Francisco Coll Guitart
Francisco Coll Guitart
|Born||18 May 1812|
Gombrèn, Catalonia, Spain
|Died||2 April 1875 (aged 62)|
Vic, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||29 April 1979, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||11 October 2009, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI|
|Patronage||Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary|
Saint Francisco Coll Guitart (Francesc Coll i Guitart in Catalan), 18 May 1812 – 2 April 1875) was a Spanish Roman Catholic priest of the Order of Preachers (Dominican Order) and founded the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.
He was beatified on 29 April 1979 and canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 11 October 2009.
His childhood saw his commitment to the education of children and he combined this passion with his formation as a seminarian in Vic (a major town in Osona in Catalonia). He entered when he was just 10. He would later meet and became friends with Saint Antonio Maria Claret. In 1830 he decided to join the Order of Preachers at the Dominican convent in Girona. His studies for the priesthood and Dominican religious life were jeopardized with the suppression of religious orders that occurred in 1835 due to the intervention of the Spanish government. During this time all religious were ejected from their properties and expected to live secular lives. However he did not give up on his vocation and continued to pursue the priesthood and God. On 28 March 1836 he was ordained as a Dominican priest. Coll's pastoral mission was all the more difficult due to the lack of social life and the support of fellow friars that would have been expected before the suppression of the religious orders.
From 1839 to 1850 he worked with the poor and the sick. In 1850 he was appointed as the director of the Dominican Third Order; he was able to reopen a suppressed Dominican convent, which gave him a base for his mission as a priest. In 1854 he worked with those struck with cholera. In 1856 he founded a congregation of Dominican sisters which became 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. Francisco Coll decided that the sisters of the congregation should be devoted to those children and adolescents in most need. Thus the first communities were directed to areas of rural Catalonia working in public schools. However, in the beginning, as a result of the socio-political situation – the revolution of September 1868 – the nuns were forced to leave these schools and to found private schools, most 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 base was in Argentina in 1908. In 1955 - after Guitart's death - the congregation began its activities as missionaries in Central America and later to Peru and Chile further south.
At the time of Francisco Coll's death the congregation numbered at 300 sisters with 50 communities; a remarkable fact given the hostile climate of Spain toward religious at that time. At present the members of this congregation work in Europe and has spread to the Americas, Africa and Asia.
Blindness and death
On 2 December 1869 - while Francesc was preaching in Sallent (in Catalonia) - he was struck blind. From that time on, his health grew worse and declined at a moderate pace. He died on 2 April 1875.
Before his death, the suppression of religious orders was lifted in 1872, which allowed the Dominicans to return to Spain to resume their missions and religious life. The Dominicans found that while orders like theirs were gone it was Guitart who had maintained the structures of the Order, allowing pastoral missions to continue and flourish.
Guitart's dedication to the Dominican life – learning and preaching for the salvation of souls – even in the face of impossible odds was a remarkable character trait. His teachings and legacies continues to grow more so through the work of the Annunciata Sisters in Spain and abroad.
The cause for his canonization commenced in 1928 at Osona in which the title of Servant of God was bestowed upon him.
In 1958 a miraculous healing of a Léonese woman (Justa Barrientos) was attributed to the intercession of Francisco Coll Guitart. This allowed for his beatification to take place on 29 April 1979 in a celebration over which Pope John Paul II presided. In 2008, a second miracle was proven, leading to his canonisation in Saint Peter's Square in a celebration led by Pope Benedict XVI on 11 October 2009.
His liturgical feast is observed each 19 May - his date of baptism. It is celebrated on an annual basis.