On Women’s Day, 8th March, we offer this reflection prepared by Friar Diego Omar Figueroa, ofm (of the Order of Friars Minor), who proposes the example of 2 women “with great stories” that invites us to “consider and value all women”: St. Maria Micaela of the Blessed Sacrament and Veronica de las Mercedes Figueroa.
Friar Diego has belonged to the Adorer family for more than 4 years and shares the apostolate with the community of Cordoba, Argentina.
His reflection follows:
Today, 8th March, 2023, as more than 100 years ago, International Women’s Day is solemnly commemorated.
Echoing this day, we want to bring to mind those women and the difficult and painful circumstances that, unfortunately are still present in many spaces. In spite of the fact that nowadays we can glimpse the fruits of many conquests of the last century, it is necessary to keep alive the demand for respect, valuation and fulfillment of women’s rights.
That is why today we propose to invite to our reflection some great women who left their mark in the history of the search for dignity, freedom and recognition. I would like to take you back to a meeting we held some time ago, where we were invited to write the name of an important doctor in Argentina. When we shared the names, we noticed that none of those we had considered was a woman. This tells us something. It makes us realize that history has told us very little about the lives of many women who had a high impact, but were relatively or totally invisible, perhaps because of their gender.
Today we have the opportunity to celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, teachers and professors, policewomen and firefighters, doctors and scientists. And along with all of them, who are perhaps close to us in their roles and functions, I especially want to include other women. I am speaking of Sisters Adorers, Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity, a Congregation of religious life that since the 19th century has been transforming the lives of those who suffer the scourge and violence of prostitution and human trafficking throughout the world.
In particular, we bring to mind the lives of two women who, with their presence and charism, stood out in every place where they lived and live. It is worth taking the time to get to know them.
First of all, I would like to introduce, to those who still do not know her, Maria Micaela Desmaisières, Viscountess of Jorbalán (Spain) who, by the grace of God, was elevated to our altars as a saint. Micaela was born in 1809 in Madrid and since she was a child, influenced by the good witness of her mother, she acquired a special sensitivity for the poor and helpless, especially for the women who suffered in the old Madrid society of the 19th century. Micaela experienced herself as a woman, daughter, sister, friend, mother, religious, and above all as “Daughter and WOMAN of God”. She was moved by the suffering of many women in prostitution and by living with them she deeply understood that we are all exposed to extreme situations if the circumstances are absolutely unfavorable and extreme. Even with the difficulties and limits of both the ecclesiastical structure of the time and the socio-cultural restrictions that kept them as outcasts, she did not leave her “arms folded”. On the contrary she gave the rest of her life to free them, giving up her own goods, her efforts, sleepless nights, prayers and, finally, her health and her life. She would later say in her writings that all her dedication made sense if she managed to win “even one soul”. Micaela was a bold and creative woman. At the same time that she transformed the lives of many people, her own life was radically transformed. Today we find a strong legacy, clear and forceful, in the Sisters and in the entire Adorers Family.
Secondly, I would like to introduce Verónica de las Mercedes Figueroa, a woman who is currently building history from the everyday life of her hometown. As a woman, she has experienced and tested herself in the roles of professional, wife, mother, worker, photographer, sportswoman and sister. She is a woman of solidarity with everyone, an active caretaker of the environment and protector of abandoned animals. Veronica made her way in many areas that were long forbidden to women because of their gender. This is how she stood out first as a soccer player (River Plate fanatic) and then as a student at the University of Córdoba and then in her professional field. These areas in her life demanded her to forge a character that would allow her to gain the respect and consideration that should be, by nature, as proper to women as to men. In Veronica we find a model of a woman who built over the years her self-esteem, teaching by her example to those around her the respect for life, people and the environment. In other words, a woman who became an active testimony of love.
Micaela, Veronica, just two names that contain great stories. Thinking of them, I invite you to consider and value all women, no matter the place and role they have been assigned. The stories of Micaela and Veronica push and challenge us to discover that the most important valuation is found deep in the soul, in the intimacy where God dwells. They struggled against countless social prejudices that told them “You can’t”, but taken from that intimate and profound encounter, they willingly radiated much life in abundance. In them we celebrate today so many women who, with a transforming force, turn the daily routine of life into a creative and tireless struggle for the respect and fulfillment of their rights.
Let us raise a prayer to Mary, our Mother, so that every woman in the world may day by day revive her heart with a hopeful smile.
Friar Diego Omar Figueroa, ofm