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Feastday: February 27

Birth: 1860

Death: 1943

Beatified By: Pope John Paul II

Caritas Brader (Mary Josephine Caroline) (1860-1943), Foundress of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate. Mary Josephine Caroline was born in Kaltbrunn, St Gallen, Switzerland, on 14 August 1860 and was baptized the next day.

She was an unusually intelligent child. Her mother raised this child with loving care, giving her a sound Christian faith. She received an intense love for Jesus Christ and devotion to Our Lady. Aware of her daughter's talents and ability, her mother took pains to give her a good education. At school in Kaltbrunn she shone in the elementary grades. At the Maria Hilf Institute in Alstätten, run by Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St Francis, she was the first of the intermediate classes.
When all the world lay at her feet, to entice her, she followed Christ's call and decided to embrace the religious life. At first, her mother predictably opposed this decision, since she was a widow and Mary Josephine was her only child.

On 1 October 1880 she entered the enclosed Franciscan convent of Maria Hilf. On 1 March 1881 she was clothed with the Franciscan habit and was given the name of "Mary Charity of the Love of the Holy Spirit". On 22 August 1882, she professed her religious vows. Because of the high standard of her education, she was designated to teach at the convent school.

At the end of the 19th century, it became possible for cloistered nuns to engage in apostolic activity outside their monastery so that they could undertake missionary work. Missionary bishops visited convents in search of sisters who felt called to work in mission lands.

Bishop Pietro Schumacher of Portoviejo, Ecuador, a zealous missionary of St Vincent de Paul, wrote to the religious of Maria Hilf, asking for volunteers to work as missionaries in his diocese. The religious replied enthusiastically, and one of those most eager to be a missionary was Sr Caritas Brader. Blessed Maria Bernarda Bütler, superior of the convent, who was to head the group of six missionaries, chose Sr Caritas as one of them, saying: "Sr Caritas will go to the missionary foundation; she is supremely generous, shows no reluctance to any sacrifice, and with her extraordinary practical sense and education will be able to render great services to the mission".

On 19 June 1888 Sr Caritas and her companions set out for Chone, Ecuador. In 1893, after catechizing countless groups of children, she was sent to the foundation in Tůquerres, Colombia.
There she showed her missionary zeal: she loved the locals and spared no efforts to reach them, braving the wild breakers of the ocean, the tangled undergrowth of the jungle, and the intense cold of the high plateaux. Her zeal knew no bounds. She was concerned above all with the poor, the outcast and those who did not yet know the Gospel.

To face the urgent need for more missionaries in the vast field of the apostolate, with the backing of the Geman Fr Reinaldo Herbrand, she founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate. The Congregation was first made up of young Swiss girls who followed the example of Mother Caritas. They were immediately joined by local vocations, above all from Colombia, who swelled the ranks of the new Congregation and allowed it to spread to several countries.

In her apostolic activity, Mother Caritas took care to combine contemplation and action. She encouraged her daughters to acquire effective academic qualifications, but without permitting the spirit of holy prayer and devotion to be extinguished, "Do not forget", she told them, "that the better educated, the greater the skills the educator possesses, the more she will be able to do for our holy religion and the glory of God, especially when virtue is the vanguard of her knowledge. The more intense and visible her external activity, the deeper and more fervent her interior life must be".

She focused the apostolate mainly on the education of the poor and the marginalized, wherever need called.

Her great love for Jesus in the Eucharist prompted her to ask and obtain permission for Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent. She left this most sacred treasure to the Congregation along with great respect for priests. During adoration, Mother Caritas received light and strength for the apostolate. She taught the sisters to "see God's will in everything, and to do His will with joy, out of love of Him", hence the motto of her life : "It is His will".

She was Superior General of the Congregation from 1893-1919 and from 1928-1940. In 1933, she had the joy of receiving pontifical approval of the Congregation.

On 27 February 1943, she died in Pasto, Colombia. As soon as her death became known, people streamed to venerate her mortal remains, asking for her intercession and hoping for some relic. Her grave has become the destination of constant pilgrimages. The most precious relic she left to her daughters was Franciscan poverty, a constant in her governance. As a missionary in Chone, she lived the same poverty as the people she had gone there to evangelize and instruct. Indeed, she was determined that the Congregation always preserve this poverty and trust in divine providence.

Biography Provided By: The Vatican

Bl. Maria Caridad Brader Comments

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