Saint Maria Soledad

Saint Maria Soledad exercised extraordinary stewardship over her neighbors by dedicating her life to caring for the sick in their homes. She took a passage from the Gospel of Matthew as a divine directive: "I was sick and you visited me" (25:36).

Soledad Torres Acosta was born in 1826, in Madrid, Spain, second of five children to parents who were small business owners. She was educated by the Daughters of Charity and often visited the sick in her neighborhood. She wanted to become a nun but was unsuccessful in entering the Dominican community because of her own fragile health. In 1851, she was asked by a parish priest to attend to sick parishioners in their homes. The parish was located in one of the poorer suburbs of Madrid, and many of the sick who could not afford hospitalization were simply abandoned. Along with six women companions, she established a formal ministry of home healthcare. She took the name Maria Soledad.

Maria Soledad attended Mass daily and spent much time in prayer. She embraced such a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that in 1856 the women named their community the Handmaids of Mary Serving the Sick. The dedication of these women was brought to public attention by their care of the sick during Madrid’s cholera epidemic of 1865.

Since its beginnings the community had grown in number and, in 1875, established a home healthcare ministry in Havana, Cuba. In 1876, the community was given formal papal approval.

On October 11, 1887, after having led the community for 35 years, Maria Soledad died of pneumonia. At the time of her death the congregation had nearly 50 community houses spread across Europe, and Central and South America. Maria Soledad was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1950, and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. Her feast day is October 11.

In the United States, the congregation is known as the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick. Its ministry continues to provide home healthcare.






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