THE FRANCISCAN MINIMS OF THE PERPETUAL HELP OF MARY
Traditional Religious Vocations
The Order of the Franciscan Minims of the Perpetual Help of Mary, known as the Work of Atonement, was founded in Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico, by Rev. Mother Maria Concepcion Zuniga Lopez. The divine mission of Rev. Mother Maria began on Octobe 3, 1926, when she was 12 years old. At that time, public worship was suspended in Mexico due to the religious persecution [of the Cristeros–Ed.] by President Calles. On that day, in the parish church of her home town of Ocotlan, Jalisco, the crucifix came to life, and Christ spoke to the future foundress of the Minims from His cross, inviting her to share the sorrow of being hidden, abandoned, forgotten, despised, persecuted, and hated without cause. This wa Our Lord's first invitation to unite her soul to His cross of suffering. She replied:
Yes, I want to carry the weight of Thy cross and the sorrow of Thy Heart, divine Jesus. I want to follow Thee down the path to Calvary. Nail me to Thy cross with Thee. In exchange I only ask for one thing: give me souls–souls for Thy Church, for Heaven. May all souls love Thee.
The young woman suffered greatly on considering the number of souls that were lost eternally and she longed to embrace them all in the Heart of Jesus. From that day on she understood God's divine plan. Our Lord wanted her to offer herself in union with Divine Justice to save souls and to teach others this way by founding a religious Order that would have as its goal the formation of victim souls who offered themselves in atonement for the world.
The realization of the foundation of the Order of victims became a reality and was born to the Church (June 24, 1942) with the approval of H.E. Bishop Manuel Fulcheri y Pietrasanta of holy memory. The work that Mother Conchita initiated within the Franciscan family–living in poverty, obedience, and chastity–is a work at the service of the Church to gather souls. Its apostolates consist in giving religious conferences to women with the purpose of fostering the practice of virtue, of enlightening souls which are confused or in error, of arousing piety and religious fervor in women and teaching them their duties before God and society. In this way, the Order cooperates with Holy Mother Church, striving to remedy the problems of women, one of society's greatest present-day problems. It organizes groups for catechism and feminine Catholic activities. Besides publishing a magazine titled Estrella, it also prints various bulletins to send rays of light into homes and families.
However, the most intense and beneficial of their apostolates is prayer and perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. During hours of intimacy with Jesus in the Sacred Host, they inflame themselves with great zeal for the salvation of souls.
At present there are 33 Sisters in the single Community which makes up the Order of which two of its members are from the US. Sr. Mary of Lourdes is from Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Sr. Mary of the Holy Spirit is from Kirkwood, Missouri. One other Sister is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the rest are from different provinces throughout Mexico. Mother foundress Maria died in 1979. H.E. Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta of the Society of Saint Pius X is the Minims' clerical superior.
The Franciscan Minims of the Perpetual Help of Mary have a second name: the Work of Atonement. The Order is of the great Franciscan tree whose seed is that of St. Francis of Assisi. They observe the spirit of littleness, humility, and poverty so as to imitate their holy Father (who called himself the "Poverello") and give the same good example he did to souls and combat error, falsehood, pride, egoism, and the world's sensuality. In order to strengthen the life of prayer in the Community and compensate for the forgetfulness of the Divine Guest on our Catholic altars, the Order is dedicated to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Sisters worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by perpetual and uninterrupted adoration. They unite themselves to Him as eternal Mediator between heaven and earth, between Divine Justice and the guilty world. They offer themselves in atonement with Him, like Him, and for Him.
The Minims take the same three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience that bind all religious at the time of temporary profession. But at the time of their perpetual profession, they rebind themselves to their special charism by pronouncing a fourth vow of "victim" which characterizes the Order. This vow of victimhood is threefold. Firstly, that the Minim be a victim in union with the Divine Word Incarnate, zealous for the glory of God and salvation of souls, repairing for the harm sin brings upon the world and satisfying the Divine Justice to transform It into blessing and mercy.
Secondly,that she adore Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, compensating for the failure of dissipated souls to love and console the Sacred Heart. Lastly, that she offer herself in childlike abandonment to Our Lady and propagate devotion to her to others.
The qualifications for entry are that aspirants must be at least 18 years of age, in good mental and physical health, and a daughter of a legitimate marriage. She must have a general knowledge of Spanish, that is, to be able to converse simply in the language and to understand it when spoken to her. Aspirants must have a strong desire to love God and save souls and be capable of suffering gladly the trials of holy poverty. She is not obliged to pay a dowry or to have finished her formal schooling.
