Call to Holiness

Sr Vicenta (Ursula Germana) Raval

Bernadette de Soubirus’ companion
(A quasi Lourdes clairvoyant)

Sr Vicenta (Germaine) was born on August 13, 1804 in Lourdes, France, 7th of the 10 children of Hipolito Raval and Juana Maria Passada. From age 3 to 12 she lived in Pau with one of her uncles. In those first crucial years of her life, she lived far from the warmth of home. Here she began to forge her tenderness and welcome, which she developed at length with abandoned and orphaned children. This time marked her forever.

  • Relationship with Lourdes’ Apparitions. For the centenary of Lourdes Apparitions René Laurentin, after an in-depth study, wrote“Histoire authentique des Aparitions”. He mentions Germaine Raval as a direct witness of the apparitions. She never saw the Lady, but since the first Apparitions she accompanied Bernadette. Germaine was in the Grotto in several Apparitions:
  • Third Apparition: …Bernadette had traveled three-quarters of the way when she saw three congregants: Germaine Raval and two other girls.
  • Fourth Apparition:  about 10 people gathered on the inside of the Grotto including Germaine Raval and her friend.
  • Fifth Apparition:two came running down the road, Rosine  who encountered her friend Germaine Ravalwho was on her way to the Grotto.
  • Seventh Apparition:..”There really is something…” repeated Germaine to the skeptical Dominiquette.
  • Ninth Apparition:…Germaine Raval and Jacquette were there.
  • Sixteenth Apparition:…On leaving the Grotto, Ursula Nicolau asked Bernadette in low voice, “Do you know something?” Don’t say it, but she told me: “I am the Immaculate Conception”.Ursula ran to tell Eugenia Raval and she told her sister Germaine…”.
  • 17th Apparition:…Bernadette knelt with great simplicity between Germaine Raval at her right and Justice Cassou on her left.
  • On one occasion Germaine worried about her vocation, so she asked Bernadette: please ask the Lady what to do, the answer was: tell her to follow faithfully the attraction she feels for the community of Saint Vincent. That’s her true vocation”.

photo credit: Facebook/LorcaHoy

SR RAVAL TESTIFIES ABOUT LOURDES APPARITIONS 

In July 1878 she was asked from Lourdes to testify by writing of her experience in the Apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous. In Burgo de Osma there are two letters in French, dated 11th and July 29, 1878. This statement helped to reconstruct the facts of the Lourdes Apparitions.

Sr Raval Vocation. When Germaine was 17 years old, she wanted to consecrate her life to God, and to devote it to Christ in the poor. She asked permission of her father, but he denied it. He had other plans for her. She told her father what had happened to her in the cave of Massabielle, and that she was determined to leave.

His father got ill and told Germaine to ask God to heal him and thus he would see it that was true that God wanted her to be Daughter of Charity. She approached the grotto and asked Mary, whom she felt listened to her. In a few days her father was miraculously cured; after this her father was obliged to allow his daughter to respond to God’s call.

Germaine started the postulancy in early 1861 and in July she went to Paris, 140 rue du Bac, to do her Seminary. The key to her interior life resided in the desire to be all for the Lord. On March 15, 1862, she was sent on mission to various houses in Spain, where she was an example in the service to the poor.

Her first house was at the Hospice in Burgo de Osma. There, she served elderly people and orphaned children, where were they learned a trade. From Saint Louise she learned how to deal with the poor, with delicacy, sensitivity and respect. Here she pronounced her vows for the first time.

Her second placement was at Canillas, Madrid, again with orphan girls. In 1904 this house was closed down and the Sisters and 70 girls went to the new Provincial House in Madrid.

In 1877 Sr Raval was assigned to the Sacred HeartSchool in Madrid. The House had three sections: a Boarding school, a half boarding and a Day school with paying pupils who helped to maintain the poor girls.

