The Congregation of the Sisters of St.Anne, of Zargoza, was the first Religious Congregation of active life in Spain. It was corn on 28th December, 1804, in the Royal and General “Hospital of Our Lady of Grace”, in Zaragoza – “the House of the sick, of he city and the world at large” –“Ddomus Infirmorum urbis et orbis”, in Zaragoza. (This inscription can be read to this day on the gates of the present hospital). The Sisters of the Congregation commit their life to God through the profession of the evangelical counsels lived in Community and a fourth vow of “Hospitality”. The 18th century was rich in the birth of fraternities, and as the years passed, they would give rise to various religious Congregations. This Congregation came to be founded from one such Fraternity, formed by a group of 12 young women, from “the Hospital of the Holy Cross”, Barcelona, who were dedicated to the care of the Hospitals. This 18th century hospital was a refuge for all the type of ailments, ….. It’s as if all the social work as we know it today was concentrated in one place. We find a young priest – Chaplain of this Hospital, coordinating the work of those volunteers who were committed to alleviating the afflictions of others. Barcelona was exporting volunteers from the “Hospital de la Santa Cruz”. Love always comes to the rescue of that in need because it feels the pain of others as its own, and wants to heal the deficiency and take to its fulfillment what is merely glimpsed. Love is always the dominant factor. One could count on these tiny sprouts that dreamt of being branches of tree – namely to form to form a single religious Congregation. The Hospital of Our Lady of Grace of Zaragoza, the honor of Spain, charitable Institution with none to equal it in all Europe, was known throughout the world. The Hospital was founded in 1425, by King Alfonso V, the wise, to be the house of the sick of the city and the world at large. It opened its doors to all the sick who came, whether they suffered from ordinary diseases or contagious ones, including lunatics and abandoned children and fallen women with their illegitimate children. The No. of patients was out of proportion to the city’s population, normally between 1500 to 2000 at a given time. It was this Hospital, a unique hospital, having no equal in the country that suffered a terrible change: lack of care and cleanliness, corruption in the administration, scandalous behavior, selling of medicines, quarrels, rows etc. There was trade in rations and substitution of these for money or sweets, and over and above a bad odor that the wards emitted. In Zaragoza, the Board of the “Hospital of Our Lady of Grace” was looking for solution for betterment in the care of the Hospital. It contacted Fr.Juan Bonal of Barcelona, who at the request of the Board offered the possibility of establishing a Fraternity in the hospital. Soon, the obligations contracted by Father Juan Bonal for the recruits, after long consultation of the Managing Board, were all written down in the “Little Notebook” (the famous “cuadernito”) of Father John Bonal, around 1805. On 28th December 1804, 12 brothers and 12 sisters arrive in Zaragoza to attend to the Hospital from 1st January 1805. Guiding them was a young priest Juan Bonal and a young woman Maria Rafols. This is the Fraternity of the 12 women, that becomes a Diocesan Congregation in 1824; and on 14th January 1898, Pope Leon XIII, approves the Congregation, thus confirming the authenticity of its charism; And, it becomes a Congregation of Pontifical Rite Sisters of Charity of St. Anne. This is the story of a tiny group devoted to the care of the sick, who slogged in obscurity for years before getting due recognition. War, famine and sickness decimated the group, a stifling system of the Administrative Board and internal division almost killed it. But the Charism was stronger than ever slow death and, when allowed free course, it sprouted and grew with all its power from 1857 onwards, under the helm of the Venerable Mother Pabla Bescos, who was the Mother General of the Congregation for 35 years. Today the Congregation renders its service in all five continents. India received this legacy in 1951
In the year 1044, in the city of Najera, King of Gracia de Navarra had gone on a hunting. He spotted a partridge into bush, running deep inside what seemed to be like a cave hidden by thick bushes, from the external views. The king followed the partridge which disappeared in the cervices of the cave. To his great surprise, on entering the cave he discovered a grotto inside and found a statue of Our Lady and a Jar of Lilies. He imagined that it might have been a secret hiding place where the Christian refugees left the statue during the Muslim Invasion. The King was astonished of his finding. He ordered to build there a Monastery and called it “Santa Maria de Real” and founded there the “Order of Knights” with the symbol of the Jar with the lilies. He ordered to prepare golden necklace with this symbol and gave them to the top officials of his Kingdom, and gave them to the top officials of his Kingdom, and their children. He also ordered to put this shield of Our Lady and the Jar of Lilies on the doors of some Cathedrals But what is the history behind this Jar of Lilies? In 1044, King Gracia or Navarra found an image of the Virgin, hidden in a cave. By the side of it, there was an earthen jar of Lilies, on a while altar cloths. It is the symbol of the mystery of the Incarnation. Don Gracia gives this insignia to his brothers, King Don Fernando and King Don Ramiro. Since then, the custom spread throughout Spain, to engrave on the Cathedral doors, the (insignia) of the Angel, greeting the Virgin with the Jar of Lilies. In 1403, don Fernando of Antequera, Prince of Castilla, renews the use of this symbol and imposes on his children to wear the (insignia) of the Jar. Don Fernando passes to occupy the throne of Aragon in 1418, his Son Don Alphonso V succeeds him. In 1425, this king founded the Real and General Hospital of Our Lady of Grace and gives the Motto of the Divisa of the Jar of Lilies. Maria Rafols and the first Sisters carry this badge on their habit from the beginning, when they serve in the Hospital. In 1969, when there was the reform of the habit, the congregation maintain the Jar of Lilies in the Crucifix.
The Emblem gives meaning of:
Acts. 8: 1,4 it tells us “A better persecution started against the Church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scatted throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. So there was a great joy in the city” Once scattered they went from place to place preaching the Good News. The Tradition has it that St.James the Greater (son of Zabee, the real cousin of the Lord) was in Casesarea Augusta (Present day Zaragoza), Spain evangelizing, but the Apostle was feeling disheartened by the failure of his mission, and was about to return to Palestine. On the night of Journey 40 AD on the bank of the River Ebro, St.James, whilst in deep prayer, received a visitation by the Virgin Mary, who was still living in Palestine. She appeared to him in Body and Soul, being carried by Angels, on a Pillar of stone. With encouraging words she assured him that the people of Hispania (Spain/Iberiam Perimsula), world become Christians and their faith would be as strong as the Pillar on which she stood. Mary was taken back by the angels, the Pillar remained in plate as proof of her visitation and as pledge of her protection over Spain. The Pillar was allocated s where James would build the first temple/chapel of what was to become one of the most important Mariam Shrine in the world: the Basilica/Cathedral of the Pillar. Leaving Barcelona, Mother Maria Rafols with eleven sisters arrived at Zaragoza on December 28, 1804. Before reaching their destiny sisterhood, led by the Spirit, prayed and offered themselves to Our Lady of Pillar asking for her “protection and refuge in order to carry out the destiny for which they came charity and fervor. Our Lady of Pillar holds a very important place in the history & mission of the Sisters of Charity of St.Anne. Our Lady of Pill is the Patroness of all our Health Centers within the Congregation. The Congregation has deep “Mariam Roots” from its birth and love and devotion to Holy Mary has always marked the Spirituality of the Congregation” “Beside her we were born, we grew and we remain “ Const. 10)