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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.


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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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
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