Foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts
Maria Carmela González Ramos García Prieto was born at Antequera, Málaga, Spain, on 30 June 1834 to a Christian family, the sixth of nine children. She received the Sacrament of Baptism the day after her birth.
From her childhood she was loved for her goodness and kindness, her generous heart and peaceful attitude, her intelligence and lively character, and her ability to participate in the life of the household.
The family atmosphere during her childhood also fostered the development of a spiritual sensitivity, and the young girl quickly became known for her intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and especially to the Eucharist. She also bore a great love for the poor, whom she visited and assisted.
Till death do us part
At 22 years of age, certain she was doing the will of God, Maria Carmela married Joaquím Muñoz del Caño. This was the beginning of a long and difficult period in which she proved the magnitude of her heart and her strength, sustained by an intense faith and heroic charity.
Her patience as a spouse and her prayers and penance for 20 years were finally rewarded when her husband asked her to pardon him for his dissolute life.
Four years of "new life" confirmed the authenticity of Joaquím's conversion and were a fitting preparation for his departure from this earthly life. With the death of her husband her mission as a wife came to its close. Carmen became a widow at the age of 47.
Her great spirit, love for the needy and apostolic zeal led her to seek the Lord's will for her life and how "to teach souls to know and love God".
This childless widow who saw in the neighbouring children an image of the Child Jesus was profoundly struck by their lack of means, culture and faith.
Guided by her spiritual director, a Capuchin priest by the name of Fr Bernabé de Astorga, she open a little school in her home. Some young women who shared her concern for these children's situation joined her good work and thus the seeds of Mother Carmen's future Religious Congregation were sown.
A new chapter and state of life
On 8 May 1884, she and her first companions reached the Convent of Our Lady of Victories. This was the first step in the founding of the new Congregation of the Third Order Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, today known as the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts.
Mother Carmen, as everyone called her, in her life as head of the Congregation had to face great difficulties and trials, calumny, opposition from within and without the Institute. She lived these and other problems with humility, charity and forgiveness.
The mysteries of Bethlehem, Calvary and the Eucharist were the living font from which her spirit drew encouragement and enlightenment.
Mother Carmen saw the growth of her Congregation throughout Spain in Andalucía, Castilla and Cataluña. During her lifetime the 11 houses she opened served not only as centres of education but also as nursery schools, evening classes for workers and rest homes to care for the sick.
Most important of all, her goal to "teach souls to know and love God" was accomplished.
At age 65, on 9 November 1899, Mother Carmen died at Antequera, her birthplace and the city of her earthly pilgrimage.
Bl. Carmen González Ramos García Prieto is held up by the Church as a shining example of Christian life. She was an upright woman who knew how to put into practice all the talents she received from the Lord in the various stages of life as a single woman, married woman, widow and Religious.
She was proclaimed Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 7 April 1984. On 26 June 2006 Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Decree recognizing the miraculous healing of Sr Maria José Rodríguez, who without medical treatment experienced the disappearance of a large tumour in 1991.