Maria Josefa Carolina Brader was born in Switzerland in 1860. At the age of twenty, she joined the cloistered Franciscan convent of Maria Hilf and took the name Sister Caritas. When a new disposition made it possible for cloistered nuns to engaged in apostolic work, she volunteered for a mission to South America. Her superior happily endorsed this plan: “Sister Caritas,” she wrote, “is supremely generous, shows no reluctance to any sacrifice, and with her extraordinary practical sense and education will be able to render great services to the mission.”
In 1893, she arrived in Tuquerres, Colombia, along with six other sisters. They operated in a vast territory that encompassed tropical jungles, coastal areas, and Andean highlands. Eventually, Sr. Caritas saw the need for a larger missionary order and received permission to found the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, with a mission focused on education for the poor. As Superior General of the community, Mother Caritas encouraged her sisters to pursue higher education. “Do not forget,” she told them, “that the better educated, the greater the skills the educator possesses, the more she will be able to do for our holy religion and the glory of God…The more intense and visible her external activity, the deeper and more fervent her interior life must be.”
She died on February 27, 1943, by which time her congregation had spread to many countries, including the United States. She was beatified in 2003.