Dolores Rodríguez Sopeña was the daughter of a lawyer whose work caused the family to move throughout Spain and even, for some years, to Puerto Rico and Cuba. Dolores had little interest in high society. Instead, she was irresistibly drawn to those on the margins—the poor, the sick, prisoners. While living in Cuba she established “Centers of Instruction” to help poor children with their religious education.
After returning to Madrid, she submitted to the spiritual direction of a Jesuit priest and tried to comply with his urging that she enter a Salesian convent. But this lasted only ten days. Formal religious life was not for her.
In 1885 she opened a kind of settlement house—a place that could attend to both the spiritual and material needs of her poor neighbors. With friends she established “Centers for Workers”—a name that would not offend the anticlerical sentiment of the time. Eventually she won support in Rome for a religious institute to organize these centers, called the Ladies of the Catechetical Institutes. She and eight companions began to live in a religious community. They did not wear a habit or display any outward sign of religion. Their aim was to enter into friendship with the workers, to offer material support while also affirming moral and spiritual values.
She died on January 10, 1918 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
“Make of all one family in Christ.” —The motto of Blessed Maria Dolores Rodríguez Sopeña