By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, FEB. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A profound experience of God’s love led Blessed Cándida María de Jesús to correspond to that love with generosity and decisiveness.
This was the description of the Spanish nun and founder given by Pope John Paul II at her beatification in 1996. Now, Blessed Candida is set to become one of the Church’s newly recognized saints; Benedict XVI announced last Friday that she will be canonized Oct. 17.
Juana Josefa Cipitria y Barriola was born in Spain in 1845. She was always sensitive to the needy and abandoned and felt at an early age that she was “for God alone.”
In 1868, at age 23, she met Jesuit Father Miguel José Herranz, who helped her respond to her call to found a congregation. Thus it was that in 1871, the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus was born.
During her beatification, John Paul II would recall how the future saint expressed “her charity to her neighbor in the foundation of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus, with the charism of Christian education, of children and youth.”
Saving many souls
The congregation is devoted to education in all its forms, and inspired in the spirituality of St. Ignatius. The Daughters of Jesus offer Ignatian spiritual exercises.
The founder always endeavored to pay great attention to her religious, to the beneficiaries of her works, to priests, to students and to the neediest.
One day she told one of her students: “You will be a Daughter of Jesus.” And indeed, young Maria Antonia Bandrés y Elósegui would join the congregation, and would be beatified on the same day as her founder.
Blessed Cándida María constantly encouraged her daughters through her writings: “How grateful we must be for the very great benefit the Lord did us by calling us to this our beloved congregation so that we should be his dear daughters and brides and save many souls for heaven!” she said in one of her letters.
In a short time the congregation spread throughout Spain, opening schools in various cities. In 1911, the year before Blessed Cándida died, the first group of the Daughters of Jesus left for Brazil, which was the first foundation outside of Spain.
“Where there is no room for the poor there is no room for me,” the future saint once affirmed.
She died Aug. 9, 1912. Today her congregation is working in eight Latin American countries, two European countries, six Asian countries, and in Mozambique in Africa.
The congregation’s Web page explains: “The face of God which we contemplate invites us to fraternity with everyone, gratuitousness, simplicity, joy.”
“It’s true that the present-day reality can sink us in discouragement, can prostrate us thinking that we are a very small drop in the great sea of this world so broken by the absence of God,” observed one Daughter of Jesus, reflecting on the canonization of her founder. “But I feel that Mother Candida says to me and says to us: Trust in him who said one day, I am the Light, I am the Life!”