Campaigner for Christ

 

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A Biographical Sketch of Mother Camila Rolon

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Campaigner for Christ By MONSIGNOR GABRIEL THEO. MAIORIELLO 1

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CAMPAIGNER FOR CHRIST A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MOTHER CAMILA ROLON FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH BY MONSIGNOR GABRIEL THEO. MAIORIELLO i

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Title: CAMPAIGNER FOR CHRIST NIHIL obstat: Reverend Lorenzo Albacete, - Censor Deputatus Thomas J. Welsh Bishop of Arlington December, 1977 Imprimatur: 1978 Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the publishers. ii

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CAMPAIGNER FOR CHRIST iii

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Dedicated to my Mother Angelina Maioriello iv

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That in all your actions you might be; sisters of charity very lovingly of your Order, as a whole, true Josephites! v

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CONTENTS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Foreword ………………………………………............................................ . 1 Early Life ………………………………………............................................ Preludes and Preparation …............................................................................. 3 8 Planting the Mustard Seed ……………………………………………………. 14 Approval – Diocesan and Papal ………………………………………………. 23 The Lure of Rome …………………………………………………………….. 30 The Shadow of the Cross …………………………………………………….. 35 A Saint is Born ……………………………………………………………….. 42 Epilogue ………………………………………………………………………. 48 Launch Into the Deep …………………………………………………………. 50 Prayer – Seeking Mother Camila’s Beatification ……………………………... 51 About the Author ……………………………………………………………… 52 vi

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“Blessed Religious Life!” “Nothing worldly my daughters, Love and more love, for whoever loves God, nothing will be ever found difficult!” vii

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Foreword This short biography of Mother Camila Rolón is the first such to appear in the English language. The material is taken from approved sources and especially in its broad outlines from a work by the late Francisco Company. The life of Mother Camila is significant not only because of intrinsic value, but because she was an apostle of unity with a Holy See. I wish to thank Mrs. Zoila Lavin who helped with the translation of documents, Mrs. Jan Mitchell whose aid with the first draft was invaluable and especially Mrs. Silvia Federico, who patiently found time in her busy schedule to prepare all the intermediate corrected copies and to type the final manuscript. Feast of St. Francis Xavier December 03, 1972 Monsignor Gabriel Theo. Maioriello 1

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ILLUSTRATIONS PAGE PAGE Mother Camila with the traditional Cross in the last years of her life. An early picture of Camila Rolón taken when she was about 22 years old. The Carmelite novice, Sister Dolores of Saint Joseph. This photograph of Mother Camila was made shortly after she entered the cloister in 1875. The first Sisters of Saint Joseph; Mother Camila (center), Sister Rosa Zurueta, and Sister Adelaida Nuñez. The large cross became a tradition in the community to be held in the right hand when the sisters make their profession. An old photograph of the Motherhouse at Muñiz, donated by León Gallardo. Muñiz is a suburb of Buenos Aires. The statue in the foreground is an allegory of Charity with her children. Statue of Charity – in front of the Mother House, Buenos Aires The main altar in the Motherhouse at Muñiz, dedicated to Saint Joseph. The small crucifix is over the tomb of Mother Camila. Mother Camila with orphans, around 1900. The final resting place of Mother Camila Rolón. Motherhouse at Muñiz – Buenos Aires – taken in 1973. Saint Gabriel’s Convent in Alexandria, Virginia. Where are established the Provincial House, Noviciate and the Day Care Center. PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE PAGE 2

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EARLY LIFE The tenor of the times was uncertain for religion, a spirit that did not bode well for the Catholic Church. The Jesuits had been expelled from the Argentines for the second time. Harsh laws were already in the making as the anticlerical Liberal’s philosophy filtered IN FROM Europe’s revolutions to all the lands south of the Rio Grande. British warships and Britain’s financial Empire were threatening to close the port and ruin the shipping of Buenos Aires. Juan Manuel Rosas, Governor of Buenos Aires and virtually ruler of Argentina, although no enemy of the Church, appointed and controlled bishops. One of his political quarrels was with the papal nuncio who objected to the policies and conduct of his appointees. The forces of union and disunion were at work. The liberals of the capital, Buenos Aires, advocated centralization of government after the example of the democracies of the day, while the traditionalists of the hinterlands openly resisted the trend. Argentina had declared its independence from Spain in 1810. Given the name which is the Spanish adjective describing the silvery color of Rios de la Plata (the river of silver), Argentina, a sparsely populated land, stretches from the tip of the South American Continent upward to the border of Paraguay, from the Atlantic Ocean to within less than a hundred miles to the west of the Pacific Ocean. It was this very period of Argentina’s history that laid the foundations for modern Argentina. In this epoch was born and grew into adulthood a unique woman destined to establish the first native Catholic sisterhood for the country. The Poor Sisters of Saint Joseph was the name of this religious congregation and through the days of waning Catholicism (1853-1880), which is described above and through the period of open opposition to the Church (1880-1902), when finally antiCatholic legislation was defeated, this small group of dedicated sisters helped wage the battle of Christian love against sickness, illiteracy and poverty in that powerful republic to the south. The subject of this biography, born on July 18, 1842, was baptized four days later, with the names, Camila Corine. Her parents named her Camila for the day of her birth was the feast of St. Camillus de Lellis, the seventeenth century patron of hospitals, and Corine, most probably after the name of a heroine in a novel popular at the time, of which we shall write later. 3