In1882 Sr Raval was sent as Sister Servant to Saint Francis Hospital in Lorca (Murcia). Full of experience and virtues, she took on the task of saving this work, near to being closed down. The government had stopped providing funds. Sisters lived in absolute poverty; wet nurses returned the children who were in their care because they weren’t paid. Thanks to the great management of Sr. Raval, she paid all the debts and made major repairs. The products from the girls’ workshop allowed them to keep both the school and the hospital. Every day she received unexpected resources that she always attributed to Divine Providence and to the Mother of God. 

photo credit: Facebook/LorcaHoy

LOURDES GROTTO AT LORCA

Sister Raval’s deep love for Our Blessed Virgin led her to put all the resources available to spread that devotion among all around her. In 1894 she ordered a Grotto to be built in the central courtyard of the Lorca hospital, a faithful reproduction of Lourdes. She opened it to the public so they could present their offerings, requests, thanksgiving, etc. The “lorquina” Lourdes grotto became a place of pilgrimage. Many pilgrims came each day. People have left testimonies with dozens of memorial stones showing their gratitude for graces obtained. The courtyard of the Grotto is a place of prayer and devotion, nothing extraordinary, only great peace and silence.

VIRTUES OF SR VICENTA RAVAL

St. Francis church, Lorca

In Sr Raval stand out her immense simplicity, together with a pronounced life of prayer, coming to possess a great experience of God. From there came the strength for a discernment of His will.

Her love of God, reflected in the devotion to the persons who are poor. All her life she strived to serve God in the person of the needy, knowing this was how she lived God’s project for her.

The love of “Our Lady” The Immaculate Conception was her refuge and her most faithful companion. She worked to spread Mary’s devotion to those around her.

Her humility. When she was asked to tell something about the Apparitions, she changed the conversation and nothing could be taken from her. She endured small humiliations with peace, offering them to God.

Trust in Divine Providence. Faithful to the doctrine of St. Vincent she did not want to go ahead of it.

ON THE WAY TO HEAVEN

On October 10, 1903 Sr Vicenta came down with a very high fever and pneumonia, suffering for 7 days. She never lost her serenity or patience. On October 17, after receiving the Sacraments, she died at 67 years of age and 42 of vocation. Sister Raval was buried in the cemetery of Saint Clemente, in Lorca.

Five years after her death Sister Vicenta’s body was transferred to a donated a plot in the cemetery. When her tomb was opened they found her incorrupt body; just as the day of her burial. It seems that time had stopped for her. The news ran like wildfire and oral tradition keeps it as a sign of holiness.

50 years after Sr Raval’s death Sr Matilde Garcia Piñero, at that time superior in Lorca, said she wanted to be buried with Sister Raval. In early July 1967, when she died and they went to prepare the grave, they all were impressed to see Sr Raval in the same state in which they deposited her in the new niche. She was still incorrupt!

Transfer of the remains of Sr Raval to the Grotto. Sixty years after her death, at ecclesiastical and popular request of Lorca people, the remains of Sr Vicenta Raval were transferred to Saint Francis Hospital-School, under the replica of the Lourdes Grotto which she had built when she was Sister Servant there. Her body is exposed to the public and many people process before her.

FAME OF HOLINESS

photo credit: facebook/LorcaHoy

In Lorca, and throughout the region, Sr Vicenta is considered holy. Not recognized by the Church, but for the people she is “the Saint of Lorca”. For the locals the fact of twice finding her body incorrupt is a sign of holiness. The visits to the Grotto have increased..

She is the Saint of childhood, of orphans, of the abandoned, of the poor.

She is the Saint of hope, of protection and welcome.      

She is the Saint of the sick. How many cures of body and spirit are attributed to Sr Vicenta Raval!

During the earthquake of May 2011, the convent and Saint Francis School buildings were affected and the Church collapsed. However, neither the courtyard nor Sr Vicenta Raval’s grave suffered in the least.

People detected in this Daughter of Charity the Vincentian spirit by her unequivocal signs of simplicity, humility and charity with the poor.

The Grotto in Lorca is the Lourdes of Spain; that’s how Sr Raval lived it and that’s how Lorca people live it.

Taken from “Sor Raval Quasi Vidente de Lourdes” by Sr Maria Teresa Candelas, D.C.

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