A brief history
She was born in Santander, the capital of the Province of Cantabria, on a street called "Isabel la Catolica" # 7, Holy Thursday, April 9th, 1925. Her family was affluent and very devout. She is the youngest of four children that God gave to Prudencia Gil de Lamadrid and Calixto Velarde.
On April 20th, 1925, she received the sacrament of Baptism in a parish named San Francisco. Her godparents were her brother Carlos and her sister Carmina. On March 17th , 1930, when she was four years old, she received the sacrament of Confirmation from the hands of Bishop José Eguino y Trecu, commonly known as the "Good Bishop", in a church named Santa Lucía. On May 21st, 1933, the day of the Ascension, she received her First Holy Communion in the parish of Santiago, in Madrid.
During the Second Spanish Republic, she lived in Madrid from 1932 until 1937. This was a trial for her, because she loved her hometown. During her adolescence and young adult years she lived in Barcelona where she went to high school. She always stood out for having a clear preference toward the most disadvantaged among her classmates. When she was 14 years old, on the February 28, before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, at the moment of benediction, she saw clearly that God wanted her to belong entirely to Him. From that moment on, she understood that she needed to begin living her vocation as soon as the Lord would allow it and she never had a doubt about God's calling.
At the University of Barcelona, she studied Philosophy and Liberal Arts with a major in General History. She finished her college career with the highest honours on June 26, 1951 at 26 years of age.
She came into contact with the Congregation of the "Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart" which had a novitiate in San Cugat del Vallés. The life of the Sisters was not very attractive in and of itself and neither was the work they carried out nor the location of the novitiate because the foundation was very recent and very poor. Nor were there any immediate apostolic plans where she could put to use her brilliant college degree. But the faith, enthusiasm and simplicity of the Mother Mistress of Novices, Mother María del Carmen Altimiras won her over.
She was docile to God's will, which was shown to her in such a simple way. She arrived at the novitiate on October 26, 1951 and two days later, on the solemnity of Christ the King, she entered the community. She took the religious name of Sister María de Jesús. She inmediately immersed herself in the community and carried out difficult chores that she had never done before. From the beginning of her religious formation, she stood out as a model in every aspect: obedience, poverty, silence and charity. Her motto was simplicity, which was the fruit of her profound humility. For example, none of the novices from her class knew that she had a college degree until the Mother Mistress made it known, when the need arose to put her intellectual, musical, and artistic talents at the service of the community. Due to her keen foresight, she very soon became one of the indispensable all-purpose helpers of Mother María del Carmen.
She made her temporal profession on August 25, 1953 and her perpetual profession three years later.
The first apostolic work that she founded under the direction of Mother María del Carmen, was a school named "El Pinar de Nuestra Señora" located in Valldoreix, Barcelona. With great economic difficulties from the start, God blessed the school and she became the Superior of the community and headmistress of the school in 1954.
One can find the teaching identity that singles us out as a Religious Congregation and characterizing our schools in the teaching philosophy, that she drafted for "El Pinar" and the legacy left by her extensive teaching experience. For years “El Pinar" has been the "Alma Mater" of the education we offer and the model for our schools and also our apostolic works.
Before the end of the 1983-1984 Holy Year of the Redemption, she founded a prayer movement for young people that bears the Spanish acronym “D.O.Y.M.A.R.” : "Discipulos Orantes y Mariano-Apostólicos de la Redención." In English it is roughly translated as " Prayerful Marian and Apostolic Disciples of Redemption". Her desire was to respond to the call Pope Saint John Paul II addressed to youth by promoting among the young people of our apostolic groups, the desire to serve Christ with their entire life, through the different vocational paths to which we are called in order to give glory to God. Today this movement has also extended to America.
With the goal of conserving the spirituality and the life style of the Province of Spain, at the beginning of 1958, she accompanied Mother María del Carmen to Rome to ask for the support and guidance she needed. Once they received the blessing from the Church, she waited with trustingly for God's hour to come. As the years went by, she enhanced and enriched the original foundational charism in the field of prayer with a profound Trinitarian emphasis and with the spirituality of the great Spanish mystics. She furthered the mission with a new dynamism based on the doctrinal guidelines of the Holy Father John Paul II as it is found in his writings concerning consecrated and apostolic life. In this way, Mother María de Jesús has contributed specific characteristics to the way of living the charism and to religious life as God inspired in her.
She has always remained faithful to the true spirit, the foundational charism and to the wholesome traditions, written and compiled by her in the book of Statutes that the Spanish province lived by since 1969. She has passed on this faithfulness to each one of the Sisters. All of us find in her an understanding and a maternal spirit that forms and builds a well united religious family.
She has personally founded 39 of 41 communities of the Institute.
In each apostolic work, she has known how to be docile to the divine inspiration that enabled her to tend to the needs of people and to maintain unity among all the Sisters as it is manifested especially in our way of life. This way of life is always geared toward conserving as strong and alive as possible our charism in the Church. Ever since she has been at the head of our religious family, she has marked our community and sisterly life with her particular charism that stands out for its ardent charity, thus setting the particular life style for every apostolic work she accepted for the Institute. In addition, she has given priority to welcoming the families of the members of the Institute doing as much good as possible for them spiritually and taking care of their physical needs. She has always considered the parents of the Sisters the main benefactors of the Institute to whom we owe our first attention and help.
She has always faced the obstacles (in particular those related to material resources when launching a new project) with a great sense of abandonment to Divine Providence but also with great prudence moved by the urgency of doing good to souls and of safeguarding the spiritual life of the Sisters.
With all these noble ideals, from 1993 until 1998, she persevered with particular persistence in appealing to the Holy See to ask, on behalf of the Province, to be constituted as a new Institute born of the charism of Fr. Jules Chevalier (Founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and later of the Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun in 1874) with a new spirituality, apostolic mission and community life style.
On the feast of the Nativity of the Our Lady, September 8, 1998, the Church gave formal recognition to a new Institute of Pontifical Right, that of the Daughters of Holy Mary of the Heart of Jesus, which Mother María de Jesús had worked for without sparing sacrifices, giving it a new identity, spirit and life. For this reason, on October 4 of the same year, during the celebration of the First General Chapter, she was elected unanimously (except for her own vote) as Mother General of the new Institute because all its members considered her and felt her to be their Mother Foundress.
She has written our norms of life and our Spirituality in the Constitutions, which distinguish us as Daughters of Holy Mary of the Heart of Jesus. These were approved by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life on the day of the Nativity of Our Lord, December 25th, 1998.
Today, our Mother lives with the limitations of her age and illness with a profound supernatural spirit, desiring the final encounter with Him who called her and led her to carry out this work in the Church. From this advanced stage of her life, she continues encouraging the vocations of her Daughters with her witness and her silent gift of self.
All of us who know her and have received so many spiritual and material benefits from her, sing onto the Lord a hymn of thanksgiving for the gift of her life.