On July 6, 57 years ago, a Daughter of Jesus gave her last breath and peacefully went home to the Father. She was 81 years old, having spent the last 33 years of her life serving the Lord in the school lobby, warmly welcoming the students, their parents and other visitors, the priests who came to celebrate Mass and the little boy who served at the altar, and practically everyone who passed through the school gates, especially the poor and the needy.
One of the first six Daughters of Jesus to venture outside Spain in obedience to Mother Candida, at the age of 32 she experienced the pain of separation from her loved ones (Mother Candida and her sisters), and discovered the joy of being united with God by doing His will. She wrote Mother Candida soon after having arrived at her assignment after 15 days on a ship, 5 days on a train, and 15 days of braving the jungle on horseback to reach a land strange and unknown. She admitted how much she felt the separation from Mother Candida and the other sisters, but then continued by sharing what she felt deep in her heart: “… but in the midst of all this, I felt an inner impulse that made me say: it is so beautiful to do God’s will in everything; and I, at this moment, with this separation, am fulfilling it as well. And this encouraged me, and it continues to encourage me, because it is the motto that I try to have in everything.”
It was probably this experience of Beauty and Truth and Goodness that attracted the students to her, young girls who would seek to converse with her at the lobby during breaks and after class. Eventually some of them would become Daughters of Jesus, being led like her to discover that indeed, it is so beautiful to do God’s will. From her, they received simple lessons in life – how to see Jesus in the poor, to love Mary as Mother and Refuge, to struggle against selfishness and self-indulgence and to devote themselves diligently to their studies, etc. In short, to find joy and beauty in knowing God and seeking His pleasure. Only 9 years after her arrival, she was already known for helping young men who would become priests. A particular story illustrates this. In the year 1936, a 19-year old seminarian who was only passing through the city, went to see her at the recommendation of the master of the house where he was staying. The landlord had told him that all the seminarians there, including those who were passing through, would go to the school to ask for her prayers. The young man was profoundly impressed by her simplicity and humility, and it led to regular visits to her, faithfully made at the end of the school year; and the relationship was to last until her death.
The sisters who lived with her in community, especially those who were just beginning their religious life, found consolation in her person and example amid their struggles, and received the advice and support which they needed and which they treasured because it led them to the path of obedience, self-denial and deep joy and peace which affirmed them in their vocation. Her superiors found in her a quiet and firm support that encouraged them in difficulties.
In her previous assignment, she had lived through the bitter pain of closing an apostolic work sixteen years after the foundation. As the Vicesuperior she had known of the decision before the others did, and was constrained to observe silence and prudence until it was communicated. The community’s experience was one of deep, wrenching pain, but she went meekly to her new “home”, once more finding God there. Other sisters were markedly edified by her witness.
A surprise awaited her in her new assignment. A surprise not only to her but even to the other sisters, who expressed their astonishment. In those days there were two kinds of sisters: the teaching sisters, and the coadjutor sisters who helped them. A teaching sister, she was assigned to the lobby,to be doorkeeper, a work for coadjutor sisters. It was the other sisters who expressed their surprise. She accepted it as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Very soon it wasn`t just the students and her sisters who found refuge and support in her. Her welcome extended itself to the students’ families, including the young boys who came to talk to her and left the school “different persons”. Eventually the whole town came to know her from her post at the lobby, and when the Lord had seen fit to call her to Himself, she left this world peacefully, after the Bishop had asked for her to pray for the diocese and for the Congregation. The whole city came to a halt for someone who had spent 33 years of her life there attending to the Lord’s pleasure from her humble post at the lobby. At her funeral, the city mayor approached the Sisters and said, “Mother Vicenta did not belong to you alone; she was a patrimony of Leopoldina.”
Today the remains of Mother Vicenta Alonso Guilarte, Servant of God, rest at the Cathedral of Leopoldina (MG, Brazil). From her post beside the door of the Cathedral, she points everyone, as it were, to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Thank You, Lord, for having given her to us and to the world!
Anna-María Cinco FI