Piedad de la Cruz Ortiz Real (1842-1916)
Tomasa Ortiz Real was born on 12 November 1842 in Bocairente, Valencia, Spain, the fifth of eight children to José and Tomasa Ortiz. As a child, she was known for her piety as well as her musical and acting talents.
When she made her First Holy Communion at 10 years of age, she received the grace to understand that Jesus was calling her to Religious life. This desire remained with her over the years, and after she completed her studies at Loreto College with the order of the Religious of the Holy Family of Burdeos, she asked to enter their novitiate.
Her father, however, considering Tomasa's young age and the political situation of the time, forced her to remain at home.
The "Grace' of First Communion
Tomasa continued to grow spiritually and humanly, dedicating much of her time to prayer and to helping poor children, the sick and the elderly. She was earnestly searching out God's will and kept alive in her heart the grace she received on the day of her First Communion: to belong completely to God.
Although Tomasa tried on two occasions to enter the cloistered community of Carmelite nuns in Valencia, her health would not permit her to remain. She took this as a sign that God was not directing her to monastic life, and continued to pray for the light to understand his will.
Third Order Carmelite
In March 1884, with the authorization of the Bishop, Tomasa and three of her companions began living together as the "Community of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mt Carmel", establishing their residence near Alcantarilla. Tomasa took the name "Piety of the Cross" and together with her Sisters, she began to assist the sick and orphaned children in a small, nearby hospital.
With the entry to the Community of other young women, the living quarters became too small and Sr Piety of the Cross decided it was necessary to open another community in Caudete.
Man cannot destroy God's work
It was not long, however, before a certain "tension" grew between the two communities of Alcantarilla and Caudete, and in August, the Sisters in Caudete went to "claim" those of Alcantarilla in order to begin their own institute, leaving Sr Piety alone with one other resident, Sr Alfonsa. This was an extremely dark moment for Sr Piety, but she lived it in prayer and faith, saying that "if this is God's work, man can do nothing to destroy it".
In this time of trial and desolation, Sr Piety sought light and discernment from Bishop Bryan y Livermore, who suggested that she and Sr Alfonsa participate in a month-long spiritual retreat at the Salesian Convent of the Visitation in Orihuela, and during it to consider a new foundation. This retreat helped Sr Piety understand much more fully the charism God had given her, and also inspired the name of the new congregation that she was to found, under the protection of St Francis de Sales.
Foundress of Salesian Order
On 8 September 1890, the "Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" was born, with the mandate to help orphaned children, the sick and the elderly and thus "making known to men and women, especially the poor, the Father's Providential Love as it is manifested in the merciful Heart of Jesus on the Cross".
Mother Piety invited her "daughters" to "give good example, to teach the "Our Father' to those who are unfamiliar with this prayer, to stretch out their hands to those who have fallen and to have charity for the entire world".
The Salesian Congregation grew rapidly, and Mother Piety, who did not attribute this foundation or her work to her "poor" efforts but to God alone, would often say: "I am poor and when I have nothing to give to the poor I give them my soul, my heart and my love, since love is worth much more than money offerings".
Mother Piety of the Cross died on 26 February 1916.
Homily of John Paul II (March 21, 2004)