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Mother Maria Clara of the Child Jesus and her spiritual legacy

By Sister Julia Dias Fonseca, FHIC

Mother Maria Clara of the Child Jesus, co-Founder of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was born on June 15, 1843. This year, 2008, she would be celebrating her 165th Birthday. Therefore, I am writing about her for the June Chatterbox issue. Born from a noble family in the outskirts of Lisbon, Portugal, Mother Maria Clara whose baptism name was Libania, has been marked with a great deal of suffering caused by the loss of her beloved parents at an early age. Raised in an aristocratic environment, soon she realized that the Lord was calling her to embrace a life of total surrender to Him.

Naturally sensitive, with a tender and compassionate heart, Libania has seeked religious life as a means of giving herself totally to the service of the needy. She entered the Convent of St. Patrick in Lisbon, and there exchanged her luxurious dresses for a simple habit of a religious receiving the name of Sr. Maria Clara of the Child Jesus. After having completed her Novitiate in Calais-France, she professed on April 14, 1871 and returned to Portugal.

At a solemn ceremony, presided over by Fr. Raimundo dos Anjos Beirão, who encouraged and directed her, Maria Clara assumed the office of Superior and Mother of all the companions who had pronounced their religious vows with her. Thus, on May 3, 1871, was born what would come to be the Congregation of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Poor for the Love of God and, later the Portuguese Hospitaller Sisters and, today, the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

Gifted with a lively and ardent temperament, Mother Clara was confronted with problems that ravaged the society of her time. She had a fervent desire to do something in benefit of those who suffer. A woman of prayer, kind and humble, she gave herself totally and with courage to make her life a gift of love, confidence, hope, tolerance and comfort to all. Her charity extended to all persons without distinction, in an intensive desire to meet their needs, alleviate their suffering, console the sorrowful, and be a presence of doing good everywhere. Wherever there was someone in need of bread, a home or warm clothes; ;where there was someone in need of spiritual guidance, of peace or the word of God, there she was, reaching out to everyone. Her frequent exhortation, “Let us work with love and for love”, was a synthesis of her life. Only charity guided her life

On December 1, 1899, at the age of 56, God called Mother Maria Clara to receive the reward for her unconditional surrender to the cause of the Kingdom, in living and transmitting the Charism of Hospitality and of Service.

Mother Clara died, but she continues to live in the heart of all Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters, spread throughout four continents. The Sisters, in the daily living of their self surrender to God and to all those in need, make a reality.

Today we are a family of about 15 hundred Sisters attending to the needs of God's people as health care givers, teachers, Doctors, missionaries, nurses in response to her legacy: where there is any good to be done, go and do it.

As you well know, we live in a time where there is a shortage of vocations to religious life. We ask our readers to please ask the Lord of the Harvest to send us many good and courageous young women and men who are willing to surrender their lives to God for the sake of His Kingdom to do good where good needs to be done as Mother Maria Clara and her followers did.

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