Saint Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa was born in 1889 in Madrid as the fourth of eighteen children to José Alejandro March Reus and Nazaria de Mesa Ramos de Peralta. While the parents had their children receive the sacraments, they were not very devout Catholics. Nazaria received a special favor on the day of her First Holy Communion, November 21, 1898. At this time, she heard the voice of Jesus summoning her by saying, “You! Nazaria, follow me.” She immediately committed herself to Jesus, trying to attend Mass frequently. She talked to her parents, informing them of her desire to enter religious life.
Strongly against their daughter becoming a nun, they hoped to temper her desires by forbidding her to receive the sacraments. Then they sent Nazaria to live with her maternal grandmother in Seville, about 500 kilometers southwest of Madrid.
As time went on — and probably with their persuaded by her grandmother — Nazaria’s parents allowed her to receive Confirmation, on 1902. Furthermore, her parents then allowed Nazaria to join the Franciscan Third Order and once again to receive the sacraments more frequently. As a result of her piety, sacrifices, and good example, Nazaria also brought several of her relatives back to the Catholic Church.
She made her formal entrance on December 7, 1908 in Mexico City. One of Nazaria’s first assignments took her to Oruro, Bolivia, halfway down the west coast of South America. There she cared for the sick and elderly. She arrived in 1908 and worked for four years before she was sent to Palenica to finish her novitiate. Receiving her veil on December 9, 1909, she made her next level of commitment, her initial profession of vows, on October 10, 1911.
Sr. Nazaria then returned to Oruro with nine other sisters on December 23, 1912. Two years later, on January 1, 1915, she made her final vows and solemn profession. Although she had no trouble with her vows of chastity and poverty, she struggled greatly with the vow of obedience to her superiors. Nevertheless, she served as cook, housekeeper, nurse, and sometimes as a lowly beggar, seeking help for the poor. She had done this work before her novitiate and returned to it until 1920.
Her exposure to life in Bolivia revealed a distressing laxity in the priests, and conflict with Protestants, who were seeking to “steal sheep” from the Catholic fold by establishing missions. When she met Archbishop Filippo Cortesi, the apostolic nuncio to Paraguay, they discussed their mutual concern to found an order dedicated to the re-Christianization of the world, which would be devoted to evangelization, education, and missionary work.
Sr. Nazaria was a champion of women as well, as she began a publication for women religious and founded the first trade union for women.
In 1934, when Msgr. Cortesi petitioned for Vatican approval, Sr. Nazaria went to Rome, making pilgrimages to several holy sites. During her private office with Pope Pius XI, she voiced her readiness to die for the Church. He told her she must live and work for the Church instead.
When the Spanish Civil War ended, Sr. Nazaria returned to Spain to visit her sisters for the last time. She encouraged the superiors of the various houses to be maternal in nurturing the vocations of the missionaries.
Her work spread to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Cameroon and throughout South America. In May 1943, Sr. Nazaria was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and eventually died on July 6, 1943. Her feast is celebrated on the anniversary of her death.