Pope Francis Visits St. Raphaela Mary's Shrine
The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus received an unexpected guest at the house of XX Settembre in Rome on January 2. Without notice, Pope Francis surprised the sisters and said his intention was prompted by a desire to pray at the shrine of St. Raphaela Mary, to whom he is said to be deeply devoted. Today we honor our Foundress on the anniversary of her death, back in 1925.
In January, 2014, Sister Inmaculada Fukasawa, the Superior General, presented Pope Francis with a statue of Saint Raphaela Mar at a General Audience. The Holy Father told Sister Inmaculada how much he loved our Foundress. Sister later invited him to come to pray at the shrine.
Nearly three years later, the sisters, many from the Province of Italy, were overjoyed by the Pope’s impromptu and unofficial visit, and welcomed him with deep emotion. By chance, Sr. Belen Escauriza, the U.S. Provincial Superior, was on hand as she was in Rome for another meeting. After time spent in prayer, Pope Francis greeted and talked with the Handmaids.
The Handmaids believe that Pope Francis was drawn to Saint Raphaela Mary’s life of humility, as well as her love for the poor and her interest in education. A Handmaid education endeavors to lead one to find God in all things and to celebrate God’s unconditional love with a passion for wholeness, peace and reconciliation.
As we celebrate our 70th anniversary and the legacy of Saint Raphaela Mary, we feel blessed to be one of the Handmaid schools throughout the world – and the only one in the United States. At Ancillae, we strive to be united in heart and spirit with other Handmaid schools as we promote the Handmaids’ and the school’s mission in the daily ministry of education.