Colombia celebrates beatification of María Berenice Duque, foundress of three congregations

María Berenice Duque Hencker María Berenice Duque Hencker | Credit: Archdiocese of Medellín

Mother María Berenice Duque Hencker, a Colombian nun who founded religious congregations, including the Congregation of the Sisters of the Annunciation, was beatified in Medellín on Oct. 29.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Cause of Saints, presided over the ceremony held in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Medellín. The archbishop of Medellín, Ricardo Tobón Restrepo, concelebrated.

The Medellín archdiocese reported that the beatification was attended by thousands.

During his homily, Semeraro highlighted the “humility” that characterized Mother María Berenice and recalled that the consulting theologians recognized this virtue on multiple occasions “during the beatification process.”

“In this, Mother María Berenice, beatified today, always had as a model the Virgin Mary of the Annunciation, to whom she dedicated the first of the three religious foundations: the Sisters of the Annunciation. She herself lived her everyday life in essentiality, considering herself a ‘little worm’ ‘trash,’ ‘nothing,’” the cardinal said.

Mother Maria Berenice searched “day after day, with difficulty, with suffering, overcoming many trials” how to respond to God, in the midst of contrasts and misunderstandings. But she had the “good example” of Mary, the cardinal remarked.

He also noted that the new blessed imitated the Virgin in charity toward the poor, who “were at the center of her existence and also, so that the poor could be ‘evangelized,’ she founded a religious family.”

“She had, in particular, a love for the poorest children, whom she considered the favorites of the Lord,” he recalled.

During the Mass, Semeraro read the apostolic letter in which Pope Francis declares the beatification.

The Archdiocese of Medellín said that afterward her relics were taken to the altar and placed there as a sign of veneration.

Brief biography of Maria Berenice Duke Hencker

Mother María Berenice was born in the department of Caldas, Colombia, on Aug. 14, 1898.

From a young age she felt the call to the consecrated life, and in 1917, at age 19, she entered the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation.

Her intense love for God, which never ceased to grow throughout her religious life, inspired her with an ardent apostolic zeal at the service of evangelization.

In 1943 she founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Annunciation, which was dedicated especially to children, youths, and the family. In 1957 she created the foundation of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Jesus and Mary, who are dedicated to pastoral work in mission places.

Finally, in 1964 Mother Berenice founded the Missionary Brothers of the Annunciation, the men’s branch that works with the vulnerable in society, such as homeless children, prisoners, and the marginalized.

After a long illness, she died on July 25, 1993.

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The cause for her beatification began in Medellín on May 23, 2002, and was authorized by Pope Francis on Oct. 13, 2021.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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