One day in 1966, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a short, plump nun bent on funding her mission sprinted across the airport tarmac to stop a very rich man's plane from taking off. The help she received from him that day triggered a dramatic chain of events resulting in the rescue and education of tens of thousands of at-risk and destitute Honduran children. Through her network of children's villages, schools, farms, and clinics, the indomitable Sister Maria Rosa Leggol empowered poor Hondurans to live, grow, and work with dignity. MADRE is a celebration of a fearless woman's great goodness and her chutzpah in challenging corruption and machismo to break generational cycles of poverty.
Throughout numerous mission trips volunteering for SAN, O’Neil grew personally familiar with Sister María, enabling her heartfelt and clear-eyed observations. The biography’s opening anecdote reveals Sister María’s salient characteristic of audacity: in 1966, the nun ran onto an airport tarmac, halted a plane from taking off, and obtained a wealthy board member’s signature on a vital document. Similarly amusing and inspiring tales paint Sister María’s stubborn and affectionate personality, and photographs complement the narrative, bringing the woman’s poise, humor, and feistiness to life. That spirit is evidenced by Sister María’s own words: “I am not the saint you think; I am a rebellious old lady!”
O’Neil’s settings transport readers to the heart of Honduras, both in its beauty and devastating poverty. The biography alludes to violence and assassinations, and O’Neil explains hardship forthrightly, yet the story as told here is heartening, appropriate for young adult readers and older alike. Throughout the narrative, the emphasis is on Sister María’s solutions and her determination—a force that neither natural disasters nor an expanding organization’s red tape were able to dim. This thoughtful, well-researched recounting of Sister María’s life and work invokes her passion while providing a compelling blueprint for those who yearn to better our world.
Takeaway: The inspiring story of a Honduran nun who fought for change for the most vulnerable.
Great for fans of: Kathryn Spink’s Mother Teresa, Elvia Alvarado’s Don't Be Afraid, Gringo.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
“The elements of this book highlight the admirable work of a woman who embraced the crucifix… and worked to show the face of God in the midst of her every work…. I hope that the life and works of this servant of the Lord serve as an inspiration for every Christian and person of good will who feels called to do good for a more just society.”
“Sister María Rosa Leggol was God’s rebel, with an ability to turn the impossible into reality. She cared for more children than her Board of Directors told her she could cope with, she saved children of mothers suffering deep psychiatric problems, she nursed malnourished and unloved children back to health. No one could say ‘no’ to this extraordinary Honduran nun. Kathy Martin O’Neil has talked to many volunteers who came down to Honduras on a week’s volunteer mission and remained close to Sister María Rosa for decades thereafter, becoming advisors, ‘spiritual boyfriends,’ and godparents of countless Honduran children. I am one of them. On a cold January morning in 1982, I went to Sister María Rosa for advice. My husband and I had been married for 7 years and had failed to produce a child. Filled with understanding, she listened and made a call to the clinic. A few hours later I took home an 8-month-old bundle, Marina. The two U.S. congressmen staying at our home ran out to buy a cloth donkey and elephant, representing their respective political parties. Over the next 11 years, Sister María Rosa transferred her care of several children to us. We remain proud to support God’s rebel, who ‘rode her Holy Spirit over a deep, dark lake of poverty and need…committed to the lifelong battle to bring hope and dignity to the poor.’”
“In Madre, Sister María Rosa’s life story offers us a roadmap for following God’s will in our lives. Her mission to save at-risk children motivates us in the same way as Mother Teresa, who said, ‘Holiness consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us.’ This book will bring a smile to your face many times as it helps you accept and follow God’s will for your life!”
“This is a powerful story of one woman’s exploration of the deepest desires in her heart and their connection to the needs and challenges of the world. As Kathy Martin O’Neil guides us through the extraordinary journey of Sister María Rosa, she also enlightens the way God meets us in the ordinary moments of our own journeys. In the process, she helps us trust the unique calling of each and every person and the mission to be witness to light and hope amidst the darkness of the world.”