The mother who said ‘yes’ to God, even in her illness

The month of May was made for mothers — the heart of the family, the cornerstone that is many times called to a silent and subtle type of holiness and is appreciated even more when her memory and presence are reflected upon.

Such was the calling of Maria Antonia, Spanish wife and mother of seven children, four of whom are religious priests in the same congregation and three of whom are married and have families.

One of these priests serves in the Archdiocese of Denver: Father Luis Granados, professor at St. John Vianney Seminary, priest at St. Mary’s Parish in Littleton and member of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary religious order.

Maria Antonia seemed to have clear from a young age what Pope Francis says in his new apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate: “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.”

She was so convinced of this that after meeting her future spouse Eduardo, when she was still a college student, she told a religious sister who tried to convince her to join a religious congregation, “My ideal is holiness, and I believe my holiness consists in forming a family with Eduardo.”

Maria Antonia’s children from left to right: Father Jose, Eduardo, Father Juan Antonio, Father Carlos, Father Luis, Maria Antonia and Marta. (Photo provided)

This ideal guided her vocation as a wife and mother, even in her last days, when an aggressive cancer began to paralyze her body.

“In her illness, my mother brought us to life and confirmed us in our vocation,” Father Luis, fifth son of Maria Antonia, told the Denver Catholic. “In a way, my mother taught us the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience before being religious brothers.”

Her husband Eduardo and their children – Father Jose, Eduardo, Father Juan Antonio, Father Carlos, Maria Antonia and Marta – knew that Maria Antonia’s life had been great in its simplicity and decided to capture it in a book titled María Antonia: El corazón de una familia (Maria Antonia: The heart of a family), written by Father Jose, her eldest son.

The life and surrender of their mother was like “a seal” on their vocation, Father Luis said. “She taught us that it’s worth giving and surrendering everything we are.”

As a pharmacist, Maria Antonia listened patiently to the personal problems of people and helped them when she could. As a wife and mother, she was the “magnet of prayer,” Father Luis recalled. “She would say that prayer had many enemies – homework, phone, TV –  but she would bring us together to pray or read the Gospel for at least five minutes every day.”

Her children especially remember the question she asked them that would leave a lasting mark: “Will you be a saint?”

Her final ‘yes’ to God

Born in Madrid, the journey of this pious and generous mother took an unexpected turn at age 51, when doctors found a malignant tumor in her brain and only gave her six months to live.

Little by little, Maria Antonia lost mobility in her arms and legs, and even the ability to talk. In the painful process of letting go of her husband and children, she never complained, but instead surrendered with trust and joy.

Maria Antonia said ‘yes’ to God in her struggle to let go of what she held most dear: her family. (Photo provided)

“I would love if you discovered the happiness ‘to the fullest’ that I’m discovering,” she wrote to a friend during her illness.

In her journal, Maria Antonia wrote a reflection after her husband’s heart attack, and event that prepared her to accept her own illness years later: “In the beginning [of suffering], you whine to God, you doubt, everything seems like a nightmare, but little by little, you become more familiar with your pain and realize that God wants to admit you into that school of love, the school of saving souls through your suffering.”

“Maria Antonia’s favorite prayer was that of silent submission,” Father Jose writes. “I don’t think she liked wondering why [this was happening] … She simply trusted, accompanied by us.”

“We wanted to comfort her, but she would be the one to comfort us,” Father Luis said.

Her children remember uniquely the time Maria Antonia lost mobility in her right arm.

Since she could no longer say “yes” or “no,” they agreed that an open hand meant “yes” and a closed hand “no.” Nonetheless, when her right hand was paralyzed, it remained open.

Her son Eduardo then said, “Look, my mom left her hand in the form of ‘yes.’” Her husband and children saw Maria Antonia’s surrender to God echoed in that symbol.

“If there is a way to describe Maria Antonia’s death, it’s that she died singing,” Father Jose writes. She passed away on June 3, 1998, accompanied by her husband and two of her sons.

“Now I see that your life was full of ‘yeses,’” her husband Eduardo later wrote. “‘Yes’ to our courtship and to our wedding, ‘yes’ to receiving our seven children, ‘yes’ to giving them up to God… ‘yes’ to all of the good things and ‘yes’ to God when he sent the illness.”

Father Jose remembers overall her questions: “Will you be a saint?” and sees in it the message that Maria Antonia’s life has for all who hear it.

“I hope the remembrance [of her life] stirs again that question for the ultimate goal of our life, so many times put aside, so many times covered in dust: holiness,” Father Jose concludes.

