Tag Archives: Servants of Mary Ministers to the Sick

Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, 100th Anniversary

sisters 100th applauseThis month, the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, celebrated 100 years in America. Their arrival in New Orleans in 1914 was not planned. The Mexican Revolution, persecution of Catholics, the arrival of the US Navy and a soldier asking for water, are all part of the circumstances that brought these beautiful sisters to our shores.

In 1914, anti-religious forces in Mexico were conducting a violent campaign against Catholics, where the Servants of Mary had 22 convents. American military personnel were dispatched by President Woodrow Wilson (for reasons too complex to go into here) and occupied Vera Cruz. One day, an American soldier presented himself at the Servants of Mary convent in Vera Cruz, asking for drinkable water. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the sisters and the soldiers. Seeing how tenderly the sisters cared for those with tuberculosis and other contagious diseases, they asked the sisters to come back with them to the United States, because there were no sisters there who cared for the sick in their own homes.

100th ArchbishopMother Provincial recognized the hand of God in this request and readily agreed. Six sisters left their homeland on August 20, 1914, debarking in Texas and arriving in New Orleans one month later. The same bishop who originally welcomed the sisters to their arrival point in Texas, would be nursed by the sisters as the Archbishop of New Orleans on his deathbed. If you want to know the good communities, see where the priests go in their twilight years!

Currently, the Servants of Mary have six convents in the United States: in New Orleans (1914), Kansas City (1917), the Bronx (1931), Los Angeles (1928), Oxnard, CA (1961), and Newbury Park, CA (1964).

In New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was the guest of honor at a luncheon commemorating the anniversary. In New Orleans, St. Anthony of Padua Church was filled to capacity for a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond. The Archbishop likened the sisters to the Good Samaritan who was the only one to care for the sick stranger when others passed by.

One gentleman in attendance, who cared for his dying son in 1986, said, “You’re at a state in your life where you get to the point where you almost can’t go any more. The first thing you know, they come in and take over, and they actually encourage you more than the patient. These are God’s chosen people. They are wonderful people.”

 “The Servants of Mary without choice of person or place must be ready and willing to fly at once on the wings of obedience and love of God, to offer the service of charity without limits, gratuitous, and with no hope of a reward other than that promised by Heaven.”  – St. María Soledad, Foundress

Feast Day of St María Soledad Torres Acosta



on the occasion of their 150th anniversary in 2001

The particular nature of your primary task, free care of the sick in their own homes, takes on new meaning in our times where the reality of illness or death is often concealed in daily life. With this service you eloquently proclaim that illness is neither an unbearable burden for human beings nor does it deprive patients of their full dignity as persons.

 On the contrary, it can become an enriching experience for the sick and for their whole family. In this way, by holding out a hand to the sick, your mission also helps to keep families together and discreetly supports cohesion in the home, where no one should feel he is a burden.

 I ask the Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick, to accompany you in your efforts and to visit homes with you, in order to show them Jesus, the true Saviour and Redeemer of every human being through His sacrifice on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection.

Illuminating the Night of Suffering

SdeMmartyrTomorrow, October 13, four Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, will be beatified in Spain. Back in June (see story in the Register), the Vatican declared them to be martyrs of the faith, along with 18 Benedictines, four Discalced Carmelites, one diocesan priest, 66 Marist Brothers, and two laymen.

Each martyr has a unique story of heroism but none more so than the four Servants of Mary whose identity was made known to their killers by something simple and powerful: the rosary. The sisters lived near Madrid in Pozuelo de Alarcón where the convent was home to elderly and convalescent sisters as well as active sisters who cared for the sick and dying.

In August of 1936, as the Spanish Civil War and religious persecution were raging, the sisters, whose convent had been confiscated and who not allowed to wear their habits, were told to evacuate the town. Mother Aurelia, who was an invalid, and Sister Aurora, who was 86 years old, remained behind with two younger sisters, Sister Daría and Sister Agustina. Mother Aurelia was known for saying: “We are in the hands of God… He knows that we are here.” Sister Agustina, the youngest martyr, was Mother’s caregiver. “When she could no longer wear her habit, she said that sometime soon she would be able to wear it again, and if they killed us, we would wear it in heaven for ever.”

On December 1, Sister Agustina was separated from the other sisters and turned into the authorities under suspicion of being a religious because someone, it is believed, saw her praying the rosary. She was taken by soldiers and shot. The other three sisters’ identities became known when a soldier picked up Mother Aurora and felt a rosary under her dress. Sister Daría confirmed this when she said, “Yes, we are Sisters.” They were taken away and shot.

