Saint of the Day – 20 May – Blessed Maria Crescencia Perez FMH (1897-1932) Virgin, Religious Sister of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden, Nursing Sister, Teacher, Catechist. Blessed Maria had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and experienced visions and mystical union with Jesus – born as María Angélica Pérez on 17 August 1897 in San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina and died on 20 May 1932 (aged 34) of natural causes in Vallenar, Atacama, Chile. She was known as “Sister Sweetness.” Patronage – Nurses. Her body is incorrupt.
María Angélica Pérez was born on 17 August 1897 in Buenos Aires to Spanish immigrants Augustín Pérez and Ema Rodriguez as the fifth of eleven children. She was raised on a farm and helped her father with work around the farm . She was a pious child, known for her devotion to the faith, through the untiring dedication of her mother. One of the families regular devotions was, each day to gather the children and pray the Holy Rosary together.
And so these children grew up, with that strong mother who taught them to respond with love to the love of God, by speaking of Him with full understanding and to transform joys and sorrows into moments of grace . Maria Angelica studied at “Hogar de Jesus,” “House of Jesus” in Pergamino. She also received a degree as a craft Teacher from the same school.
Her religious vocation, which had been growing throughout all these years, took a definite course, when on 31 December 1915 she entered the Novitiate of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden, in Buenos Aires. She received the holy habit and her religious name –Maria Crescencia- on 2 September 1918, in circumstances of great sorrow as just before this time, her father, Don Agustín Pérez, had died.
Desiring nothing else than to please God with a holy life, she gave herself totally to her mission, becoming “All for All” in perfect obedience and in unlimited charity. According to some witnesses, the outstanding virtue of Maria Crescencia was humility. This allowed her to live the great demands of fraternal charity and of a perfect life together, with intimate and serene joy.
During the first years of her religious life, she taught crafts and Catechesis, first in the Workshop School attached to the Provincial House and then in “Colegio del Huerto” in the Capital of Buenos Aires.
The second stage of her life is marked with sickness. She was assigned to serve at Mar del Plata Maritime Sanatorium (Solarium), a place dedicated exclusively to the hospitalisation and care of children affected by bone tuberculosis. She stayed there for three years but was there infected with lung disease. As her frail health began to decline rapidly and seriously, her superiors decide to send her to a place where the weather would help her recover. They choose for it Vallenar, in the Republic of Chile, where the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden serve at the Hospital.
In spite of how much it cost her to leave her homeland, her family and her community, Maria Crescencia clearly saw the will of God in the words of her Superior and gladly accepted what He asked of her. She said “For fulfilling the will of God I would go to the end of the world.” She lived in Vallenar totally dedicated to the service of the sick people, within the joy of community life and grew unceasingly in the love of God, to whom she had consecrated her life.
In 1928, Sister María Crescencia visited Pergamino for the last time to say goodbye to her family forever. Shortly after, accompanied by the Provincial Superior, she travelled to Chile, where she spent the last stage of her life.
Given the progress and severity of her illness, she was hospitalised for three months in a hospital near Vallenar, completely isolated to avoid infection. She spent the last weeks of her life in Vallenar, in her community, with the Sisters assisting her and she them, with her serenity and deep inner peace.
With true piety she received the Holy Viaticum, surrounded by her Superior and Sisters. While she prayed the prayers of the dying with those present, she sat up and bowing deeply before the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, repeated the words that Jesus Himself taught her: “Heart of Jesus, for the sufferings of Your divine heart, have mercy on us.”
God had reserved a very special grace for this moment. According to the chronicles, she received in a vision then, a visit of the Founder, Saint Antony Mary Gianelli (1789-1846) (His life here: https://anastpaul.com/2018/06/07/saint-of-the-day-7-june-st-anthony-mary-gianelli-1789-1846/).
The from the image of the painting of Our Lady of the Garden that was next to her bed, Mary blessed her and the Sisters. Baby Jesus moved to leave the arms of His Mother and Maria Crescencia extended her arms to receive Him.
Then she breaks into a fervent prayer: “Heart of Jesus bless me and bless my Sisters, give them strength to fight with courage and seek the salvation of souls in these difficult times. Bless our Institute, from which I received so much good and in which, in these moments, I consider myself the happiest creature in the world. I ask You Most Holy Heart of Jesus that You send many and good vocations to our Institute, oh Heart of Jesus, I ask You a special blessing for Chile and since it is Your will that I die here happy, I offer You this sacrifice for the peace and tranquillity of this nation.”
It seems that the Heart of Jesus made her see the prize that He had prepared for her, because she continues, “When, Lord, have I deserved that? What are the sufferings of this world compared to the happiness of heaven? I am more than a miserable creature, the smallest of all, I am less than a worm of the earth, where did I deserve so much happiness? Heart of Jesus I do not deserve all that. Everything is the work of Your Heart, Jesus.”
Her desire to join Jesus was vehement, so she exclaims “Do not stop me anymore … Do not stop me anymore … Yes, let all go to the Most Holy Heart of Jesus, there you will find the salvation of your soul”. Finally she says smiling, “Father … into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Thus she dies on 20 May 1932.
Shortly after her death, at “Colegio del Huerto” in Quillota, 600 km distant from Vallenar, the Sisters together perceive a fragrance similar to the perfume of violets, which remains several days within the walls of the school. Because of this inexplicable fact, the Superior says, “Sister Crescencia has died.” Immediately a telegram arrived announcing her death.
When the community left Vallenar, the population did not want them to take the body of what they called “La santita,” “The little saint.” So her body remained there for 35 years. On 8 November 1966, the Congregation ordered the transfer of her remains to Quillota. Provided with a small urn, they open the coffin to reduce her remains but they found her body and her holy habit intact and in perfect preservation. The whole city of Vallenar gathered to verify this singular fact. The wake was celebrated again and then she was taken to Quillota where she rested for 17 years in the vault of the Sisters.
In 1983 her body was moved to the Church of the Sisters in Pergamino until 26 July 1986 when, on the occasion of the opening of the Diocesan process for her Beatification, it was transferred to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Garden School. On 3 October 1990, the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints opened the process in Rome.
Her tomb is today ceaselessly visited by numerous pilgrims from all over the country and surrounding countries, who come to venerate her remains, to ask for help, or to thank for favours. These are the facts God uses to communicate His message and tell us of His designs about Sister Maria Crescencia. In Pergamino, on Saturday, 17 November 2012, at 11 o’clock, she was Beatified. The recognition was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI. Let us pray for her Canonisation!
Father of Jesus and our Father,
through Your Divine Spirit
You make holiness flourish in Your Church.
We give You thanks for Blessed María Crescencia Pérez
who loved You with simplicity.
May her example and intercession,
serve to extend Your Kingdom
and to increase vocations to the religious life.
We humbly implore You, that through her intercession
we might be granted the grace for which we ask
(Express your petition)
We ask You too to accept her as a Saint at Your Altar in Heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be
Heart of Jesus, by the sufferings of Your Sacred Heart,
have mercy on us!