In the city of Laussana (Switzerland) live the sisters Susana, Sofia and Anita Schönthal, who, like their mother, give hospitality to people who request it. In 1812 Antonio de Oviedo, a young Spaniard, is welcomed by them when, after many Troubles and adventures he manages to reach Switzerland by fleeing the revolution against Napoleon.
Antonio de Oviedo, native of Seville and Susana Schönthal from Laussana, get married on July 20, 1819. The birth of Antonia María, on March 16, 1822 in Lausanne, fills with joy the home of the Young couple and she is baptized in a few days, in the chapel of St. Stephen of Catholic worship. She receives the names of Antonia María Victoria Juana.
At the age of 13 she makes the first communion in the Church of the Assumption of Laussana. It is a meaningful day that also brings pain, due to the parents’ absence. Don Antonio has emigrated to England to ensure the family economy and after a long illness, assisted and accompanied by Doña Susana, he dies in that country on June 21, 1835.
The influence of Susana, a woman of exquisite sensitivity, great culture and deep faith, is crucial in Antonia’s education and religious experience. She receives in her childhood and youth a solid preparation base on history, culture and geography of Switzerland, her small and beloved country, which will leave a deep mark in the traits of her personality.
Antonia is growing under the loving and attentive gaze of her mother; she is also studying in a boarding school in Freiburg, where she is praised for the richness of her languages, her knowledge and her spotless behavior.
She develops skills throughout her life and puts it to the service of her role as an educator, both in the palace and among the women who move away from prostitution and unfold their full potential. An encounter with women that will define the rest of his life and which, unexpectedly, leads her to be Founder of the Congregation of Oblate sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer, together with Fr Serra. Her life is interpreted by those who knew her and continue to discover her today as an evangelical and Venerable reference.
At the age of 16 the Marquis of la Romana entrusted her the education of their 10-year-old daughter, Rosalía de Castro, who later became Duchess of Medina Sidonia. Antonia, getting started with work experience, lives between Geneva, Milan and Florence for two years.
Return to Freiburg, and before the precarious income of the family, she decides to open a boarding school for young women, where they receive a fine education. But after six years, she is forced to close it because, in the context of war, the families begin to withdraw their daughters.
By then the name of Antonia is well known beyond the Swiss borders and she receives a job’s offer from the Spanish ambassador in Berne, who requests her services as tutor of the three daughters of Queen Mª Cristina de Borbón, in his marriage to D. Fernando Muñoz, Duke of Riánsares.
In January 1848, Antonia travels to Madrid and for twelve years, she lives with the royal family, dedicated to the educational work of the infants Amparo, Milagros and Cristina. She works 12 years as governess where displays her rich cultural background, exquisite training, special sensitivity to art, music, literature, languages and shows a solid faith and personal maturity.
When the last of her students, Cristina Muñoz and Bourbon get married, she fixed her residence in Rome, where she remained two years. Her work and dedication is marked by the spirit and missionary commitment. She is the Vice President of the apostolic work, founded by Father Serra, to support the foreign mission.
Antonia is a woman who has experience love with great intensity by receiving marriage proposals. But she is free to choose her future and the desire to belong to God whom she dearly loves takes more strength.
On March 1863, she arrives in Madrid and lives in her uncle’s house. Here she meets again with Bishop of Daulia, who, in the spring of 1864, presents her an unsuspicious and unexpected dream to work with women seeking alternatives to prostitution.
She feels disgust, expressed her resistance to a project that is not considered suitable for any of them. But her faith, sensitivity and character in search, lead her to mature in the proposal. She perceives the sound of the God whom she always searched that speaks to her of taking off the shoes of fears and resistances. Antonia goes out to the street, listens to women say: “I do not have anyone in the world”, she prays, discerns and finally visits Our Lady of Good Counsel, in the cathedral of San Isidro, where she decidedly accept and commits in the project.
Years later she puts it this way: “I was then as the workers of the Gospel, waiting to be sent to the vineyard of the Lord. But this vineyard was not as I would have chosen; however the grace triumphed the revulsion of the nature and I gave myself with all my soul to the projected work”.
On June 1, 1864, in Ciempozuelos (Madrid), together with Fr Serra, she began the new adventure opening the first house as a place of welcome and hope for women.
She discover each time with greater intensity the call of God to this work and dedicated to it all of her resources. With the time the project is to consolidate and grow and in February 1870 she wears the habit of the new religious family of Oblates of the Most Holy Redeemer. She takes the name of Antonia Maria of Mercy expression of the new charism that leads her to express before the reality of women: “I want you to see in them the image of the Redeemer”.
For 34 long years Antonia walks with women in prostitution a way of liberating evangelization and feels so identified with her call that expresses: “I’m happy, so sure that God called me to this work, so peaceful in my vocation, that my only desire is to be faithful”.
In the night of February 28, 1898, at eleven forty five in the evening, Antonia Maria of Mercy died in Ciempozuelos (Madrid).
She offered herself in total oblation to the Father, at 75 years of age, after living fully the mystery of mercy and been place of Encounter with Life for so many women who opened themselves to hope.
The fame of holiness that accompanied Antonia when she was still alive after death takes root and begins to spread and propagate for the graces and favors that God grants through her intercession.
The Church recognizes Antonia as Venerable on July 7, 1962 and we continue to trust her as intercessor. In the Virtual Chapel you can pray with her and light a candle with your intention.
(Video in spanish)
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