Blessed Carmen Salles Barangueras
October 15, 2012
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
Blessed Carmen Salles Barangueras was a Spanish nun who pioneered equality of opportunity for women.
Born April 9, 1848 as the second of 10 children in Vic, 65 km north of Barcelona, she attended a Catholic school in Manresa. By her own account, she felt a religious vocation at age 10 while receiving first Communion at the nearby Marian shrine in Montserrat.
Salles was betrothed as a teenager, according to custom, to a young Manresa man, but broke off the engagement to enter the novitiate with the newly founded Sisters of Adoration, who worked among poor women drawn into crime and prostitution.
She switched to another new order, the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation, established to educate women.
Over the next 22 years, she conducted night classes for 300 people in Barcelona and ran a school to keep children of working women off the streets.
A website commentary by the religious order said her vision of the "authenticity and complementary value of both sexes" contradicted assumptions at the time. She was accused of "wishing to fill women's heads with vanity."
"Her reasoning skills led her to wonder how women would have fared if society had given them more opportunities," the commentary added.
"She resolved to dedicate her life to training women for their rightful place in every social class."
Salles left the Dominican order in early 1892, traveling first to Madrid with three companions and then to Burgos, where she established a new religious order, the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
The congregation gave high-level preparation to women religious teachers at a time when Spanish universities were closed to women and training levels were low.
Salles had observed how her own poor but devout parents "sacrificed to give their children education and culture."
She was a woman of great character and sweetness, who managed to overcome many difficulties through an unshakeable faith and fervent charity.
By the time of her death July 25, 1911, Salles had founded 13 schools and expanded her order to Italy and Brazil. The order today is active in 13 countries.
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