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Claretians remember their foundress

Sisters working in archdiocese recall Venerable Mother Maria Antonia Paris

From left, Sister Ondina Cortes, Sister Carmen Alvarez and Sister Claudia Ortiz, three of the five Claretians working in the Miami archdiocese, pose with Archbishop Thomas Wenski after Mass.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

From left, Sister Ondina Cortes, Sister Carmen Alvarez and Sister Claudia Ortiz, three of the five Claretians working in the Miami archdiocese, pose with Archbishop Thomas Wenski after Mass.

MIAMI — The Religious of Mary Immaculate working in the Archdiocese of Miami — better known as the
Claretian Missionaries — celebrated the 125th anniversary of the death of their foundress Jan. 15 at St Timothy Church.

The sisters began by sharing information on the life and calling of Venerable Maria Antonia Paris before concluding the celebration with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

The Claretian Missionaries in Miami celebrated the 125th anniversary of the death of their foundress, Venerable Maria Antonia Paris.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

The Claretian Missionaries in Miami celebrated the 125th anniversary of the death of their foundress, Venerable Maria Antonia Paris.

Maria Antonia Paris was born in 1813 in a small village in Spain called Valmoll, from where her widowed mother fled with Antonia and her sister Teresa to escape the attacks of Napoleon’s troops.

From a very young age, Antonia felt a call to a life of prayer and service. She applied to join the religious order the Company of Mary, but because of the Spanish government’s persecution of the Church and ban on entry to religious orders, Antonia had to remain an applicant for nine years before she could become a novice.

While praying for the suffering Church in Spain, Antonia received a revelation: that the Lord wanted the Church to have greater faithfulness to the Gospel. He asked her to begin a new religious congregation, “a new order, not new in doctrine, but in practice.” The Lord indicated who would be the one to help her found this new order.

Father Antonio Maria Claret, a well-known missionary priest in northern Spain, had recently founded a congregation of missionaries with a similar charism to what Antonia felt called to pursue, the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known today as Claretians.

Father Claret was named Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba and invited Antonia, who had left the Company of Mary, to found her new order in the New World.

Taking with her adventurous youths who had the desire to cross the Atlantic to meet the spiritual needs of the New World, Mother Antonia, with the support of Archbishop Claret, founded the congregation of Claretian missionaries on Aug. 25, 1855. It became the first order founded in Cuba.

Mother Antonia lived her life contributing to the renewal of the Church by living radically in light of the Gospel and “imitation of the Apostles.” She died Jan. 17, 1885 in Reus, Spain. On Dec. 23, 1993, the Holy See recognized her heroic virtues and declared her “venerable.”

Today, the Claretian Missionaries are present in 27 countries worldwide.

At the thanksgiving Mass in honor of Mother Antonia, Archbishop Wenski recognized the five Claretian sisters who serve in Miami — one of whom, Sister Carmen Alvarez, he has known since he was a seminarian.

Mother Antonia “made the Church more beautiful” by responding to God’s call, the archbishop said, telling the Claretian sisters who continue her mission that they have “given us an example of surrender.”

He finished his homily by saying, “We give thanks to God for these Claretian sisters who have worked here in the Archdiocese of Miami. Their testimony enriches us and inspires us to do God’s will.”
Archbishop Wenski speaks with Claretian Sister Carmen Alvarez, who was present at his first Mass as a priest 35 years ago. During Mass, he introduced Sister Alvarez as one of his oldest - in longevity of time, not age - friends in the archdiocese.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

Archbishop Wenski speaks with Claretian Sister Carmen Alvarez, who was present at his first Mass as a priest 35 years ago. During Mass, he introduced Sister Alvarez as one of his oldest - in longevity of time, not age - friends in the archdiocese.

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