VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Among the five people John Paul II will beatify this Sunday is Spanish religious Bonifacia Rodríguez Castro, who promoted the sanctification of work.
She founded the Congregation of Handmaids of St. Joseph, for the social and Christian development of women workers, and gave heroic testimony of charity when she was expelled from her own community.
Bonifacia Rodríguez Castro was born in Salamanca in 1837 to a family of artisans. From her childhood, following the death of her father, she was exposed to the harsh conditions that women laborers of the time faced.
She felt a call to the religious life and, initially, hoped to join the Dominicans. She changed her mind after her meeting with Jesuit Father Francisco Javier Butinya i Hospital, who arrived in Salamanca in October 1870 and voiced concerned about the plight of manual workers.
Attracted by the priest’s emphasis on the sanctification of work, Rodríguez chose him as her spiritual director. Father Butinya suggested the co-founding of the Congregation of the Handmaids of St. Joseph, to which she readily agreed.
The primary apostolic objective of the new institute was to take in poor jobless women into “Nazareth Homes-Workshops,” to teach them a trade and form them as Christian workers, in order to keep them from danger.
It was a bold response to a critical need of the time, when women began to leave the home to seek work in factories.
Because of the disunity spread by some ecclesiastics in Salamanca, and the marginalization she suffered from her own spiritual daughters, Rodríguez was removed as superior and director of the institute.
Humiliations, rejection, contempt and calumnies were her lot to force her out of Salamanca, but Rodríguez responded with silence, humility and forgiveness. Eventually she went to Zamora where she founded a new house.
The Holy See recognized the Handmaids of St. Joseph of Salamanca, but not those of Zamora. This was Rodríguez’s harshest humiliation.
She died in Zamora on Aug. 8, 1905, leaving as her legacy a spirituality based on the sanctification of work joined to prayer and simplicity of daily life. After her death, the Salamanca and Zamora houses were united.