Portrait of Josefa Indefatigable Missionary
From the Communications Center,
Province of Bolivia/Chile.
On Thursday, January 13, 2022, "Semblanza de Josefa Misionera Infatigable" (Portrait of Josefa Indefatigable Missionary), written about Mother Josefa Fernández Concha by the Chilean Sister Angélica Guzmán (right), was launched through a Facebook Live broadcast on the Province of Bolivia/Chile's Facebook page.
The launch of the book, which portrays the life and works of Mother Josefa, a Servant of God and missionary of the Good Shepherd Congregation, was held on that Thursday in honor of the anniversary of her death. The book details her life from when she was a young girl accompanying her mother to help the poorest in society, when she entered the Congregation as a religious sister, her journey to the Motherhouse to meet Saint Mary Euphrasia, her relationship with the figure of the Child Jesus, the foundation of 35 religious communities across Latin America, and the many other events that marked how she touched the lives of so many women.
Who is Mother Josefa?
Josefa Fernández Concha was born on March 15, 1835, in the family home in Santiago (Chile) presently located on Mac Iver Street between Santo Domingo and Esmeralda. Her parents were Pedro Fernández Recio and Rosa de Santiago Concha.
Her vocation to help others had been instilled in her by her family, given that since she was a child, she had accompanied her mother and siblings to carry out work helping the poorest in society.
When the Sisters of the Good Shepherd arrived in Chile in 1855 and founded the first house in the city of San Felipe - to offer shelter and rehabilitation to homeless girls, women, and children - the Fernández Concha family came forward to provide support to establish apostolic works in Santiago. As a result of this, Josefa was closely involved with the Congregation.
She entered the novitiate in the Good Shepherd Provincial House in Santiago (Rivera Street) in 1862 at the age of 27. One year later, she took her final vows, receiving the religious name of María de San Agustín, and was appointed as acting mother superior of the community.
There was a great boom in vocations during that time, and requests were received to establish new Good Shepherd houses in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. In response to this, Sr. Josefa went to these areas with the sisters to open their hearts and their doors to offer shelter to girls, women, and children who had found themselves on the margins of society.
She founded 35 Good Shepherd houses throughout Latin America. In addition, she moved into their communities and shared the scarcities and many hardships experienced in those early days. On January 13, 1928, she finally passed away in Argentina, where she was laid to rest. She bid farewell with a single word: "Forgiveness!" As she began her new life reconciled with God.
Hosted by the Province's Good Shepherd Spirituality Center the event was attended by Sr. Sandra Suárez, Province Leader, Sr. Leticia Cortés, former director of the Good Shepherd Spirituality Center, Sr. Adriana Barone, from the Province of Argentina/Uruguay, and Sr. Angélica Guzmán, the book's author who provided a special interview.
The live broadcast (in Spanish) began with a video to promote the launch. The host, Alejandra González, then welcomed everyone to the event and introduced Sr. Sandra Suárez. She emphasized the importance of this book in bringing us closer to the life of Mother Josefa and her vocation as a religious sister.
Later, the interview began with Sr. Angélica, who explained the book's inception along with the history and life of Mother Josefa. She said: "Mother Josefa was a very well-rounded woman, with her feet on the ground, who lived from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century […] What I highlight most about her is her unconditional dedication towards girls, women, children, and women prisoners."
Speaking of Mother Josefa and the importance of her work in Latin America – comparing her zeal to that of Saint Mary Euphrasia – Sr. Leticia Cortés went on to say during the live broadcast.: "She impelled us to create something new, to renew ourselves from her witness of dedication, willingness and ardent, tireless zeal that radiated beyond borders."
Speaking from the Province of Argentina/Uruguay, Sr. Adriana Barone shared her thoughts on the book about Mother Josefa: "We value the interpretation of someone who has viewed the story from a women's perspective, as Sr. Angélica has. It is so important to have a book written by one of our own sisters. She is the third sister to write a biography in Spanish about Sister Josefa, but she is the first to do so in the 21st century and from the perspective of this century. This is a significant contribution to embracing Josefa on a personal level," she said.
Finally, they confirmed that the physical copy of the book would be available soon for the Province of Bolivia/Chile. Whereas sisters, partners in mission, and laity from other countries can order an electronic version of the book by emailing the Spirituality Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.