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The 'Mother Teresa of Honduras' View Comments
By Kathy Martin O'Neil

ON THE DAY Franciscan Sister Maria Rosa Leggol got her latest sign from God in 2010, it rained gatos and perros (cats and dogs) — a rare blessing in Honduras’ dry season. Cloud strands wound like headscarves around the mountain pines, and deep puddles pocked the dirt road to the Flor Azul Farm School for Boys, making Sister Maria Rosa and her driver late for the cross-raising. It was no matter at the time: As a School Sister of St. Francis for more than 60 years, she was adept at humility and didn’t expect that something extraordinary was about to happen.

The plan was simply to bless and then mount a homemade cross halfway up the mountain above the farm, one of three sites where her organization, Sociedad Amigos de los Niños (Society of Friends of the Children, or SAN), provides homes, safety, education and job training to impoverished children in Honduras. But the rest of us — U.S. volunteers on an annual mission trip to work and play with the 200-plus kids in SAN’s care — were antsy for her arrival.

Wondrous, fortuitous events follow Sister Maria Rosa around; her life history is chock-full of unexplained phenomena and seemingly divine interventions, like a chapter from Lives of the Saints. She is revered in Honduras as much for her holiness as for her legacy of raising 42,000 Honduran children up from poverty and abuse. Even the Honduran businessman sitting next to me on the plane knew her name and her work: “She is very close with God,” he whispered.

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Kathy Martin O’Neil is a freelance writer and editor. She is the former managing editor of Outside Magazine and has written features for Men’s Journal, Travel & Leisure, Chicago magazine and others. She’s currently writing Sister Maria Rosa’s biography.

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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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