Sancho de Guerra, María Josefa del Corazón de Jesús, St.
SANCHO DE GUERRA, MARÍA JOSEFA DEL CORAZÓN DE JESÚS, ST.
Professed religious and co-foundress of the Servants of Jesus of Charity; b. Vitoria, Spain, Sept. 7, 1842; d. Bilbao, Spain, March 20, 1912. María's poor, pious family provided her with a Christian education and contributed to the recognition of her religious vocation. She was the eldest daughter of the chair-maker, Bernabe Sancho, who died when María was seven, and his wife, Petra de Guerra. While studying in Madrid she discerned her calling to a religious life.
She attempted to join the contemplative Conceptionists at Aranjuez in 1860, but fell ill with typhus. Upon her recovery, she understood that God was calling her to a more active order. She entered the Servants of Mary in 1864 and worked in the poorest districts of Madrid. In 1865 she helped plague victims without consideration for her own health and safety. With the spiritual counsel of Abp. (St.) Anthony Mary claret and St. María Soledad torres acosta, the foundress of the Servants of Mary, she left the order prior to her profession to start another.
She was accompanied by several other sisters to Bilbao, Spain, where they founded (July 25, 1871) a new congregation—the Servants of Jesus of Charity—to serve the indigent and sick in hospitals, clinics, sanitariums, retirement homes, and daycare centers. At the time of her death—after 42 years as superior—the congregation had expanded to 42 houses in Spain and one in Chile. Today there are 1,100 sisters ministering in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Italy, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Portugal, and Spain.
Mother María Josefa was buried in the city cemetery of Bilboa until the translation of her relics to the chapel of the motherhouse in 1926. The informative process for her cause opened May 31, 1951 and was accepted in Rome on Jan. 7, 1972. Pope John Paul II declared Mother María Josefa venerable (Sept. 7, 1989), beatified her (Sept. 27, 1992), and approved a second miracle attributed to her intercession (June 28, 1999). She was the first native Basque to be canonized (Oct. 1, 2000).
Feast: May 18.
Bibliography: p. bilbao arÍstegui, La Beata María Josefa Sancho de Guerra: una vida al servicio de los enfermos (Vitoria, Spain 1992). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1992), 919.
[k. i. rabenstein]