Today we commemorate Sister María de San José, first Blessed of Venezuela

Jasjot Singh

Today, May 7, we celebrate the first Blessed born in Venezuela, Mother María de San José.

Sister María de San José was a dedicated nun, co-founder of the Congregation of the “Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Heart of Jesus” and the first Superior General of that community.

The Augustinian Recollect Sisters are dedicated to caring for the elderly, the poor, abandoned children and the sick in general, in hospitals and shelters.

Laura Alvarado Cardozo, Mother María de San José, was born on April 25, 1875 in the town of Choroní (Venezuela), and was baptized in October of that same year with the name of Laura Evangelista.

Consecrated to love and serve

When he was 5 years old, the whole family moved to the city of Maracay, capital of the state of Aragua, in the central region of the country. On December 8, 1888, the day of the Immaculate Conception, at the age of 13, Laura received her First Communion and made a private promise to consecrate herself to God while keeping perpetual virginity.

At 18, the young woman was already in charge of the preparation of the First Communion in her parish.

In 1893, the priest and parish priest of Maracay, Fr. Justo Vicente López Aveledo, founded the Society of the Daughters of Mary together with Laura. Laura, who was part of her volunteer group, makes her first vows in perpetuity at the age of 22.

At that time, Fr. López Avelado also founded the first hospital in the city, the San José Hospital, where the Blessed dedicated herself to caring for the sick. About to turn 24 years old, in 1899, Laura received an immense commission from Fr. Vicente: the young woman would begin to direct and administer the San José Hospital.

The fruits of observed charity and prayer

In 1901, Fr. Vicente, with his mind set on the growth of God’s work, founded the “Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Heart of Jesus” congregation, approved by Saint Pius X, to which Laura joined on January 22, 1901.

The young woman consecrates herself as an Augustinian Sister Hospitaller and adopts the name of “Sor María de San José”. Two years later, in 1903, Laura would become the first superior of the congregation.

In the following years, the Augustinian Recollects tenaciously devoted themselves to working for and with the weakest. Asylums, orphanages, maternity homes, hospitals and schools are founded. In total, the sisters came to found 35 houses throughout the Venezuelan territory.

Mother María would come to work in different parts of Venezuela (Maracaibo, Caracas, Coro, Ciudad Bolívar), most of the time in health centers, but also in hospitals.

The creation of the Augustinian Institute Casa Hogar “Doctor Gualdrón” belongs to the stage immediately after the foundation of the Order, which would be followed by the foundation of the UE Instituto “Madre María” in 1945. After the death of the Mother, said Institute was transferred to the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto.

Mother María de San José passed away on April 2, 1967, in her beloved Maracay. Her remains rest in the Chapel of the Augustinian Sisters of the Casa Hogar “Inmaculada Concepción” in that city, where her Mother lived most of her life.

A prophecy and the miracle

In 1982 the miracle occurred by which Mother Mary would be beatified. It is about the healing of Sister Teresa Silva, who had been left an invalid due to a painful illness. Her Mother had prophesied her healing years before she died.

On May 7, 1995, Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed the Blessed Mother. At the beatification ceremony, the Holy Father affirmed: “Mother Mary is a woman who knew how to fuse prayer and action in an admirable way (…) consummating herself in unlimited love for God and in the practice of the most genuine charity towards the neighbor”.

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