When Joaquina de Vedruna Vidal de Mas was born on April 16, 1783, in Barcelona in the Kingdom of Spain, her parents probably never imagined the adventure that lay ahead of her as a future wife, mother, religious, foundress, and servant to the sick and poor children. Yet, St. Joachina listened to the voice of Christ and followed, not only into a deep relationship with Him, but also as a religious committed to help the least.
Joaquina was born into a noble family, one of eight children. In 1795, when she was twelve years old, she expressed to her parents a desire to become a cloistered Discalced Carmelite nun. But they felt she was too young and immature to enter such a strict life. While that door was temporarily closed to her, Joaquina began to develop a strong prayer life with a special devotion to the Infant Christ.
On March 24, 1799, at the age of sixteen, she married Teodoro de Mas, who also came from a noble background. Like his wife, he had a desire to become a religious and enter the Franciscan Order. He also led a life of prayer and showed concern for those in need. After their marriage, both Joaquina and Teodoro became Third Order Franciscans. They raised nine children. Four daughters would enter religious life, two sons married and three children died at a young age.
Life was good for the family until Napoleon invaded Spain. Joaquina and her children fled their home while her husband remained to fight as a volunteer against the invasion. He returned home but suffered ill health from the war. He died on March 6, 1816. Joaquina moved her children to a family estate in Vic.
Joaquina began to wear the habit of the Third Order Franciscans and began to offer care for the sick and women. By 1826, with her children grown, she realized a dream she had as a child of entering religious life. Her spiritual director, a Capuchin friar named Esteban de Olot, suggested that she begin an apostolic community that would continue the work she had started in Vic.
She met with the Bishop of Vic, Pablo Jesus Corcuero, to share the goal of forming a new religious community. He offered his support but encouraged her to look to the Carmelite Order for inspiration and a basis of spirituality for the new community. He wrote the rule for the new foundation, the Carmelite Sisters of Charity. On February 26, 1826, she along with eight other women professed their vows to the Bishop. In the future, she would refine the rule with the help of St. Anthony Claret.
War forced the community to move to Roussillon, France, where they remained from 1836 to 1842. Despite this setback, the community grew rapidly and won a papal decree of praise from Pope Pius IX on August 5, 1857. Houses were built to shelter the homeless along with schools in poor areas for the education of children. Her community was affiliated to the Carmelite Order on September 14, 1860. The Carmelite Sisters of Charity was established throughout Spain, Hispanic America, and later in Japan and Eritrea among other areas. Besides the tremendous service she offered, St. Joaquina was also committed to a life of prayer, especially the contemplation of the Holy Trinity.
The last years of St. Joaquina’s life was filled with illness. She suffered her first attack of apoplexy in September 1849. A growing paralysis began to affect her in 1850. She died during a cholera epidemic in Barcelona on August 28, 1854. She was beatified by Pope Pius XII on May 19, 1940 and canonized by St. Pope John XXIII on April 12, 1959. She is the patron saint of abuse victims, exiles, mothers and protector of children against death. Her body is incorrupt.
“If we were only on fire with love of God! If we were, we would preach love, proclaim love, and yet more love, until we set the whole world on fire. We must have great desire: then God will give us whatever is best for us. We must be careful to free our hearts from everything that might get in the way of the pure love of our beloved Jesus. He is love itself, and wants to give himself to us through love. Jesus is calling us all the time – how long are we going to remain deaf to his voice?”
(From a letter of St. Joaquina De Vedruna de Mas)