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The Handmaids and the Poor
On Christmas Eve, 1930, in a tiny apartment on Calle de Velazquez, Madrid, with the financial help of the Countess de Fuensalida and the spiritual assistance of Father Steven Ecay, Mother Esperanza of Jesus was able to pronounce her vows, with the small number of Sisters who had followed her, in the nascent Congregation of the Handmaids of Merciful Love. Poor as Jesus in Bethlehem, they eat cabbage soup and then sleep on the floor, with their heads resting on the only mattress they have… and they are overflowing with joy and enthusiasm.
The children will be their first beneficiaries as well as the poor, the elderly and the priests. Nevertheless, misunderstanding, opposition, and persecution shall continue to track them. The trials, which mark God’s presence in truly great souls, will follow one another like the beads of a rosary. The bishop of Madrid refuses his blessing and approbation, and orders and stipulates that no one help or collaborate with her. Since they did not have the permission to keep the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel, for thirty years the girls and the Sisters went in file to the parish every morning.
With a great creative spirit and tireless activity, helped by Providence and human mediations –among whom her great benefactor and friend Pilar de Arratia deserves special mention–, in a short time she opens 12 houses in Spain for poor and needy children, for the elderly and the sick, who were also cared for in their homes. These were the communities in Madrid, Alfaro, Bilbao, Larrondo, Colloto, Hecho, Ochandiano, Menagarai, Santurce, Sestao, San Sebastian y Villava.
Mother Esperanza orders that, at the door of all the houses, a sign should say, “Call the poor and you shall be saved, call the afflicted and you will be consoled, call the sick and you will be helped, call the orphans and you will see that the Handmaids of Merciful Love are mothers”(Circular 06.07.14).