Saint of the Day – 24 February – Blessed Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus OP (1868-1940)
a Spanish Religious sister of the Order of St Dominic, Teacher, Missionary. She co-founded and was the first Prioress General of the Congregation of Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary, which she helped to found in Peru. Born as Florentina Nicol y Goni on 14 March 1868 in Tafalla, Navarre, Spain and died on 24 February 1940 in Peru of natural causes. Also known as Maria Ascension Nicol y Goñi, Mother Ascension del Corazon de Jesus, Mother Ascensión Nicol Goñi, Florentina Nicol Goni. Patronage- Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary.
Florentina was the youngest of four children. She was educated at Saint Rose of Lima Dominican boarding school in Huesca, where she was first introduced to the religious life, which raised questions in her mind about her future. Returning home for a year to reflect on her choices, she later returned to the monastery and became a nun of the Dominican Second Order in 1885, taking the name “Maria Ascension of the Heart of Jesus”. She became a teacher at that school in 1886 and served in that capacity for the next 27 years. Under the anti-clerical laws promulgated in the early 20th century, however, in 1913 the Spanish government took over the school and expelled the Sisters.
Bl. Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus is one of the great missionaries of the last century. From her youth, she viewed life as a gift for the Lord and for her neighbour and she wanted to marry no-one except God, to whom she consecrated herself as a Dominican Missionary Sister at the monastery of St Rose in Huesca, Spain. She lived unreservedly the dynamism of charity which the Holy Spirit generates in those who are open to Him in their hearts.
The first part of her apostolate consisted of being a teacher in the school connected to the monastery. Testimonials recall her as an excellent educator, amiable and strong, understanding and exacting.
But the Lord had different plans in store for her. At age 45, he called her to become a missionary in Peru. With youthful enthusiasm and total trust in Providence, she left her Country and dedicated herself to the evangelisation of the world, beginning on the American Continent. Her work was so generous, vast and efficacious that it left a profound mark on the missionary history of the Church.
She collaborated with the Dominican Bishop, Ramon Zubieta, in founding the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary, of which she was the first Superior General. Her missionary life was rich in sacrifices, hardships and apostolic fruits. She made many apostolic trips to Peru, to Europe and she even went to China. She had the temperament of an intrepid and tireless fighter, together with a maternal tenderness that was capable of conquering hearts. Driven by charity for Christ, she showed to all, the charisms of spiritual motherhood.
Sustained by a living faith and by a fervent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Our Lady of the Rosary, she dedicated herself to the salvation of souls, even to the sacrifice of her very self. And she frequently urged her Daughters to do the same, saying that souls are not saved without sacrificing themselves. She inspired an ever more pure and intense charity and for this, she offered herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.
She also established her congregation in Spain where they were able to recruit and form many missionary vocations. The General Motherhouse of the congregation was established in Pamplona, Navarre, Spain, and became her base.
By 1938 Mother Ascension felt increasingly frail and wanted to retire to prepare herself for her final days. Nevertheless, she accepted her unanimous re-election for a third term as Prioress General at the congregation’s General Chapter of 1939. She died on 24 February 1940.
Today the congregation has 785 Sisters serving in 21 nations on five continents. It’s General Motherhouse is now in Madrid, Spain. Among its members, the congregation counts four Sisters who are considered to be martyrs for the faith, having been tortured and murdered in the former Republic of the Congo on 25 November 1964, in the course of the Simba Rebellion, after they refused to leave the patients in their hospital.
She was Beatified on 14 May 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI. The Recognition Celebration was celebrated by Cardinal Saraiva Martins in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
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