COMING UP: Faith, careers and motherhood

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Faith, careers and motherhood

Three professional moms share how they achieve work-family harmony

A great number of women desire to be mothers without leaving aside their professional life. This is without a doubt a great dilemma for many women of our day.

Achieving it requires much effort, work, coordination, balance, trust and support. That’s what these three successful professional women we have chosen to honor for Mother’s Day say. They have managed to bring together the roles of mother and professional.

“Working hard, outlining priorities and being creative”: that’s Rosy Aburto McDonough’s secret. Other than being the mother of three daughters, ages 10, 13 and 17, she serves as the director of the Minority Business Office in Colorado.

“[I loved my profession so much that] I never pictured myself only being a mom,” she said. Yet, her love for motherhood was also great, which led her and her husband to adopt a young girl form China, when their first daughter was five years old. To their surprise, God later sent them another blessing — a third daughter.

Rosy Aburto McDonough, director of the Minority Business Office in Colorado, loved her profession and being a mother, which led her and her husband to have two daughters and adopt one. (Photo provided)

McDonough did not see having three young daughters as an obstacle. Rather, she owned a credit reporting agency and managed to make a space in her offices for her daughters and a babysitter who helped for a few hours.

Although her position now requires much traveling, she makes sure to keep in constant communication with her daughters when she’s away. She motivates them in their extracurricular activities and emphasizes the importance of their education and nutrition. All three are trilingual — they speak English, Spanish and Mandarin.

“It’s very important for me that my daughters form part of my career and achievements. I always include them,” McDonough said. Practicing their faith at home, they also attend Sunday Mass at Most Precious Blood Parish.

A family business

One of the greatest challenges that mothers in this situation face is feeling guilty for leaving their children to go to work. They often wonder whether they spend enough time with them or if they are giving them a good example by following their professional dreams.

“My children are self-starters and responsible. We work as a team. That taught them the value of work,” said Lidia Tena, owner of one of one of Denver’s most successful jewelry businesses who started working when her children were little. “I adapted my work and schedule to the needs of my children, always balancing both to avoid neglecting one or the other.”

Lidia Tena has led a successful business by combining the love for family, work and God, an example her daughter Myrna treasures. (Photo provided)

In 2002, when her children were older and after much work, she founded the first Joyería el Ruby. Tena said that the most important thing for her is “to combine everything: the love for work, family, faith and trust in God — with that, anything is possible.”

Her children are now grown up and form part of the business, owning a store each. Myrna, her youngest daughter, is very proud of her mother, who still constantly motivates her.

“My mom always showed me through her hard work that you can accomplish anything you want with effort and dedication,” she said. “Thanks to her, I have also achieved my goals, but the most important thing she has instilled in me is the gratitude and joy of [helping] and giving to others.”

Tena and her children are active members of various ministries at Holy Rosary Parish in Denver and are part of the Hispanic Charismatic Renewal Movement.

Founded in family love

To become a successful professional mother, much is required: hard work, discipline and trust in oneself and one’s close relationships, as Carmen Morales’s example shows.

As the owner of the restaurant chain Santiago’s Burritos, the support she received from her family in taking care of her three daughters was essential.

“Their grandma used to take care of them [when I was working]. That was always a great support because I knew they were in good hands,” she said. “Communication, spending time together and making that time special was very important to be able to carry out both parts, [family and work].”

Finding a balance between these two aspects was an experience of continued growth for Morales.

 

“You realize [when one aspect needs balance]. It’s like a woman’s instinct,” she said. “But one of the hardest challenges is when you feel exhausted. In that moment,

Carmen Morales, owner of Santiago’s Burritos, built a successful business with the help of God and her family. (Photo provided)

you simply ask God for help and mental capacity to be well, to get up every morning and be that superwoman who works, takes care of her children, takes them to their activities and does chores. You learn to be organized.”

Morales keeps her family united. Her daughters form part of the business. “We spend the holidays and the important days together: first communions, confirmations, etc. We even go on family vacations every year,” she said.

The success of Morales and Santiago’s Burritos is founded in family love. The Green Chili recipe served in the restaurant’s breakfast burritos comes from her mother, who used to make burritos every morning during Lent, and would give them to them after daily Mass, before going to school.

Faith has been so fundamental for Morales, that she chose the name “Santiago’s” because of her devotion to Saint James, the apostle. The restaurant chain has now more than 26 different locations across the state.

A mother who is fulfilled will provide a better education for her children, while offering all the love and care they need. It’s important for us as women to know what makes us happy and, if we desire to be mothers and professionals, to work hard for our families and careers, while keeping love and faith and the center of it all.

Happy Mother’s Day!

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English by Vladimir Mauricio-Perez.