Blessed Mother Maria Encarnación Rosal
Vicenta Rosal was born on October 26, 1820 in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Her birth coincided with the date of abolition of the Order of Bethlehem. God was giving the church a daughter that after some time would extend the spirit of the Order, revitalizing the Bethlemite Congregation and guiding it towards an evangelizing service.
Her parents, Manuel Encarnación Rosal and Gertudis Leocadia Vásquez, did their best in giving her the formation and culture that matched the traits of a Christian home and those of the Guatemalan society in which they lived in. Vicenta received from her parents and siblings a holistic education. In the religious aspect, she learnt from her parents and elder siblings “the faith as a way of living, that is the filial piety to God, the loving orientation to Christ in the Eucharist,” a deep devotion to Our Lady and great charity towards the poor and needy, whom she used to help generously.
She was joyful and happy, and she was very delicate in manners, this pleased all those who met her. In addition, as any young girl of her age, she liked “galas and vanity” and for this reason occasionally she received reprimands from her elder sister, who reminded her that the promises of the Baptism had to be fulfilled the best she could. Vicenta accepted politely the remarks but she gracefully clarified that she would change her way after she was 20.
Vicenta befriended a Honduran girl, Manuela Arbizú, who moved by the grace of God, spoke to Vicenta with great enthusiasm about the ideal of serving God in consecrated life, and unexpectedly, she mentioned the nuns of Bethlehem. The name of Bethlehem attracted the attention of Vicenta. Once she got the answers to all her questions about the life of the nuns, she consulted the matter with her parents and spiritual director, and she travelled to Guatemala in order to fulfill her desire to be consecrated to God. She arrived to the Beaterio of Bethlehem on January 1, 1838.
Once she entered the convent, she began her commitment and self-giving to God, but unfortunately, after few days of her entrance she realized that the environment was not favorable to her ideals: intense life of prayer, silence, penance and austerity. She took the habit of the community on July 16, 1838; it was imposed by the last Bethlemite father living there: Fray Martín de San José. This is a really meaningful fact for the congregation: the last Bethlemite giving the habit to whom, by God’s plans, would give new vigor and life to the spirituality of Bethlehem. On the day in which she took the habit, she changed her name for Encarnación. She gave her vows on the feast of Divine Motherhood, January 26, 1840, day in which the Order celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Bethlehem.
God took her through paths of inner battles. He allowed her to go to the Convent of the Catalinas, where she enjoyed the peace, silence and austerity her spirit had longed for. God showed her that the same life she was living in the convent where she had just arrived could be lived in Bethlehem and in this way, she could take the community she had left to the heights of a great union with God and apostolic service. After living the fervent spiritual exercises, she decided to go back to Bethlehem.
Once again in the Beaterio, she immediately was entrusted with the work of the school, and there she started changing, planting and fortifying. Things were going perfect. People who were enjoying the apostolic service of the Beaterio were happy and the sisters of the community realized the change was being achieved. Though the community valued Mother Encarnación’s apostolic service, not all of the sisters shared her points of view, but they respected her hard work and organization.
After some time, she was appointed as Vicar of the community and she started the inner transformation of the convent. In 1855, she was elected Prioress of the convent. As she was aware of the mission she has been entrusted, she devoted more to prayer, in order to ask wisdom and prudence to carry it out. She started writing the constitutions that would rule her convent.
When she was facing difficulties she devoted herself more to prayer, and as the Lord is generous, he replied to the faithfulness of his servant manifesting himself to her in a confidential way. On the eve of Holy Thursday 1857, close to dawn break, she went to the choir loft to meditate on Judas’ betrayal and the pain of the heart of Christ during the prayer in Gethsemane. “While I was in prayer –Mother herself narrates- I heard an inner voice telling me: No one celebrates the sorrows of my heart.” These words were for Mother a particular call to honor and to make amends to the Heart of Christ for the evil, ingratitude and sins of humanity.
After some time, she founds a school in Quetzaltenango, but due to religious persecution, the sisters left to Costa Rica, where they established two schools: one in Cartago and another in Heredia. Everything was peace and joy in the service of the Lord until the religious persecution reached this country. From Costa Rica they went to Pasto, Colombia.
Mother Encarnación died in Tulcán, Ecuador, on August 24, 1886. Her uncorrupted body is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Bethlemites Pasto. She was beatified by His Holiness John Paul II in Rome on May 4, 1997.
[Taken from: Bethlemite Charism and Spirituality, Ana Lucía Otero, Bethl.]