Beatification Set for 5, Including an Evangelizer of the Poor

María Dolores Rodríguez Sopeña Among Them

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MADRID, Spain, MARCH 19, 2003 ( John Paul II will beatify María Dolores Rodríguez Sopeña, evangelizer of the neediest, and four others this Sunday, according to the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

María Dolores was born in Velez Rubio, Spain, on Dec. 30, 1848, and died in Madrid on Jan. 10, 1918.

She grew up in various locations following the transfers of her father, a magistrate. She was drawn increasingly to works of charity, both spiritual and material.

In 1872 her family moved to Puerto Rico, where María Dolores founded the Association of the Sodality of the Virgin Mary and schools for the disadvantaged. She taught reading and writing in these schools, as well as catechism. Her mother died in Cuba, and her father applied for retirement.

The family returned to Madrid in 1877, where she organized her life on three fronts: her home and the care of her father; her apostolic work; and her spiritual life. Her father died in 1883, and once again she began to struggle with her vocation.

After an experience in a contemplative order she left the convent and continued her work of caring for the sick and prisoners and alleviating the spiritual and material poverty of ordinary people. She was devoted to Our Lady of Sorrows, and had an intense experience of God as Father of all and therefore desired to «make of all, one family in Christ Jesus.»

In 1892, at the suggestion of the bishop of Madrid, María Dolores founded the Association of Apostolic Laymen, now known as the Sopeña Lay Movement. In 1914 she founded a community in Rome and in 1917 opened their first house in the Americas. The following year, she died in Madrid.

The Sopeña family embraces the three institutions founded by María Dolores: the Sopeña Catechetical Institute, the Sopeña Lay Movement and the Sopeña Social and Cultural Work. These institutions are active in Spain, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

The other four to be beatified in St. Peter’s Square are:

— Pierre Bonhomme, priest, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Calvary (1803-1861);

— María Caridad Brader, virgin, foundress of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate (1860-1943);

— Juana María Condesa Lluch, foundress of the Congregation of the Handmaids of Mary Immaculate (1862-1916); and

— Laszlo Batthyany Strattmann, layman, father of a family (1870-1931).

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