us that the Commandments of Heaven are summarized in love of You and love of our neighbor. By following the example of Blessed María Romero in practicing works of charity, may we be counted among the blessed in Your Kingdom.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”