When people in our islands greeted Mother Margarita as she came ashore in 1928, little did they know she was a saint in the making. What does it take to be a saint? What set her on this journey to sainthood?
Mother Margarita’s journey begins with the desire to serve God; a desire that she and her twin sister shared. Pilar, as Mother Margarita was called then, and her sister, Leonor, were inseparable. Their journey to God was a shared one, and as the years went by this zeal to serve took root in each of their hearts. Hearing this call, they made what they considered the ultimate sacrifice, to enter different religious orders, so that they could “refuse God nothing.”
Mother Margarita chose to enter a cloistered convent of the Order of Mercy (Mercedarian) which was founded by Saint Peter Nolasco in 1218 to ransom Christian captives. After becoming a nun in 1903, she was a teacher for some 20 years in the monastery’s boarding school and her work there was the avenue by which she proclaimed the Gospel. Even by 1912, Mother Margarita’s desire to identify with and live like Jesus is clearly reflected in her writings. “I do not have any other desire than to glorify Him on earth as He glorified the Father and make Him known to everyone He entrusted to me, which is the entire world.” Mother Margarita was deeply moved by missionaries who visited the school in 1919 asking her students for prayers for their missions. She felt inspired to start among her students–Mercedarian Missionary Youth–encouraging them to be co-missionaries with Christ through their prayer and service. This missionary spirit not only set the youth on fire to save souls, but it pervaded the entire monastery of nuns. At the same time, the Prioress of the Monastery was also being led by God to be open to transforming the cloister to an active missionary order. Mother Maria Nieves Urizar, the prioress, having the full support of nuns of the monastery, petitioned Rome for their change in status. In January 1926 permission was granted, and by September 1926, six missionaries set sail for China. In 1927 another group set sail for the Pacific Islands, arriving to Saipan March 4, 1928 and another group to Ponape (now-Pohnpei) on November 4, 1928. Today, the Mercedarians Missonaries are on five continents around the world, sharing the missionary legacy of Mother Margarita Maturana.
Mother Margarita’s legacy is her missionary zeal, which sprang from her intense union with Christ, who offered Himself as a ransom for all. This is what brought her down the road to sainthood. She never grew tired of this mission or of depending on God to make all of her desires a reality; she was well aware it was Christ’s work, not hers. God impelled her, and she cooperated. Though she suffered immensely, and died of cancer at age 49, her writings always showed her joy. She wrote, ”My soul is enjoying a feast.” This inner joy could be seen by all who encountered her.
The official process for Canonization is called a “Cause”. This can begin five years after the death of a candidate. This period allows the Church to verify the candidate’s reputation of holiness and intercessory prayer. The first step of the Cause for Mother Margarita began in the Diocese of Vitoria, Spain and the appointment by the Bishop of a Postulator, a person to assist in the promotion of the Cause. The current Postulator for the Cause of Mother Margarita is Sister Flor de Maria Alvarez, M.M.B, who recently visited Saipan. When in a Cause it is determined that nothing hinders his/her consideration for sainthood, the candidate is called a “Servant of God.” The Bishop then appoints a Tribunal to gather evidence for or against the Canonization. Theologians examine the candidate’s writings and testimonies are collected from those who know the candidate well. Mother Margarita’s writings were approved on March 4, 1954.
The second step toward Canonization starts when all the evidence is studied by the Congregation for Causes of Saints in Rome. If the evidence reveals true holiness exercised by the “Servant of God,” the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation informs the Pope that the “Servant of God” was either a Martyr or has lived a life of extraordinary and heroic virtue. The Pope then has the Congregation issue a decree, giving the title of “Venerable.” Mother Margarita Maturana was declared “Venerable” in 1987.
The third step is “Beatification”. Since the “Servant of God” has been declared to have lived a life of holiness, it must be proven that one miracle has been granted by God, through the intercession of the “Venerable Servant of God.” For a healing to be considered a true miracle, a Tribunal to gather all the evidence is established in the Diocese where the event took place. It must be determined that there is no scientific explanation for the cure and that the intercession of the “Venerable Servant of God” is proven. The Congregation presents the findings to the Pope, who declares the event is a true miracle. In the case of Mother Margarita, recognition of a miracle attributed to her, was proclaimed on April 28, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI beatified her on October 22, 2006 in her home diocese of Bilbao, Spain. This was the first Beatification to ever take place outside of Rome.
Now the fourth and final step is “Canonization” that is to be made a Saint. Mother Margarita can be canonized if there is another miracle approved since she was beatified or with an “Equivalent Canonization” and this is where we can do our part to make her a saint for our islands.
You are kindly asked to consider writing a personal letter to the Pope. You would share with him, in your own words, how Mother Margarita, who sent her sisters—the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz here to Saipan and actually came here herself in 1928 and 1931, has personally impacted you, your family, our island. We sincerely desire her to be declared a Saint so that the whole universal Church would be able to share the gift of God she was and is– a true inspiration for our world today.
The letter should be placed in a plain white envelope, sealed and addressed to Pope Francis-Vatican City and delivered to the MMB Sisters at Maturana-Navy Hill or to the Mt. Carmel Cathedral Office. If you prefer you can place it in another envelope and mail it to:
Mt. Carmel Cathedral
Cause for Canonization
P.O. Box 500745
Saipan, MP 96950
Anyone 18 years old or older can write a letter. Just think–how many times in your life will you have the opportunity to write to the Pope? The deadline for submission of the letters is the Sunday after Easter, April 23–the Feast of Divine Mercy.
Therefore, please consider taking a little time to cooperate with this letter-writing effort for the Cause and remember–sooner, is always better than later!
For all ages–please join in praying for the Canonization of Blessed Margarita. THANK YOU!
(Committee for the Canonization of Blessed Margarita Maria Maturana)