Yesterday afternoon, Sunday, July 24, 2022, Sister Juana Elizondo Leiza, Daughter of Charity, passed away in San Sebastian (Spain). The news has shocked many people, beginning with the communities of Daughters of Charity around the world. A few days ago she had undergone a hip operation and was unable to overcome the postoperative period. She was born in Aranaz (Navarra, Spain) and was 96 years old and 71 years of vocation.
It is no exaggeration to say that Sister Juana Elizondo has been, without a doubt, one of the most relevant figures- if not the most relevant- of the Company of the Daughters of Charity in the last third of the 20th century and in the first years of the 21st century. Her vision of the Company, her true governance totally in line with the Second Vatican Council, her conviction of a renewal faithful to the roots of the charism and to the new times, her captivating personality, grounded in simplicity and humility… have made Sister Juana Elizondo an essential benchmark in the universal journey of the Daughters of Charity.
Sister Juana Elizondo, with a magnificent Vincentian and theological preparation, was General Councilor from 1974 to 1980; then, she was Visitatrix of the former Province of San Sebastian, from 1986 to 1991; and, finally, she was elected Superior General from 1991 to 2003. When she ended her service as Superior General, she resided in the then Provincial House of the former Province of San Sebastian, in Villa Milagrosa-Ayete, totally dedicated to the service of the poor. And she remained in that service as long as her strength and health allowed her to do so.
Whenever I have dealt with Sister Juana Elizondo- and there have been many times- I have always appreciated her closeness, good humor, exquisite listening, evangelical wisdom, realism and a Vincentian spirituality with open eyes.
I end with a brief text she gave at the Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life in October 1994. It is a text that perfectly portrays her character as an authentic and true Daughter of Charity, servant of the poor:
“It is important to shorten distances in order to find ourselves closer to the poor and so that they have no difficulty in approaching us. We can create distances with our attitudes, our structures, our ways of life… Consistency with our vocation asks us to do everything in our power to remove the obstacles that hinder our progress along the path of getting closer to the poor”.
Celestino Fernández, C. M.