Saintly Founder Lived Charity to the Extreme

Interview With Postulator for Blessed Cándida María de Jesús

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, JUNE 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On Oct. 17, Blessed Cándida María de Jesús will be canonized in St. Peter’s Square, in recognition of her saintly obedience and extreme charity.

ZENIT interviewed the postulator of her cause for canonization, Sister Anna-Maria Cinco Castro, who described her founder as having “a singular love of God, for whose greater glory and in whose faithful service” she “wished to spend her whole life and each instant of it.”

“God wills it,” was the motto of Sister Cándida María de Jesús (1845-1912). This Spanish religious, born Juana Josefa Cipitria y Barriola in Spain, is the founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus, which is currently present in Spain, Italy, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, and Mozambique.
 
In this interview with ZENIT, Sister Cinco Castro explains the story of Blessed Cándida, highlighting the virtues that led to her forthcoming recognition as a saint.
 
ZENIT: How did Juana Josefa feel the call to the religious life?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: When she was still young (18-20 years old), Juana Josefa (as she was baptized), firstborn of seven daughters in a humble and profoundly Christian family, told her parents about her decision to consecrate herself to God in the religious life.

Faced to the insistent proposals of marriage that her parents presented to her, she repeatedly answered: “I am only for God.”
 
ZENIT: How did she discover that God was calling her to found the community of the Daughters of Jesus?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: Advised by her confessor, she moved from Tolosa to Burgos [Spain], and entered a home as a domestic servant.

In 1869 she went to Valladolid with the family she was serving and there, on April 2, 1869, in the Church of the Virgin of the Rosary (better known as the Rosarillo), before the altar of the Holy Family, she understood clearly that she had to found a new congregation with the name “Daughters of Jesus,” dedicated to the spiritual profit of souls and the Catholic education of peoples through prayer and works of piety and charity, particularly the education of children and youth.
 
The Institute of the Daughters of Jesus was born in simplicity and poverty in Salamanca on Dec. 8, 1871, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception.
 
ZENIT: What is the congregation’s charism?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: We feel especially called to live in a filial attitude to God as Father, characterized by identification with Jesus, trust, security in his unconditional love, and praise.

This face of God that we contemplate, particularly in Jesus, invites us to fraternity with everyone, to gratitude, to simplicity, to joy even when experiencing the cross.
 
ZENIT: Could you describe Sister Cándida’s sensitivity to the neediest?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: She had an exquisite charity for her neighbor, sensitivity to his authentic good.

She wanted her daughters to seek the good of their neighbors more than their own well-being or temporal usefulness.
 
ZENIT: What aspects of her life helped her to cultivate this virtue?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: I believe that she, who was born in a humble family and who had to leave her land when she was still young, had a human experience quite close to [the needy].

When she was a servant in a family home she said one day: “Where there is no room for the poor, there is no room for me either.”
 
Later, as founder, she experienced her personal poverty profoundly (her scant intellectual preparation, the lack of economic means and of material aid at the beginning of the foundation and during her whole life), together with the great and infinite love of the Father, who never abandons us.

Fundamentally, it was this experience of God as Father of all that would open her heart to the neediest, because we are all brothers.

Given her profound union with God, how could she not feel what the Father would feel seeing his children suffer?
 
ZENIT: What values are at the base of the education this community offers to young people and children?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: It is an education of an evangelizing hue that gives priority to the values of the Kingdom, such as universal love, solidarity, simplicity and closeness, liberty and responsibility, joy and serenity, respect, participation and acceptance. An education to learn and to exercise oneself in living as a child of God and brother of all.

Hence, it is an education with a positive focus, giving priority to love, to motivation and to encouragement.

Mother Cándida said: “Always use the most joyful method in education.”
 
ZENIT: What are the main virtues of the saint?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: A great spirit of faith that enables her to see persons, events and everything in the light of God, and a firm hope in divine promises. “Faith, living, constant and eternal faith and with this, work without rest, as everything passes and God alone suffices […]”
 
A close and constant relationship with Jesus which made her seek to be like him as a child is like his father. She said, “In Jesus, we have everything.”
 
A filial love of the Virgin, whom she called the true founder of the institute and whose protection she sought — almost all her letters begin with the phrase “May the Most Pure Virgin cover us with her mantle.”
 
ZENIT: How is this community preparing for the canonization of its founder? What fruits do you think it will bear?
 
Sister Cinco Castro: We are preparing for the canonization, but not precisely for its external organization, rather to listen more attentively to the call to holiness of which this event reminds us.
 
Since July of 2008, when our Mother General was communicating to the congregation the most significant steps of the process of the cause for canonization of Mother Cándida, she already requested the collaboration of the sisters in the process, “to commit ourselves every day in Mother’s desire for us: our own sanctification and the search for the good of our neighbor more than our own well-being or temporal usefulness.”
 
We are living this time as a time of greater hospitality and living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to be so like Jesus that we are recognized as “Daughters of Jesus.”
 
We regard the canonization as a strong call to a holier life dedicated to the dream of living each day more according to the values of the Gospel and more centered on the person of Jesus Christ as Mother Cándida was.
 
We want these months of preparation for the celebration to be an opportunity to grow in the missionary task that all of us who know and love Jesus have.

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