Throughout the history of Christianity,
there has been no lack of
generous women and men dedicated
to the ministry of healing. This
should not surprise us, really. After all,
this venerable tradition goes back to
Jesus himself, who said his mission was
to proclaim God’s healing presence not
only by word but also by action. At his
touch, the blind saw, the deaf heard
and the lame walked again.
To get to know this month’s “model
of holiness,” we direct our gaze to the
modest town of Cotija, Mexico, in the
state of Michoacán, where Blessed
María Vicenta of St. Dorothy Chavez
Orozco was born. Her family lived in a
neighborhood where many poor and
unskilled workers also resided.
Her pastor, Father Agustin Beas, was
devoted to people who were both poor
and infirm. The priest set up six beds in
a room of his parish house, which he
called Holy Trinity Hospital. Sick people
were cared for there by the women
of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Inspired to Serve the Sick
When María Vicenta was about 25
years old, she entered Holy Trinity Hospital,
suffering from pleurisy. Because of
the gentle care she experienced there,
she was inspired to dedicate her life to
God by doing the same apostolic work.
Later that year (1892), when María was
well, she returned to the small hospital
to nurse the sick and poor.
In 1895, she took private vows with
Catalina Velasco and Juana Martín del
In 1905, she founded the Congregation
of the Servants of the Poor,
later named the Servants of the Holy
Trinity and the Poor. She made her
vows in 1911 and was named superior
general two years later. Serving in this
capacity for 30 years as the soul and
leader of her congregation, María
Vicenta was fervent in prayer and a
model of genuine charity.
February 6, 1867
Born in Mexico, youngest of four children
February 20, 1892
Became ill and was hospitalized
May 12, 1905
Founded Servants of the Holy Trinity and the
July 30, 1949
Died in Guadalajara at Holy Trinity Hospital
November 9, 1997
Beatified by Pope John Paul II
Madre Vicenta and her sisters were in
great danger from the anti-Catholic
troops during the Mexican Revolution.
In 1914, troops took over Guadalajara’s
cathedral and imprisoned many priests
and religious, including the Servants. In
1926, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Zapotlan
was turned into a military headquarters.
Not intimidated by the danger or
by the insults of the soldiers, the sisters
continued caring for the sick and
wounded with loving dedication.
The faithful service of the Servants
was rewarded with abundant vocations.
By 1942, Madre Vicentita (as she came
to be called) and her sisters had established
17 new foundations (hospitals,
clinics and nurseries).
At 75, María Vicenta began to suffer
serious health challenges. Archbishop
José Gariba Rivera, who became
Mexico’s first cardinal, was at María
Vicenta’s bedside celebrating the Eucharist
when she died—at the moment
the host was elevated.
When Pope John Paul II beatified
María Vicenta, he called her a model of
a health-care minister. Maybe you and
I are not in a position to follow in the
footsteps of Blessed María Vicenta as
full-time ministers of healing. But we
can imitate her by visiting the sick or
praying with them or possibly taking
them to their medical appointments.
We, too, can find ways to participate in
the healing ministry of Christ.
Next: Mary McKillop