The postulancy for the Minim is nine months, the first three months of which she wears a gray habit followed in the last six months with the wearing of a brown habit symbolizing poverty. On the day of her clothing as a novice, the aspirant wears a white wedding habit. For the two years of her novitiate, she wears the dark, deep-red habit of the Work of Atonement signifying that she is inflamed by ardent charity (as that of the inflamed and reddened Sacred Heart). The short turquoise head-veil she dons at this time symbolizes the theological virtue of hope that enlivens her soul. Once the two-year novitiate has ended, the novice makes temporary vows, renewing them annually for five years, during which time she wears a blue veil reaching to the middle of her back. This new veil represents the veil of Mary, symbolizing that the religious should be clothed with aspirations for Heaven. After renewing her temporary vows for five consecutive years, she is eligible to make her perpetual vows and becomes a professed Minim clothed with the blue veil reaching to her feet. The Minim habit is a symbol of the Minim's life as a religious.
The Minims consider themselves mothers of suffering humanity united to Jesus, the Divine Mediator. They mourn the wounds of the world, bearing in mind the spiritual and temporal needs of all. They pray especially for those who have any relationship with the spiritual welfare of souls and God's interests, according to the words of Our Lord: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mt. 6:33). They seek never to avoid any sacrifice since it is the duty of the Minim to practice immolation in a total self-surrender to Divine Justice, an attribute they especially honor. In this they imitate Christ Who came to earth precisely to offer Himself up to this Divine Justice as Victim for the redemption of the world.
New convent construction
It is because of the Order's detachment from earthly goods that it bears the last name of "Perpetual Help." The Order is entrusted to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Since she is considered their "Superior General," they beg for her counsel on every occasion. The members of the Order strive to make this Marian devotion stand out as a tribute to the Blessed Mother. They take refuge in her motherly embrace to obtain perfect union with Jesus, whom she carries in her arms.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus consists in the veneration of the physical heart of Jesus. Since the goal of the Work of Atonement is to console this Divine Heart, the members participate in His internal Passion by means of the Holy Eucharist where He mystically perpetuates His victimhood.
The Minim Sisters' devotion to St. Joseph, the spouse of Mary and head of the Holy Family, is childlike, with a spirit of total confidence in his patronage. They commend to him in particular the cultivation of the interior life in their souls.
The two words which make up the motto of the Franciscan Minims of the Perpetual Help of Mary are "Charity" and "Immolation." They are reminders of the two duties of this Order: to love souls and be victims for God. Its work is to unify all things in the spirit of the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The principal goal of the Order is the sanctification of its members. Each member considers what it means to be a true victim soul, that is, a faithful imitator of the virtues Jesus taught us by His charity and the immolation of His Heart hidden in the Holy Eucharist. The logical result of this is a victim soul who wants to immolate herself for the glory of God, the triumph of the Church of Christ on earth, and the fulfillment of Our Lord's desire that there be one flock and one Shepherd. They try to compensate for the sensuality and impenitence of those who need atonement, baptized or not. Penance is the only means to cleanse the soul and, since this Order is of atonement, it loves penance and practices it with a joyful spirit.
The Franciscan Minims of the Perpetual Help of Mary commend themselves to your prayers so that they might fulfill the mission Our Lord has given them, and that there be awakened in souls a love for the Divine Justice. Our Lord wants to be loved in His justice and asks for souls to offer themselves as victims who render their love, confidence, and self-abandonment to Him so He will shower mercy upon the world for the salvation of souls.
The Work of Atonement follows in the footsteps of Jesus Victim, and Divine Providence continues to keep watch over His Minims. These words of Rev. Mother Foundress best identify the spirit of the members of the Order:
I have never esteemed the goods of the earth as valuable. Heaven has been my only desire since my childhood; Heaven for my soul and for the souls of those I love. And the souls I love are so numerous that my spiritual thirst cannot be quenched. No price is too high in order to rescue souls for Heaven who one day will surround God's throne for all eternity.
For information [You may write in English];
Avenida Xochiquetzal #249
Colonia Santa Isabel Tola
DelegatiÃ³n Gustavo A. Madero
07010 Mexico D.F.
Phone number: Oil  (55) 77-2901
Members of this community will be visiting chapels of the Society of Saint Pius X throughout the US this September and early October: El Paso, Texas (Sept. 11), Arcadia, California (Sept. 14), Portland, Oregon (Sept. 16), Post Falls, Idaho (Sept. 18), St. Paul, Minnesota (Sept. 21), Syracuse, New York (Sept. 23), Farmingville, New York (Sept. 24), Ridgefield and Hartford, Connecticut (Sept. 25), St. Louis, Missouri (Sept. 29), Kansas City, Missouri (Sept. 30), St. Mary's, Kansas (Oct. 2).