Francisco Coll Guitart

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Saint Francisco Coll Guitart
FrColl2.jpg
Saint
Born 1812 Gombrèn, Catalonia, Spain
Died 2 April in 1875
Vic, Barcelona, Spain
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 29 April 1979 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 11 October 2009, Rome by Pope Benedict XVI
Feast 2 April
Attributes Spanish Dominican Friar
Patronage Founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Francisco Coll Guitart (18 May 1812 – 2 April 1875) was a priest of the Order of Preachers and founded the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 April 1979 and canonized on 11 October 2009 by Benedict XVI.

Life[edit]

Coll was born in Gombrèn (Ripoll). He was the tenth and last son of a wool carder. From an early age, he was committed to the teaching of children, which he combined with his priestly formation at the Seminary in Vic (a major city in the county of Bages in Catalonia), which he entered when he was just 10 years old. He would eventually meet and became friends with Saint Anthony Mary Claret. In 1830, Francesc decided to join the Dominicans (Order of Preachers) at the Dominican convent in Gerona. The saint's studies for the priesthood and Dominican religious life were jeopardized with the suppression of Religious Orders that occurred in 1835 by the Spanish government. During this time, all religious were ejected from their properties and expected to live secular lives. Francesc, however, did not give up on his vocation. On 28 March 1836, he was ordained a Dominican priest. The saint's priestly ministry was all the more difficult due to the lack of community life and support of fellow friars that would have been expected before the suppression of religious orders.

From 1839–1850 he worked with the poor and sick. In 1850, Francesc was appointed director of the Dominican Third Order; he was able to reopen a suppressed Dominican monastery, which gave him a base for his ministry. In 1854, he worked with those struck with cholera. Two years later, in 1856, he founded a congregation of Dominican sisters, known as the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (aka La Annunciata). This group of sisters was founded as a teaching congregation. Coll decided that the sisters of the congregation should be devoted to those children and young people in most need. Thus, the first communities were directed to areas of rural Catalonia working in public schools. However, in the early years, as a result of the socio-political situation – the revolution of September 1869 – the nuns were forced to leave these schools and to found private schools, many of them under the protection of the textile factories.

After founding the first centers in Catalonia, the congregation worked in the mining areas of Asturias, and the towns of Castile and La Mancha . The first overseas community was in Argentina. In 1955, the congregation began missionary in Central America and later to Peru and Chile.

By the time the saint died, the congregation numbered 300 sisters, with 50 communities; a remarkable fact, given the hostile climate of Spain toward religious at that time. Today, members of this congregation work in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Blindness

On 2 December 1869, while Francesc was preaching in Sallent (a city in Catalonia), he was struck blind. From that time on, his health grew steadily worse. He died on 2 April 1875. Before his death, the suppression of religious orders was lifted in 1872, which allowed Dominicans to return to Spain to resume their ministry and community life. They found that while they were gone, Francesc Coll had maintained the structures of the Order, allowing ministry and community life to begin again immediately.

Saint Francesc's dedication to the Dominican way of life – study and preaching for the salvation of souls – even in the face of seemingly impossible odds, was extraordinary. His legacy continues to grow, particularly through the work of the Annunciata Sisters.

Veneration

The Cause of his Canonisation began in 1928 at Osona. In 1958, a miraculous healing of a Léonese woman, Justa Barrientos (later recognized in 7 July 1977), was attributed to the intercession of Francesc Coll. This allowed his beatification, on 29 April 1999, by Pope John Paul II. In 2008 a second miracle was considered proven, leading to his canonisation, which took place at the Vatican on 11 October 2009.

His memorial is observed 2 April, the day he died.