On April 14th, Pope Francis signed eight decrees related to the declaration of eight Servants of God as Venerables… among them was Sister Justa Dominguez de Vidaurreta, DC. Sister was born on November 2nd, 1875 and died in Madrid on December 16th, 1958. The Church’s recognition of her heroic virtue is the result of her life-long commitment to God revealed through the practice of charity on behalf of the poor … a life lived in accord with the mission that was entrusted to her by her superiors: formation of young women, spiritual animation, roles of leadership and missionary expansion. I did not know Sister personally, but I consider it a special grace to have been able to work on the investigation into her life and virtues and to have been able to write her biography. I want to highlight four facets of her life (facets that Pope Francis requests of all consecrated women and men): joy, discernment, contemplation, proclamation of the gospel through missionary outreach.
1. Joyful formator
From a very early age Sister manifested a special attraction toward the formation of young people as she was a Sunday School teacher in her parish. At the age of twenty she entered the Seminary in Madrid where she began her formation as a Daughter of Charity. Her first mission, which continued for thirty-six years, was the formation of the young seminary sisters … for the first twenty-six years she ministered as a collaborator and then for the last ten years was director and the individual responsible for the seminary. Her joy was communicated as she taught classes pertaining to the gospels, sacred history, the biography and spirituality of St. Vincent and St. Louise. She expressed this sentiment in a letter that she wrote to a friend: we can aspire to nothing greater than to consecrate ourselves, as young women, to the Lord and to preserve throughout our lives the vows of religion: poverty, chastity, and obedience.
2. An expert in discernment
In her youth she had to discern God’s call and chose between four different possibilities: marriage, a cloistered religious, a religious in the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross, a religious in the Company of the Daughters of Charity. It seems that she knew how to apply the teachings contained in the catechism to this process of discernment and thus developed those attitudes relative to her vocation … attitudes that would also empower her to live her vocation in a faithful manner. During the time of her youth her friends said: Like the Divine Master, her only goal was to lead people to God.
Sister wrote to a young woman who sought guidance while she was discerning her vocation: Today at the time of Holy Communion I prayed that you would come to know what God wants of you in order to fulfill God’s will and to live a holy life. I encourage you to entrust this matter of your vocation to our Blessed Mother and to her beloved husband, Saint Joseph.
3. A contemplative animator
Sister was appointed Vistatrix in 1932 and was seen as a strong provincial superior. She suffered persecution and imprisonment … she offered her own life in exchange for which the militia would cease murdering the Sisters. God’s plan for her, however, was not one of bloody martyrdom but rather one of daily sacrifice. The source of her joy, serenity and deep interior life was her contemplative prayer. Those whom she formed stated that she created a school of holiness through faithfulness to the Rule. We have her notes in which she describes this path of holiness and her students, other Daughters of Charity, stated: When Sister taught us how to pray and how to deepen our relationship with the Lord she was very expressive. In her daily activities she revealed a great love for Jesus Christ whom she viewed as the Spouse of her soul.
As Visitatrix she was very concerned about the community and spiritual animation of the Sisters: she was gifted in her ability to relate to all people, but especially to the Sisters who desired to talk with her about their concerns. During so many of those encounters with the Sisters, there was no need for her to say anything, just her gaze was enough to calm the Sisters.
4. A missionary and evangelizer as Visitatrix
From 1932-1958 Sister Justa was Visitatrix and during the years of persecution (1936-1939) she looked for different ways to save the Sisters and their various ministries. After the civil war she became a missionary of reconciliation, organized the Secretariat of Works and reorganized the various lay Vincentian associations: the Children of Mary, the International Association of Charity, Catholic Action, and other groups. She promoted vocations to the religious life, motivating and providing help to those young men who were interested in the priesthood or brotherhood. She established twelve minor seminaries to cultivate the vocation of those who aspired to follow God’s call. She collaborated in the pastoral ministry of the bishop of Madrid, Lepoldo Eijo y Garay and sent Sisters to multiple parish health clinics and schools … parishes located in very poor sections of the diocese. Faithful to the proposal of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, she sent Sisters to India (1940) and Santo Domingo (1952). Through patient listening she encouraged faithfulness to the charism. Her humble presence created an environment of unity and charity which attracted many vocations during the time of her leadership.
Author: Sr. María Ángeles Infante Barrera, Vice-Postulator
Translator: Charles T. Plock, CM