Jaime Diaza, a parishioner at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that needed to be surgically removed. As Diaz lay in his hospital bed, he prayed to St. Maria Soledad, a Spanish sister whose mission was to care for the sick and dying.

What happened next would lead Diaz on a mission of his own and consequently, a new lay organization in the archdiocese.

“I started to pray to Mother Soledad,” recalled Diaz. “She talked to me and said, ‘I’m going to take care of you but you need to help me.’ ” 

Thanks to multiple surgeries, Diaz is now tumor-free and making good on his promise to St. Maria Soledad and the religious order she founded, the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick. 

Two years ago, he asked the LA convent if it was willing to create a companion lay fraternity. Mother Provincial Alicia Hermosillo agreed, with one caveat: that Diaz help with the recruiting effort. 

That led to the establishment of the Fraternity of Lay Sons and Daughters of St. Maria Soledad fraternity last October, making it only the third such chapter in the United States. After a yearlong formation process, members, just like the sisters, will visit the sick in their homes to provide care and comfort.

The inaugural 13, including Diaz, are men and women with backgrounds in nursing, care-taking, and lay ministry. 

Sister Margarita Rico, SdeM, the fraternity coordinator and a registered nurse, teaches the weekly lessons. She described the formation process as “intense.” The aspirants are formed in the spirituality of the order; being contemplative in action and seeing Christ in all people, being abandoned to divine providence knowing God will provide, and collaborating with Christ and Mary in the salvation of souls. 

Additionally, aspirants study nursing and bioethics. They attend retreats, get homework assignments and take exams. Then the real work begins. The new members will serve patients, Catholic or not, as much as their schedules allow. 

“These are really precious moments. The patients are sharing their innermost being with you,” said Rico. “To me, instead of sadness, there’s joy. It’s preparing the soul of the patient to meet the Lord.”

Full story at Angelus News.