Maria Romero Meneses was born to a wealthy family in Nicaragua, where her father was a government minister. A serious childhood illness prompted her religious vocation, and at the age of eighteen, inspired by the example of Don Bosco, she joined the Salesian Sisters. In 1931 she was transferred to Costa Rica, where she spent the rest of her life.
Though the principal work of the sisters was educating girls of the upper class, they also operated schools for the poor. While Sr. Maria moved between both worlds, she soon found her special mission in forming the social conscience of her wealthy students. She called them her misioneritas (little missionaries) and she trained them to help her work among the poor—offering both material service as well as religious instruction. In time she founded schools, clinics, and soup kitchens, and even a model village, Centro San José, for poor families. Her work was supported by the local bishop, a strong advocate of the social apostolate.
Sr. Maria died of a heart attack on July 7, 1977. “To remain at peace,” she had said, “it is necessary to love while suffering, and to suffer while loving.” She was beatified in 2002—the first beatified saint of Central America.
“Sr. Maria Romero knew how to reflect the face of Christ, which he made her recognize in the sharing of the bread. She was an exemplary religious, apostle, and mother of the poor, who were her real favorites.”
—Pope John Paul II