Venerable Mother Luisita
Maria Luisa de la Peña Navarro, called Luisita by all who knew her, was born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1866. Although she considered entering the religious life as a girl, her family arranged a marriage for her at the age of fifteen to a prominent doctor twice her age. The couple were not blessed with children, but they worked together to provide medical care to the poor of their region, even founding a small hospital named Hospital of the Sacred Heart.
When Luisita was twenty-nine years old, her husband died. She continued to work in service of the poor. People described her as, “the widow with the basket who searched throughout the countryside, sometimes walking and at other times on a donkey, to go in search of the sick.”
After eight years as a widow she entered the Cloistered Carmelites in Guadalajara and immersed herself in the great works of Carmelite spirituality as well as Eucharistic adoration. However, her bishop soon asked her to return and continue to guide the hospital she had helped found. Under his guidance she formed a religious community of women who lived by the Carmelite rule while also serving the poor through the hospital.
In 1926 the order was forced to go into hiding as a result of persecution in Mexico. This was the time of the Cristero War when many Catholics suffered martyrdom. In 1927 Mother Luisita and two other sisters from the order were forced to take refuge in the United States, where they founded a retreat house in Alhambra, California where this image hangs today.
In 1929 Mother Luisita returned to Mexico, although she was often forced to live in hiding. She and her Carmelites continued to serve the poor in Mexico as well as directing the sisters in California. Servant of God Luisita died on February 11, 1939 and her cause for sainthood was officially opened by the Church in 2000.
Here she is shown with the crest of her order as well as the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacred Heart to which she was so devoted. AMDG
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