Francisca Ana Cirer Carbonell was a very “belated” vocation to the religious life. Her becoming a nun simply crowned a long career as a holy and charitable laywoman.
Francisca was a Majorcan: born in the small town of Sansellas in the middle of Majorca, the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands, which lie a good distance south of Barcelona in the Mediterranean.
Francisca’s folks had some means and were staunch and responsible Catholics. She grew up as a devout young woman, prayerful and solicitous of those in need. Eventually, she aspired to enter the monastery at Palma, the island’s metropolis. We have seen before in this series of saints’ lives that parents – even practicing Catholic parents – have rather often objected to their daughters’ becoming nuns. Francisca’s father is another case in point; he was opposed to the idea. (What does it say, perhaps even more today, when otherwise good Catholic parents frown on their sons’ becoming priests and their daughters’ becoming nuns? They should encourage, not discourage such vocations!)
In the case of Senor Cirer, he may, indeed, have been guided by Providence. At least his daughter accepted that conclusion. Within a few years’ space her mother and three siblings died, and in 1821 death took off her father. Now she was alone in the world.
Frances spent the next 30 years in a routine of prayer, penance and charity, as a pious laywoman living in her own home. Sometimes other likeminded women joined her in praying for the conversion of sinners, teaching catechism, and helping the sick and the poor. Perhaps because she was a laywoman she achieved a reputation as a woman of wisdom. Frequently consulted by other laypersons, she became recognized as a reconciler of estranged married couples and a restorer of family harmony. The “saint of Sansellas” they came to call her.
Finally, when she was 70, Francisca felt called by God to establish a monastery of sisters in her own village. To this project she contributed her own home and whatever property she had. She also donated her very self, making her religious profession with two other women, on December 7, 1851. She named the little religious community the Sisters of Charity. Their purpose was to continue the work they had already been so long engaged in: prayer life, home visitation of the sick, the education of children, and catechetics for both youngsters and adults. The foundress took the religious name of Francisca Ana of the Sorrows of Mary.
Sister Francisca Ana did not live long as a nun. She died of a sudden illness on February 27, 1855. The turn-out at her funeral was immense. It was a tribute not only to her good works but also to her recognized holiness. Her devotees saw to it that the cause for her beatification was eventually introduced. Pope John Paul II proclaimed this valiant Majorcan woman “Venerable” on March 21, 1985. A miracle attributed to her intervention was authenticated and promulgated in 1986, and in 1992 the Holy Father declared her blessed.
This pronouncement was welcomed by the islanders of Majorca. But Blessed Francisca is also a model of creative Christianity to women throughout the world.
–Father Robert F. McNamara