Saturday, July 08, 2006

Seven Visitandine Nuns

In May, 1931, the Visitandine Convent in Madrid dispersed its more than eighty sisters, disguised in street clothes, to their families and friends. Rumours have been circulating that the republicans would burn down their convent. The superior, Mother Maria Gabriela Hinojosa, wanted to make sure that her sisters would not be harmed just in case violence broke out.
Greater danger came when the government started requisitioning empty buildings. In order to keep control over the convent, Mother Gabriela asked six sisters to return. When things pacify, the other sisters would return. It became a necessity for seven sisters to stay behind just in case violence breaks out.
The seven sisters did not even dare to put on their habits or sleep in their usual cells. Instead, they wore secular clothing and slept together in a common room where they could flee at a moment’s notice. But as the years passed by, the situation became hotter. The seven sisters rented an apartment near the convent. The contemplative nuns had to learn the ways of the secular world.
When the war broke out, the sisters transferred the most precious objects of the convent into the apartment. At night, the sisters took turns in watching for signs of danger. People who met them said that they felt to be living in some kind of “new catacombs.”
Unfortunately, the seven nuns were betrayed by a neighbour. Their apartment was checked by the militia and the sacred objects were carted off. When the militia were checking their apartment, one of the nuns exclaimed, “What a joy, martyrdom is not far off.” The militia returned and told the nuns to report to the police station for some questioning. After the questioning, they were soon released. The neighbours of the nuns advised them to flee, but they refused, since they did not want to leave one of their sisters exposed to danger. They also refused to take refuge in foreign consulates in Madrid. They remained united, believing that it will take precedence over any physical peril.
Predictably, a truck arrived under the control of anarchist units. The sisters were loaded into the truck and set off. It stopped at the end of Calle Lopez de Hoyos. The sisters were loaded off the truck to be killed. As they held each other's hand, a barrage of gunfire shattered their bodies, except for Sr. Maria Cecilia, who had unwittingly started to run when she felt the sister next to her fall. Moments afterwards, she surrendered, declaring herself a nun, and was shot five days later at the cemetery wall in Vallecas on the outskirts of Madrid.


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