The Congregation of Adoratrices, Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity, was founded in 1856 by Maria Micaela Desmaisières y López de Dicastillo, Viscountess of Jorbalan in Madrid, Spain to care for women affected by prostitution and human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Saint Maria Micaela
Early life and vocation
Micaela was born on 1 January 1809 into an aristocratic family. The early years of her life unfolded in the circles of the Spanish and French nobility.
Inheriting a warrior’s temperament from her father, her heart – sensitive and compassionate – was guided by her mother towards acts of charity.
At the age of 35 Micaela she had a profound experience which changed the direction her life was to take.
On a charitable visit to Saint John of God Hospital she encountered a young woman, a banker’s only daughter, who had been deceived by her husband and forced into prostitution.
This young woman’s story, as well as those of many others she met, opened Micaela’s eyes to the painful realities of life.
The women’s suffering and circumstances challenged her deeply, and in 1850 she left her family, wealth and position to dedicate herself fully to caring and living amongst them.
Establishing the Order
When Micaela opened the Sisters Adoratrices’ first safe home, innumerable young girls and women facing hardship and with nowhere else to go knocked at the doors looking for help. uncovering a great need. Micaela worked tirelessly through many hardships and trials and amidst fierce opposition from the establishment, to open a further 6 homes. In 1856 she established the Congregation to ensure a solid foundation and continued focus and stability for the work she started, and in 1860 the Order was approved by Pope Pius IX as a Religious Institute of Pontifical Rights.
Micaela died in 1865 a Martyr of Charity while taking care of her Sisters and the women during a cholera epidemic. Her achievements over her lifetime were remarkable, but her life had not been an easy or simple one. An audacious, passionate and radical woman ahead of her times, her daring and prioneering response set her apart, and she endured hardship, loneliness and isolation in her calling. However, amidst her struggles, her deep faith in the Eucharist gave her courage, strength and perseverance, and over 150 years later, her self-giving life continues to inspire Sisters and laity all over the world to live out in action the apostolic mission she initiated all those years ago.
Feast day: 25 August
Resting place: Chapel of St Maria Micaela, Valencia, Spain
Canonisation: 4 March 1934 by Pope Pius XI