She embraced both physical and spiritual motherhood, in a simple and ordinary life of daily service.
Jesus is love itself, and wants to give Himself to us through love. ~St. Joaquina
Joaquina de Vedruna Vidal de Mas was born into a noble family in Barcelona, Spain, on April 16, 1783. Her mom and dad had her baptized the very same day at their parish church of Santa Maria del Pilar. Though devout Catholics, they never could have imagined their daughter would grow up to embark on a life journey that included being a wife, a mother, a religious, a foundress, and a servant to sick and poor children. Could they have envisioned their child one day being declared a saint? Not likely, but the tiny child they were having baptized was a future saint God had placed in their care.
By the time Joaquina was 13, she was expressing her desire to join the cloistered Discalced Carmelites. Her parents believed she was much too young to make such a decision and refused to allow her to join. Three years later, on March 24, 1799, she married Teodoro de Mas, a man who also had a noble background and was deeply religious. Teodoro also had a desire to become a religious, and after their marriage, they both became Third Order Franciscans. They would go on to have eight children in their 16 years of marriage.
Things changed dramatically for the family when Napoleon invaded Spain. Joaquina and her children had to flee their home while Teodoro stayed behind to fight as a volunteer. He did return home, but from that point on, he was quite sickly. He died on March 6, 1816, and Joaquina moved her children to a family estate in Vic.
It was around this time that Joaquina began wearing the habit of the Third Order Franciscans and helping care for the sick. Of her eight children, four daughters entered religious life, one son and one daughter married, and two children died at a very young age. By 1826, with her children grown, Joaquina was about to realize her childhood dream of entering the religious life. A Capuchin friar, Esteban de Olot, suggested that she start a community that would continue the work she had started in Vic.
Pablo Jesus Corcuero was the Bishop of Vic. He met with Joaquina, and she presented her gaols and aspirations to him. He offered his support but also suggested that she look to the Carmelite Order for guidance and inspiration for spirituality for the new group. Bishop Corcuero wrote the Rule for the new order, and so was born the congregation of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity. On February 26, 1826, Sister Joaquina De Vedruna de Mas, along with eight other women, professed their vows to Bishop Corcuero. Soon after, Sister would join forces with St. Anthony Claret, and refine the Rule.
In 1836, war once again reared its ugly head, and the community moved to Roussillon, France. They remained there until 1842. Even amidst the turmoil, the community rapidly grew, and on August 5, 1857, Pope Pius IX issued a papal decree honoring the order. Houses were built to shelter the homeless, and schools for girls were established in deprived areas to provide education for marginalized and poverty-stricken children.
Sister Joaquina, despite the non-stop demands of her ministry, always maintained her intense commitment to a life of prayer, with her most significant focus being on the Blessed Trinity. In 1849 she was attacked by apoplexy followed by paralysis in 1850. She had to resign her position as Mother Superior and then, on August 24, 1854, Joaquina died, the victim of a cholera epidemic that swept through Barcelona. She was 71 years old.
On September 14, 1860, the order became officially affiliated with the Carmelite Order. The Carmelite Sisters of Charity were then established throughout Spain, Hispanic America, and soon after that in Japan, Eritrea, and other areas.
Joaquina Vedruna de Mas was canonized a saint by Pope John XXIII on April 12, 1959, in St. Peter’s Basilica, the first saint the Good Pope canonized.
St Joaquina, please pray for us.