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June 24

St Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala - June 24

Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala

Nun, Foundress

“Madre Lupita” 

(1878 – 1963)

Be poor with the poor.

Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala

Saint’s Life Story

Her Family

Anastasia Guadalupe García Zavala was born on April 27, 1878, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico to Fortino García and Refugio Zavala de García. She was named Anastasia, but went by María, one of the names assigned to her at her christening.  María’s father owned a store selling religious merchandise located next to the Cathedral of Zapopan, now the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan. As a young girl, María would accompany her father to the family’s religious goods store and would always stop into the cathedral to pray to the Virgin there or to take contemplative walks on the cathedral’s grounds.  

Daily Catherdral Visits

María’s daily visits to one of the most visited Catholic shrines in Mexico exposed her to many aspects of humanity.  The extremely poor, the handicapped, or indigenous people newly arrived from the countryside were regular fixtures at the front steps of the building, begging for assistance and hoping for miracles.  María witnessed the extremes of generosity and poverty on a daily basis and what she experienced would influence her for the rest of her life. She became known for her devotion and deep faith, even at a young age.  Through her adolescence, María maintained her religious devotions and grew into a beautiful young woman.


At age 23, María was engaged to a handsome up-and-coming young businessman named Gustavo Arreola.  At a dance, right before she was to be married, she called off the engagement and told Gustavo that she had a different calling and wanted to pursue a life of religious devotion. 

New Order

María contacted her spiritual advisor, Father Cipriano Iñiguez and talked to him about her change of plans and told him of a strong urge she had for service within a religious order.   Father Iñiguez told María that for the longest time he wanted to establish an order to help in hospitals to tend to the sick and dying.  After months of planning together, on October 13, 1901, Father Iñiguez and María founded a new order officially named The Congregation of the Handmaids of Saint Margaret Mary and the Poor.  The patroness of the congregation, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, was a 17th Century French nun, who was part of the order of The Poor Ladies, Sisters of Saint Clare, known informally as The Poor Clares. From the patron saint of the order, María drew her example of living a simple and humble existence. 

“Be Poor With The Poor”

María joyfully embraced poverty and was often heard saying, “Be poor with the poor,” while ministering to the sick and needy.  In the early days of the new order, María worked as a nurse out of a small run-down building that served as their hospital.  She welcomed patients who had no money to pay for their care and tended to them both physically and spiritually. 

“Madre Lupita”

As news of her good works spread, more young women showed interest in joining the Handmaids.  Father Iñiguez soon made María the Superior General of the order. Thereafter, she became known as “Madre Lupita.”  True to her motto, “Be poor with the poor,” Madre Lupita and her sisters would often beg on the street to raise funds for their medical facilities.  The sisters would retire to the hospital when the basic needs of the facilities were met and didn’t ask of others any more than they needed.  As the Handmaids of Saint Mary Margaret and the Poor grew, they expanded their reach out of their hospital and into the community, They often worked in the local parishes to teach catechism classes or to assist with elderly or sick parishioners.


Madre Lupita found herself in the middle of this brutal conflict also known as the Cristero Rebellion or La Cristiada, which lasted between 1926 and 1929 and pitted Catholic lay people and clergymen against the forces of the anti-Catholic, anti-clerical central government in Mexico City headed by President Plutarco Calles. During this conflict, María and the Handmaids gave up wearing the nun’s habit and dressed as modest laypeople, but continued their hospital work unabated.  During the Cristero War, María sheltered “rebel” priests in her hospital facilities, including the Mexican government’s most wanted man, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Francisco Orozco y Jiménez. He was the archdiocese who granted diocesan approval to the order on May 24, 1935.


Madre Lupita, as a consummate humanitarian, also did not take sides in the fight. She opened up her hospital facilities to everyone and even treated injured and dying government soldiers who had fought against the Catholic Church.  It was this gesture – of welcoming and treating anyone in need – that afforded her the protection of the local government garrison which should have been her sworn enemy.  

Her Death

After a 2-year illness, Madre Lupita passed away on June 24, 1963, at the age of 85 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. In her 6 decades of service to the underserved, she helped hundreds of thousands of people.  At the time of Maria’s death, her order operated 11 facilities throughout Mexico.  The Handmaids of Saint Margaret Mary and the Poor now have expanded to countries outside of Mexico with hospitals and 22 houses in Peru, Italy, Greece and Iceland.

Born:                 April 27, 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico

Died:                  June 24, 1963 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Beatified:          April 25, 2004 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized:       May 12, 2013 by Pope Francis

Feast Day:         June 24

Patron Saint:    Handmaids of Santa Margherita Maria and the Poor; Nurses



Saint María’s motto “Be poor with the poor” was her way of living out the Jesus’ first beautitude – “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). She welcomed and treated anyone with an emphasis on tireless, compassionate dedicated care for those in most need, especially the ill. Saint María ministered to the poor and helpless in the most desperate areas of Mexico. She did not limit her charity simply to helping the “righteous” as she also gave food and cared for the persecutors, government soldiers, who fought against the Catholic Church. 

What will you do today to “be poor with the poor”? Remember that poor does not just refer to wealth as there are materially wealthly people who are poor in spirit that can use your help by listening with an open heart to their difficult situation.


Saint María, you were so poor when you started your first hospital that you begged in the streets in order to cover living expenses and the expense of operating the hospital. Those challenges did not stop you from dedicating your life to tireless and compassionate care of your patients. May you intercede for us, as Pope Francis stated “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.”  So, we too can “be poor with the poor.”

Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia -Saints who were engaged but didn’t marry

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – St Maria Guadalupe García Zavala (1878-1963)

Catholic Online – St. Mother Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala ~ Mother Lupita

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Anastasia Guadalupe García Zavala

Mexico Unexplained – Madre Lupita, Mexican Saint & Angel to the Poor

Pilgrim Center of Hope – St. Maria Guadalupe García Zavala

Rome Reports – Saint Lupita remembered for simplicity and devotion to poor and sick

Southwest Michigan Catholic – Saint of the Month – Mother Lupita

The Central Minnesota Catholic – Mother Lupita, Patron Saint of Nurses

The Wanderer – Catholic Heroes . . . Mother Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala by Carole Breslin

Vatican – María Guadalupe García Zavala (1878 – 1963)

Wikipedia – María Guadalupe García Zavalae

Video Link