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The young Camila was the daughter of Eusebio Rolón and María Gutierrez. Both parents were good Christians and well known for their neighborly interest in the community. Camila was about six or seven when she received the sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Mariano Esclada, the auxiliary of Buenos Aires. This sacrament was administered to her in a chapel of a farm at the close of a mission which was held for the entire countryside. We do not know when Camila received her first Holy Communion, but it is assumed to have been when she was twelve, since it was not customary to receive the sacrament before that age. Like other girls of the town, she was enrolled in the little school of Señorita Rueda, the only school in San Isidro. Besides the catechism and elementary reading and writing, the pupils learned handicrafts and domestic arts. Trustworthy, punctual and enthusiastic in class and out, Camila was the pride of her teacher and an example to her schoolmates. Especially during recess, her contagious joy would spread to all. At school she absorbed easily the limited course of study which the village teacher could impart, particularly becoming proficient in the catechism of Christian doc trine. In turn, from her earliest years, she enjoyed teaching her younger brothers and the children of the neighborhood the truths she had learned in religion. From her childhood, signs of uncommon religious piety were noticed. She never failed to visit the Blessed Sacrament after school, or help the poor in different acts of kindness. Camila displayed other examples of devotion to her younger brothers. Her night prayers were said kneeling by her bedside. But her religious leanings never marked her off as anything but a normal child. Camila loved her parents. Though she spent her childhood in a poor home, it was a home that was happy and honorable. San Isidro was situated among surrounding hills and rocks near the coast of the great Rio de la Plata. From her home the waves could be seen rising and falling and the flight of the seagulls was part of the everyday scenery. Her home life reflected he serenity, the beauty and power of God that surrounded it. She had only two fears; sin and storms. Her innocence and piety rejoiced the angels of heaven. Although she had a delicate constitution, she also possessed a very lively temperament and genuine compassion. She look with horror upon even the slightest sins. She viewed them as madness against the good God who had 4

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filled the world with such beauty. The storms that broken now and again over the little town of San Isidro were symbolic of the madness of man an his rebellion against a loving Father. The road from San Isidro to Buenos Aires was deeply rutted by the wheels of carts carrying the produce and fruits of the region to the port city. Not only did Buenos Aires absorb the nation’s natural wealth, but, constantly grew in size to absorb the constant stream of people leaving the interior of the country to settle there.’ Eusebio Rolón, like many others, succumbed to the attractions of Buenos Aires. He packed his cart and his family and moved to the metropolis where he decided to stay. He found a house for rent in the neighborhood of Socorro which was at that time some distance from the center of the city. It was there that Camila matured into adulthood. She watched her brothers grow up and her parents get older. Her childhood virtues developed as she wholeheartedly threw herself into a new way of life and new responsibilities. But she never considered herself better than her teenage companions. She never condemned their innocent recreation or the games that the other girls played, nevertheless her real joy still remained the acts of charity, the Church’s catechism, attending to the poor, and the liturgy of the Church. This was the time she developed a devotion to the image of Christ of Miracles, which is venerated in the Socorro and took as her spiritual director, Father Francisco Villar, pastor of that church. Camila, despite her expansive personality had the inclination to lead a serious and virtuous life. She made this known to him and, through his direction, progressed in the spiritual life. The meager studies she had made at Senorita Rueda’s little school were enough for her, even though Buenos Aires had grater educational advantages to offer if she wished them. Although her brothers attended the schools nearby, Camila was content with what she had. From a human point of view, one would think that the point of view, one would think that the future founder of a religious congregation would have needed a more extensive education, but perhaps God wanted her natural character to be unspoiled, so that He Himself could sketch the master plan on her soul and fill in the colors alone. Camila, unspoiled and faithful to her natural inclinations, attracted the love of all sorts of people. She was like a sister to her mother and a second mother to her 5

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brothers. She was an ideal parishioner, attentive to the needs of her Church without neglecting her duties at home. By her simple life she would preach the apostolic message to the rich and the poor, at church and in private homes. She was forever bringing some abandoned or neglected child home to feed and clothe besides teaching the child the truths of religion. “Let us happily work, that everything will be little for what we owe to such a Great Lord.” M.C. 6

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When only twenty-five the ravages of cholera that swept through Buenos Aires tested her in her role of a good Samaritan. The epidemic, disseminating death and terror, left the metropolis desolated. Undaunted she remained at her home. While others deserted their sick she would visit house by house seeking above all those that others had forgotten. Through the long nights and days her ministry never stopped. All around the city one could see the constant tragedy of death. To care for the abandoned was her duty and she stayed with that duty until the last of the disastrous pestilence had disappeared. Three years later when the great city was beginning to recover from the blow of cholera, still another death-dealing epidemic appeared – yellow fever. One of the first ones to contract the dreaded disease was her own mother, Mrs. De Rolón; but her daughter’s prayers and compassionate attention restored her to health. How painful it must have been for Camila to discover her own spiritual father one day in the last throes of the plague. Camila closed his priestly eyes in death and prayed for his soul as her last tribute and reverence for him. “Prayer, reading the Sacred Scriptures, the liturgy of the Eucharist, are the main sources of sanctification for the religious.” Doc. Conc. Vat. II 7

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