“Pearl of the Antilles”
BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE OF THE VENERABLE SOLEDAD SANJURJO SANTOS,
SERVANT OF MARY MINISTER TO THE SICK.
On November 15, 1892 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Mother Soledad Sanjurjo Santos was born into this life. She was the last of six children of José Sanjurjo González, of Spanish origin, and María de la Palma Santos del Toro who was born in San Juan.
She was baptized on April 3, 1893, in what is today the Cathedral of Saint Phillip in Arecibo and given the name María Consuelo.
She was barely six months old when her father died at the age of forty-five. The young widow did all she could to care for her children until succumbing to tuberculosis. She died on July 10, 1901 in San Juan at the age of thirty-eight.
Consequently, at the young age of nine years, María Consuelo could no longer depend on her parents’ support. When faced with having to provide her with an education, family members entrusted this delicate responsibility to a religious institution; together with her sister Antonia, she boarded in a school in Río Piedras called "La Protectora" that was run for orphan girls by the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick. This is where María Consuelo spent her childhood and adolescence. Frequent contact with the Religious along with a soul that was open to spiritual things brought about in her the vocation to the consecrated life. She was admitted to the Institute as a postulant in this same community of Servants of Mary in Río Piedras on August 4, 1909.
Her time of Novitiate was spent in the Mother House of the Congregation in Madrid, Spain where she received the religious habit on May 31, 1911. On this day María Consuelo’s name was changed to María Soledad by which she would be known in the religious life. On June 1, 1913, she made her Temporary Profession and on December 17 was sent to Manzanillo, Cuba where she would spend the time of her third probation. She then professed Perpetual Vows in Santiago de Cuba on April 30, 1921.
All who dealt with her admired her profound spiritual life, prudence and keen intelligence, along with great simplicity and undeniable humility. After having carried out various responsibilities in the community, she was named Superior of the house in Matanzas, Cuba on August 18, 1939, and successively in Manzanillo and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three year later on July 20, 1950, she was appointed Provincial Superior of the Antilles and established her residence in the Provincial Curia in La Habana. During this time period, she set out to “build a Novitiate for the young vocations that would come in the Antilles”. After having served two terms, she left this position and on March 19, 1959 became the Superior of the Community of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Because of her zeal, the Institue grew with the foundations of the Communities in Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros and La Vega in the Dominican Republic. Communities were also established in Caguas and Aibonito. These Tabernacles were set up in the place of those she had seen closed in Cuba to her great sorrow.
Three years later and still in San Juan where the Provincial Curia of the Antilles had been moved because of the revolution in Cuba, Mother Soledad once again became the Provincial Superior on June 29, 1962.
During this time, her health deteriorated due to a heart attack. In June of 1966 she completed her time as Provincial Superior and was sent to the community of San Juan where she would remain for the last seven years of her life: she accepted each day as a gift and simply offered what she was able to do. She was happy to do this unconditionally and selflessly carried out each task.
When she was reaching the culmination of her life journey, she wrote to Mother General who was asking for volunteers for a foundation in Cameroon: “Reverend Mother, I tell you in all sincerity that if I were a few years younger and had better use of my legs, I would offer myself wholeheartedly to go to Africa, but I must be conformed with the desire and with the offering of my prayers so the Lord will bless and help the Sisters who have the good fortune of going.”
She would continue with this same spirit until the moment of her death caused by acute pulmonary edema at 10:00 on the night of April 23, 1973. It was Easter Monday. She died at the age of eighty and sixty-two years of consecrated life.
As a Servant of Mary, Mother Soledad lived a Charism marked by service to the suffering; the self-donation required for this, if authentic, must be sealed with respect, concern, anonymity, and the simple gesture of serving Christ out of love, and in his name serving those who know the fragility of life.
Since she was a person of few words, we will never know through her personal account, the repercussion that suffering had in her life, but in her response to the difficult situations she had to confront throughout her life, we can discover a rich gold-mine of trust in God and of unconditional abandonment into his hands.
Enterprising and with great initiative, she knew how to live peacefully, always seeking the will of God in every circumstance. She saw difficulties as a time of waiting in order to set her time according to God’s clock. When beginning her projects, she provided all the neccessary means to reach the goal and would then pray and calmly wait for the time designated by God to arrive.
She did not seek to be the protagonist; rather, hidden with Christ in God, she tried to go unnoticed. Her presence sowed peace in the communities she visited and wherever there was discord.
By consistently living what she promised the Lord and by her attitude more than by her words, she was responsable for leading her Sisters and spoke firmly when she saw deviations from the essential elements of the consecrated life and from the genuineness of the charism. She was a valid referernce for the religious who dealt with her. Her way of being also marked the life of the lay people who knew her because she always took advantage of the opportunity to show them true christian values.
Because her life bore the stamp of evangelical simplicity, it has withstood the test of the passing of time and continues being valid, not only for the Servants of Mary of today, but for the believing faithful who see in the simple person of Mother Soledad Sanjurjo a valuable incentive to live gospel values and a christian reference for their own times.
PRAYER FOR THE INTERCESION OF MOTHER SOLEDAD SANJURJO
WHAT SHE KEPT IN HER HEART ENLIGHTENED
HER LIFE’S JOURNEY
“The Lord and His Most Holy Mother will give us the strength we so need at this time.”
“Our Lord God will provide; He is our Father and never abandons anyone.”
“Nothing gives more peace to the soul than complete surrender into the hands of God.”
“Let us earnestly pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our loving Mother, that she may always be our consolation and support in life’s struggles.”
“May the Virgin Mary cover you with her motherly mantle.”
“Never lose hope of becoming holy; with God’s grace all is possible, despite our misery.”
“It is not time yet. We must wait for our clock to be set according to God’s time. It will happen, but when God wants.”
“The Lord is waiting for you here. Open your heart to Him because He wants to enter. He will speak to you.”
“Everything for the love of God, and everything that is done for God is done well and out of love.”
“So many Tabernacles were closed when our Sisters left Cuba; in other new communities I would like as many Tabernacles to be set up again for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
“How glorious it is for a Servant of Mary to work where nobody sees her; but God sees her.”
“We come to the religious life to serve, following the example of Christ and the Virgin Mary.”
“My Jesus, I love you: forgiveness and mercy”. These were the last words she said, sealing her lips for ever.