Bl. ASCENSI”N OF THE HEART OF JESUS NICOL
Virgin, Co-Foundress of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary
Ascensión Nicol Goñi was born on 14 March 1868 in Tafalla, Navarra, Spain, the youngest of four children. As a child, she had many duties, including helping her family with the household chores.
When she was 14, Ascensión went to St Rose of Lima boarding school in the city of Huesca. Contact with the Dominican Religious there made her consider her own vocation, and she gradually came to understand that God was leading her to the Religious life.
Called to be a Dominican
At the end of her schooling Ascensión made the decision to become a Dominican; however, she first returned home, where she remained for a year in order to make sure that her decision was the right one.
In 1885 Ascensión returned to the school, this time to enter the novitiate there. A year later, she made her first vows and began to work as a teacher.
Although she taught for 28 years, her deep desire was to serve the poorest, even those living in far-away lands. Some other Sisters felt the same way.
When the Government stripped the Religious Community of Huesca of its school, the Sisters lost the larger part of their work and apostolate. They immediately wrote to America and to the Philippines to offer their availability.
Into the Peruvian forest
In 1913, Bishop Ramon Zubieta, O.P., from the Apostolic Vicariate of Porto Maldonado in the Peruvian forest, arrived in Huesca holding the letter written by the Sisters. He was eager to have them come to serve in Peru, and as soon as Mother Ascensión said her name, she was accepted.
In November of that year, a first group travelled to Peru, with five Sisters among them. They arrived on 30 December, accompanied by Bishop Zubieta, an expert in difficult missionary expeditions.
The Religious were welcomed and took up residence in a Dominican convent in Lima, which became their temporary headquarters as they prepared for their trip to the new Apostolic Vicariate.
A long and risky voyage
Mother Ascensión and two other Sisters were the first missionaries to reach the forest. The news of their arrival caused much rejoicing in Lima, since never before had anyone carried out such a long and risky journey, trekking through the Andes and navigating down dangerous rivers.
In 1915, this 24-day adventure led Mother Ascensión to her first mission in Porto Maldonado and marked the beginning of her "call to the missions". Here, she dedicated herself to the education of children and the advancement of women, bringing God to the poor and abandoned.
The Sisters started a boarding school for poor girls; they also opened their home to the sick who came to them for assistance when no other help could be found. The Sisters then visited the sick and provided for their basic care. Wherever there was a need, the Sisters sought to meet it, thereby broadening their apostolic ministry.
Always in God's presence
Mother Ascensión was an example of unwavering faith and truly lived a life of prayer, always in God's presence. It did not matter whether she was travelling by boat, canoe or mule, or whether she was in the enchanting Peruvian forest, alone or with the people.
It was especially in the young people, in the sick and in the women (who lived so differently from anything Mother Ascensión was accustomed to) that she experienced God in a very strong way. She once said: "I cannot explain what my soul is experiencing.... Never have I felt so close to God as I have in these 16 months in the mountains".
A new Religious Congregation
Neither Mother Ascensión nor Bishop Zubieta had the intention of starting a new Religious Institute; rather, it was the Master General of the Dominicans who advised this.
Thus, on 5 October 1918, vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, they founded the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary.
As Co-Foundress, Mother Ascensión was appointed Superior General of the new Congregation, a role to which she dedicated the rest of her life. She died on 24 February 1940.