Catholic Church beatifies Colombian nun who served the poor

Medellin, Colombia, Oct 29 (EFE).- Colombian nun Maria Berenice, who spent her life serving the poor, especially children and women, was on Saturday beatified in a solemn mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Medellin, officiated by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“Our blessed lady overcame many trials, challenges and misunderstandings following the good example of the Virgin Mary. The poor were at the center of her existence, and she founded a religious family (order) to evangelize them. She had a special love for the poorest children, whom she considered the Lord’s favorites,” the cardinal said in the beatification sermon.

The nun, whose original name was Ana Julia Duque Hencker, was born in Salamina, in the Caldas department, on Aug. 14, 1898, and died at the age of 95 on Jul. 25, 1993 in Medellin, where she undertook most of her work.

The process of her beatification began in May 2002, and Pope Francis approved it in 2019 in a decree that acknowledged the “heroic virtues” of the nun.

The miracle attributed to her that allowed her beatification was curing Sebastian Vasquez, who suffered from an orphan disease, called idiopathic autonomic neuropathy, from childhood and which confined him to a wheelchair for nine years, having to be fed through a tube.

Sebastian’s mother had told reporters that a nun had brought her son a stained glass memento and the sticker of Maria Berenice, and he began to pray every day, saying he was talking to a nun. Sebastian died last year of other causes.

Maria Berenice – the daughter of Antonio Duque Botero and Ana Berenice Hencker – had a religious disposition from childhood, and in 1917, at the age of 19, she entered the convent of the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation in Bogota, where she remained for 33 years.

Addressed as the “Mother of Charity and Happiness,” the lady devoted herself to the poorest and marginalized sections of the society, including children in creches, kindergartens and convents, which led her to establishing the Little Sisters of the Annunciation congregation in 1943. The congregation is active in 15 countries today.

In 1957, she also established the order of the Missionaries of Jesus and Mary, and in 1965, the Missionaries of Annunciation.

The beatification ceremony was live-screened in the Bolivar Park outside the Cathedral, and witnessed emotional tributes by religious leaders and devotees.

“She had so much virtue and a striking love for God, which drove her to do everything,” Sister Cristina Medina told EFE, insisting that Mother Maria would be “happy in heaven” seeing her people and Church acknowledging her in this way.

As part of the ceremony, Monsignor Ricardo Tobon Restrepo, the Archbishop of Medellin, formally requested Pope Francis to write Maria Berenice’s name in the book of beatified people.

Colombia has one Catholic Saint recognized by the Church after Mother Laura Montoya – founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and Saint Catherine of Siena – was canonized in 2013.

The list of beatified people from the country include Priests Juan Bautista Velásquez, Esteban Maya, Melquiades Ramírez, Eugenio Ramírez, Rubén de Jesús López, Arturo Ayala and Gaspar Páez Perdomo of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, who were killed in Spain during the Civil War, apart from Father Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos.

During his Colombia visit in 2017, Pope Francis also announced the beatification of Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, former archbishop of Arauca, and Priest María Ramírez Ramos, who were both killed in political violence. EFE


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