When a Servant of Mary joins the congregation she is given a rosary. As Sister Julia Castillo Ibáñez, General Postulator for the Cause, wrote, “Only by delving deeper with Mary into the mystery of Christ, can she effectively draw near the mystery of suffering humanity; only by keeping and contemplating the mystery of Christ in her heart like Mary will she find the right words and actions to alleviate and illuminate the night of suffering.”

Hospitality and Joy

I have just returned from a brief trip to Kansas City where the beauty of the Church was on full display.

The occasion of the visit was the 25th anniversary of the profession of Sr. Silvia Enriquez, S de M, in the order of the Servants of Mary, Minsters to the Sick. The impact that Sr. Silvia has had on my own life as I dealt with the deaths of several close relatives was amazing. She has truly been a mother to me. We, who had never met in person until the day of her celebration, greeted each other like old friends.

The Servants of Mary (Check out this documentary on their life) care for the sick and dying in their own homes. They provide a respite to the families who are caring for loved ones and they give solace to the sick and dying as they prepare to go to their final and everlasting Home. They are true angels of mercy. We could use them in every diocese in America!

What was amazing was that I was staying with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist at their very comfortable retreat house in Independence, Missouri. Just before we arrived, these wonderfully hospitable sisters had brought one of their elderly sisters home from the hospital to the convent where her death was expected to come quite soon. Who came to help the sisters? The Servants of Mary came each night while I was there to do the night watch. Seeing the sister in her white habit getting out of the car in the rain and gloom was like looking at a light from heaven.

The Servants of Mary also have two Lovers of the Holy Cross living with them who are studying at a local college. The Franciscan Sisters have seminarians living on their property for the summer as they work in local parishes and ministries. Once again, the all-embracing love that these two groups of sisters have for the Church and Her members was all too evident. I put myself in that category.

Many thanks to Bishop Naumann of Kansas City for his wonderful homily on consecrated virginity and its meaning for today. How wonderful to see so many religious and priests from around the diocese in attendance at the Jubilee Mass. And if you are looking for a great book (I bought a biography on St. Philip Neri and a G. K. Chesterton Father Brown Anthology) visit the Sisters of St. Francis’ Bookstore.

May God bless these two communities with vocations!

Making It a Habit!

I always think that religious sisters are making a mistake when they do not wear a habit. To me, the distinctive dress says: Come talk to me! I love Jesus!

This vocation story is a perfect illustration. A young girl, Teresa Seaton, was pursuing her nursing studies at Kansas City Kansas Community College however “the idea of becoming a Sister wouldn’t fade.” But she did not know any sisters or even anyone who had embarked upon that sort of life

She did notice however some Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, walking around the campus, not hard to miss in their distinctive habits.  They were attending school there as well. “I just asked them a question to make conversation,” she said. “They were so sweet.” Eventually she went on a discernment weekend and the rest is history. She entered the community and will receive her habit in July. (In the photo, she holding tiny shoes – the sisters tease her because her feet are very small!)

The other key component of this vocation story is her mother. Teresa comes from a family of twelve children and her mother always prayed that they would follow God’s will for their lives. She is thrilled that Teresa is becoming a spouse of Christ and hopes that she will be an example to the other children.

Check out the full vocation story here!

Angels in the Night

In the past 2 years, my husband’s father, mother and sister all died after suffering for several years from chronic illnesses. I gained a great appreciation for the caregivers who came in day in, day out, through scorching heat and big snows to care for our loved ones. I only mention this because the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, who provide the same loving care, are profiled in an article in the Kansas City Nursing News.

They, amongst other things, offer respite to families who are caring for sick ones at home who are near death or suffer from chronic illnesses or disabilities.  The caregivers are often overwhelmed, sleep-deprived and at the end of their rope. Some cannot afford health care at home or want to care for the loved one themselves. All need and want someone loving to assist them at times. This is where the sisters come in.

The 29 sisters in Kansas City provide respite care for caregivers/families at no charge, usually at night.  They believe they are serving Jesus when they care for the sick, in imitation of Mary who stayed at the foot of the Cross. Sister Cristela Mackinnon said, “We want to be there. It makes (the patients) change, too. We’re giving our whole life to the care of the sick.”

“If you’re lucky to get a sister, it’s just like angels coming in to help you,” said Marcy Klein, RN, with Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care. Ruben Rabanal, a social worker with Compassionate Care Hospice, said, “We really, really need them. We need more of them.”

The congregation was founded by Mother Soledad Torres Acosta, who was canonized in 1970. They have 128 convents around the world. I am praying for more American vocations so that a convent may be built near me! In fact, we all need them close by.