Coll Guitart, Francisco, Bl.

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Dominican priest, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation; b. Gombreny (Gombrèn) near Gerona (Catalonian Pyrenees), Spain, May 18, 1812; d. Barcelona, Spain, April 2, 1875. Coll was the youngest of ten children of a wool carder who died when Coll was four. Even while studying at the seminary of Vich (182330), he devoted himself to the catechesis of children. He also taught grammar to pay for his education. He joined the Dominicans at Gerona (1830), where he was professed and ordained to the diaconate. When the friars were exclaustrated by the government (1835), Coll continued to live as a Dominican and was ordained priest (March 28, 1836) with the consent of his superiors. After serving as a parish priest (183639), Coll preached throughout Catalonia for several decades, giving popular missions and offering spiritual direction, like his friend St. Anthony Mary claret, whom he aided in forming the Apostolic Fraternity of priests. Named director of the secular order of Dominicans (1850), Coll reopened the former Dominican friary, cared for the cholera victims during the 1854 outbreak, and founded the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation (1856) to provide for the religious formation of youth in poor and neglected regions. From 1869 until his death, Coll suffered from increasing physical problems caused by a stroke, including blindness and the loss of mental acuity. Nevertheless, the Dominicans, upon returning to Spain in 1872, found that Coll had carefully maintained the order's spirit and work throughout its suppression. Coll's mortal remains are venerated in the motherhouse of La Annunciata (Vich), which had grown to 300 members in 50 houses by the time of his death. Coll was beatified in the first ceremony presided over by John Paul II, April 29, 1979.

Feast: May 19 (Dominicans).

Bibliography: l. galmÉs mÁs, Francisco Coll y Guitart, O.P., vida y obra (Barcelona 1976). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1979) 150508. L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 19 (1979): 67.

[k. i. rabenstein]