In Memoriam Sr. Assumption Escauriaza

In Memoriam Sr. Assumption Escauriaza

Sr. Assumption Escauriaza, a member of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus community for 77 years, died peacefully on Monday, September 24, 2012.

sr-assumption-escauriazaAssumption Escauriaza was born in 1914 in Bilbao, Spain, part of the Basque region.  She was one of six children, born to Manuela and Pepe, and enjoyed a life of some privilege, taking advantage of the experiences life would offer.  As a young adult, she was always eager to join her many friends in the activities they enjoyed — especially traveling.

In 1935, Assumption reached a decision that would forever change her life when she entered the Handmaid’s novitiate in Salamanca, Spain.  She later studied at the University of London, where she received a certificate of proficiency in English, and a teaching certificate from the Royal Drawing Society of England.  In 1942, in Loyola, Spain, Sr. Assumption professed herfinal vows as a Handmaid of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and embarked on a journey that would take her across the globe in the service of God and the gospel mission of the Catholic Church.

In July, 1946, Sr. Assumption moved to the United States.   Six months later, her calling took her to Cuba, where she undertook the challenge of assisting in the efforts to build a school for the young students there.  1954 brought a similar challenge when Sr. Assumption returned to the Philadelphia area, to the Handmaid community in Wyncote, which operated Ancillae Academy, a school for girls.  There, Sr. Assumption was charged with the mission of building a school for boys.  Her “Madison Avenue” style of salesmanship was responsible for securing donated services, supplies, and equipment, and within a short time, the boys’ school was completed.  As a tribute to her hard work, determination and vision, the school was named in her honor, Assumpta Academy.  In 1968, the two schools merged to form a co-educational offering: Ancillae-Assumpta Academy, which has on four separate occasions, earned recognition from the US Department of Education.

Sr. Assumption always welcomed the opportunity to build.  In 1965, another opportunity presented itself — to establish a community in the Philippines. There she worked among the poor, creating opportunities for students and their families.  By the time she left the Philippines, a Handmaid novitiate was instituted.

Rome was her next destination, where she assumed a position within the Vatican.  Commissioned as a missionary, she received a medal from Pope Paul VI.  Her position was one of great responsibility, yet she remained simply, “God’s servant, doing God’s work.”  Her apostolic ministry later took her to Miami, where she spent nineteen years in parish ministry.  At age 79, Sr. Assumption returned to the Wyncote community to retire.

Retirement for Sr. Assumption meant conducting pilgrimages and tours, prayer groups, and Bible study.  It also meant organizing monthly meetings with the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, volunteering in the school that bore her name, and designing renovations for a chapel in the Handmaid Retreat Center in Haverford.  As an octogenarian, she learned to use the computer and mastered the skill well enough to prepare materials that would assist in her passion —sharing the word of Christ.

In 2010, with her physical limitations mounting, Sr. Assumption moved to St. Joseph Manor, where she continued to live out her vocation through prayer, devotion, and commitment to her Handmaid ministry.

A spirited and energetic woman, Sr. Assumption’s joy for life was infectious.  A natural storyteller, she loved conversation and sharing the message of God, through word and deed.   Engaging others with her hearty laugh, and at times a mischievous glance, Sr. Assumption, to be sure, knew how to make things happen and get things done.  Her life’s work, whether building schools, communities, or friendships is a reflection of the gifts she so lovingly and earnestly shared, and underscore her most genuine mission – helping to build the kingdom of God.

We rejoice in the gift of her life and ask you to keep Sr. Assumption, her family, and all of the Handmaids in your prayers.

A Sr. Assumption Escauriaza Memorial Fund has been set up to honor her life’s work and all that she inspired in fulfilling the Handmaid mission. Contributions may be made to the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus USA Province, 616 Coopertown Road, Haverford, PA 19041.