St. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, known as Mother Lupita, embraced a life of poverty while serving the poor and sick during a dangerous time in Mexico’s history.
Born in Mexico in 1878 into a family that ran a religious goods shop, Maria frequently visited the basilica next door to the shop, even at a young age. At 23, Maria told her spiritual director, Father Cipriano Iñiguez, that she was no longer going to get married; instead she felt a strong calling to serve Jesus with an undivided heart by serving the poor and sick. Father Cipriano told Maria, in turn, of his desire to form a congregation that would care for the hospitalized. Maria broke off her engagement, and the two joined together to found an order of caregivers, The Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary and the Poor.
Serving as a nurse when the congregation began in 1901, Maria cared for patients regardless of their wealth or status. As the superior general of her order, she provided an example of genuine joy in embracing poverty, often begging in the streets for funds for the hospital when needed. She sincerely believed that one can only truly be “poor with the poor” by loving and living in poverty.
When the Catholic Church in Mexico underwent persecution beginning in 1911, Maria often put her own life at risk by hiding priests, including the Archbishop of Guadalajara, in her hospital. Maria served as the superior general of her order until her death in 1963. Her congregation now has 22 houses in Mexico, Peru, Iceland and other countries.
Canonized by Pope Francis on May 12, 2013, Maria became Mexico’s second female saint. At her canonization Mass, the Holy Father said, “This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus loved us … to come out of ourselves and care for those who are in need of attention, understanding and help, to bring them the warm closeness of God’s love through tangible actions of sensitivity, of sincere affection and of love.”