Maria was born to a farm family and had a very happy childhood in Switzerland. She loved nature and learning. When she made her First Communion, her family was pleased by her strong
commitment to her faith and spirituality.
At fourteen, Maria was engaged to be married. She heard her first call of Christ. She broke off the engagement and turned to life of prayer. Later, she would say, “The Holy Spirit taught me to adore, praise, bless and give thanks to Jesus in the tabernacle at all times, even at work and in real life.”
At nineteen, Maria found a place among the Capuchins at the convent of Mary Help of Sinners. She rose quickly to become a Novice Mistress and then its Superior. In June 1888, Maria received an urgent invitation from the Bishop of Portoviejo, Ecuador, a region with a severe shortage of priests. He asked her to be Missionary to the people of his Diocese. Maria, with six of her Sisters, went and took care of the poor, the sick and the families— teaching God’s Word and of His Hope. In a short time, Maria founded a New Congregation, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary, Help of Sinners. Young women began to join them.
When anti-clerical persecutions flared, Maria and her sisters fled Ecuador for Cartagena, Colombia, where she established a base of operations at a women’s hospital. She served the poor and the indigent of the city for twenty-nine years. In 1924, Sister Mary Bernard died at the age of 74. She had spent 38 years as a Missionary and had never returned to her beloved homeland.
REFLECTION: Saint Maria felt called to the Church at a very young age. She made a bold and brave decision to follow her heart. How old are you and do you feel a sense of vocation to be traveling Missionary?