Blessed Maria Antonia Bandrés y Elósegui, 1898 – 1919
… born in Tolosa (Guipuzcoa), Spain, on 6 March 1898, the second of 15 children of the attorney Ramon Bandres and Teresa Elosegui. From her earliest years she went to the school of the Daughters of Jesus (Hijas de Jesus) in Tolosa, founded by Mother Candida Maria de Jesus. To her younger brothers and sisters she was an exemplary model of virtue. She belonged to a well-to-do family, but she reached out to the poor and needy in the suburbs of Tolosa. With women workers she carried out an apostolate of evangelization and social assistance, something rarely done in those times.
She entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus on 8 December 1915 in Salamanca, and on 31 May 1918 she made her religious vows. Never of robust health, she began to weaken and soon was taken very ill. During her sickness she was treated by Dr Filiberto Villalobos, who later testified that he was “deeply moved by her faith and serenity of spirit, which made her very happy in the last moments of her life”. This doctor, a friend of Miguel de Unamuno and Indalecio Prieto, commenting to them about the attitude of Maria Antonia, exclaimed: “How mistaken we are about life! This, yes, this is what dying means…”.
Maria Antonia’s death profoundly touched the heart of these intellectual agnostics and stirred in them disquieting questions. Seeing the 21-year-old Maria Antonia Bandres die with the security of “knowing where she was going”, according to Unamuno’s expression, made a tremendous impact, and all of them have left oral or written testimonies about it.
God accepted the offering that this young Daughter of Jesus made of her life for the conversion and eternal salvation of her uncle and godfather, Antonio Bandres, who was I living contrary to Christian faith and morals. She died in Salamanca on 27 April 1919, the feast of Our Lady of Montserrat, while singing and calling upon Mary as “Mother of mercy”.
Maria Antonia Bandres, a woman endowed with deep humanity, was sensitive to the love of her family and friends in the world and in religious life. Always open to the grace and love of God, she was able to suffer with a smile. Then God permeated the deepest core of her littleness and ushered her into the mystery of the Father’s love.
The life of this young religious is a marvellous witness to divine grace, which seeks out the simple-hearted. In her shines forth the beauty of a life totally consecrated to God.