Venerable Mother Margarita Maria Lopez de Maturana, founder of the Order of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz, will be beatified on Oct. 22, 2006 in her hometown of Bilbao, Spain.
A contingent of the faithful from the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa led by its spiritual pastor, Bishop Tomas A. Camacho, D.D., will be leaving for Spain in mid-October to attend the beatification process and to join in the festivities.
Representative groups from Guam, Micronesia, and other parts of the world where this once cloistered nun-turned-missionary had established numerous religious houses on various islands and continents will also be present at this solemn and festive occasion.
Included in this pilgrimage is Sr. Remedios Castro, MMB, the most senior of the Mercedarian Sisters on Saipan. At age 90, she rivals the excitement and glee of any nine-year-old youngster going on a trip. When asked about this pilgrimage, she responded with a wide grin on her face, “I am overjoyed because once again I get to visit Spain and to witness the beatification of our Mother Foundress whom I have had the honor of meeting in person as a young woman!”
She then sang the welcome song that she and her classmates had sung to Mother Margarita in Spanish when she first set foot on Saipan on November 2, 1928, eight months after the arrival of the first batch of Mercedarian missionary sisters to this island.
Steps to Sainthood
Canonization is the process by which the Catholic Church proclaims a deceased person to be a “saint,” and therefore worthy of veneration by the faithful. The process involves a three-step procedure, with traditional honorary titles being given to the person at each phase. Such titles begin with “Venerable” to “Blessed” and ending with “Saint.”
In the initial process, and before a person is bestowed the first title of “Venerable,” a petitioner must first write to the local bishop introducing the cause for why the subject person should be canonized. The bishop then assigns someone who is an expert in theological, canonical, and other matters. The postulator investigates the life, deeds, and writings of the person. After lengthy questioning and consultations with experts (medical and others), verification of witnesses and alleged miracles, etc., all findings are then documented and compiled in “The Acts of the Cause.” This document is then forwarded to the Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome for ultimate review and action.
“Venerable” is a title given by the Catholic Church to a deceased person at the conclusion of an investigation into the person’s life, writings, and holiness. It is the first step in the canonization process in which the person is declared to have lived an exemplary life worthy of reverence and respect.
In the case of Mother Margarita, these processes began on July 30, 1943. The Diocesan Informative Process for her cause of canonization was initiated in the Diocese of Vitoria, Spain. Forty-four years later, on March 16, 1987, the title of “Venerable” was conferred on Mother Margarita by the late pope, Pope John Paul II.
Beatification—the second step—is the process which a deceased person, proven to have lived a life of heroic virtues, is declared to be one of the “blessed,” and therefore is worthy of public religious honor. Appropriately, the honorary title to be bestowed on the person at this stage would be that of “Blessed.”
In December of 2005, the Vatican gave its approval for the Cause of Beatification for Mother Margarita Maturana. This means that Venerable Mother Margarita, at her official beatification on Oct. 22, in Bilbao at the Cathedral del Senor Santiago, will have reached the second phase of her canonization process and will henceforth be addressed as “Blessed” Mother Margarita Maria Lopez de Maturana.
As she had lived…
It is not by coincidence that Mother Margarita’s beatification falls on World Mission Sunday. After all, it was the “dream” of being a missionary that had engulfed her entire being. It was this “dream” which had given her the missionary vision and the courage to change her lifestyle from the cloistered contemplative to the active, world traveler missionary that she was.
The presence of the Sisters of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz here in the Marianas particularly, as well as in other parts of the world, stands as a strong testament to the missionary zeal and spirit of Mother Margarita.
In her very own words: “To make Jesus Christ known to all peoples and races, even to the ends of the earth.” This was her life’s focus. This also is what she had desired in death. (Jess R. A. Sonoda)