Alvarado Cardozo, Laura Evangelista, Bl.

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Baptized on Oct. 3, 1875, as Laura Evangelista, called in religion María of San José; is also known as María of Venezuela; co-founder of the augustinian recollects of the Heart of Jesus; b. April 25, 1875, at Choroní, Girardot District, Aragua (then called Estado Guzmán Blanco), Venezuela; d. April 2, 1967, at Maracay, Venezuela.

Laura Evangelista was the eldest of the four children of Clemente Alvarado and his then common-law wife Margarita Alvarado Cardozo. When Laura was three, the family moved to Maracay, where she received her early Christian education at home. From ages five to 16, she attended a private school, where she earned the esteem of her teachers and classmates. At her first communion she promised to serve God. Four years later on that feast she made a private vow of her virginity to Christ.

Shortly thereafter, she began instructing poor children at home, supporting the project financially with her own labor. Together with her spiritual director Fr. Vicente López Aveledo she worked to found the first hospital in Maracay, Saint Joseph's. She devoted herself to the care of the sick in spite of the difficulty of the work, the opposition of her parents, and the demoralizing poverty that surrounded her. In 1896, she was named director of the hospital.

Together with Fr. López she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor of Saint Augustine (1901), better known as the Augustinian Recollects of the Heart of Jesus. They assumed the Rule of Saint Augustine and the habit of Santa Rita. Laura was named superior general and confirmed her vow of virginity in 1902. The following year she made her perpetual vows and took the name María of San José. Until 1960 when she was succeeded by Sister Lourdes Sanchez, Mother María guided the congregation's work of caring for the sick, the elderly and orphans in thirteen hospitals and thirty-seven houses throughout Venezuela. After a long illness patiently borne, Mother María died at age ninety-two. She was buried with her wooden cross in her hands in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Home in Maracay. At her beatification by John Paul II on May 7, 1995, María de San José became the first Venezuelan blessed.

Feast: April 25.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1995): 564. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 19 (1995): 1, 2, 4; no. 20 (1995): 23.

[k. i. rabenstein]

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Alvarado Cardozo, Laura Evangelista, Bl.

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