Venegas de la Torre, María de Jesús Sacramentado, St.

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Baptized María Natividad; virgin, nurse, and foundress of the Congregation of Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; first female saint of Mexico; b. La Tapona near Zapotlanejo, Jalisco, Mexico, Sept. 8, 1868; d. Guadalajara, Mexico, July 30, 1959. When María was nineteen years old, her parents, both practicing Catholics, died and she was placed in the care of her paternal aunt and uncle. She had devotion for the Blessed Sacrament and participated in parish life.

Two years later she joined the flourishing Association of the Children of Mary (December 8, 1889) in her hometown. Following spiritual exercises in November 1905, she decided to enter the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a pious union originally founded by Guadalupe Villaseñor de Perez Veria to care for patients in Guadalajara's Sacred Heart Hospital, which had recently been founded by the future bishop Atenógenes Silva y Alvarez Tostado (Feb. 2, 1886). Sister María lived in the hospital from December 5, 1905, until her death at age ninety-one.

Her simplicity, tender love, and obedience to her superiors attracted others to her. In 1912, she was elected vicaress and maintained that position until January 25, 1921, when she was elected superior general. Because Mother María wrote the constitutions that gained canonical approval (1930) for the congregation, she is regarded as its foundress. Her cause for canonization was opened in 1978. Pope John Paul II both beatified (Nov. 22, 1992) and canonized (May 21, 2000) Mother María.

Feast: July 30.

Bibliography: l'Osservatore Romano : 22 (2000) 5-7. Acta Apostolicae Sedis : 1 (1992) 49.

[k. i. rabenstein]