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Profiles in Faith - September


As part of our initiative for the Year of Faith, Veritas is proud to present Profiles in Faith, a series of essays on the life and work of Christian men and women who lived their lives as ‘faith in action’. We encourage you to read the accounts, and to reflect on them over the course of the month. Additional biographical sources are also suggested, should you wish to find out more. 


Profile Twelve: Blessed José Olalla Valdés (1820–89) and the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God


José Olalla Valdés was born in Havana, Cuba, on 12 February 1820. Born and raised in a family living in poverty, as a teenager José had a passion for serving the poor. This passion inspired him to join the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God. The Hospitaller Order is a community of vowed Roman Catholic Brothers founded by John Ciudad (St John of God), which today cares for the sick and the dying in fifty-one countries, including Ireland. Born in Spain, John Ciudad suffered from a mental illness and soon became homeless. One of his friends reached out and offered him shelter on the porch of his house in Granada. Aware of the many others who suffered and were living on the streets as he once did, John invited homeless people to share the shelter of his friend’s porch. John’s compassion led to the founding of the Hospitaller Brothers.


Brother José Olalla Valdés served the sick and poor at Camaguey, Cuba, for fifty-four years. He became legendary for his skill as a nurse and then as a surgeon, for his knowledge of homeopathic medicines and for his talent for resolving disputes among townspeople.



The ministry of this servant of the poor was so heroic that he became known as ‘the poor people’s friar’. Brother José died in 1889 after fifty-four years of serving the sick and dying, during which he was absent from the hospital on only one night – one night out of 8,760 nights! When Benedict XVI named him a Blessed of the Church on 15 March 2008, Brother José became the second Cuban ever to be declared a Blessed of the Church and the first to be declared so on Cuban soil.


In Ireland, St John of God Hospitaller Ministries work in partnership with government departments, health and educational authorities and other statutory and voluntary agencies to provide a range of health and social care services for children and adults. For more information about their work, see


For Reflection:

 - How did the life of Brother José exemplify God’s healing love at work among the sick and dying poor?
 - In what ways could you support those who are working with the sick and poor?


Previous Profiles in Faith:

August 2013: St Thérèse of Lisieux

July 2013: Catherine McAuley

June 2013: Blessed Irish Martyrs 


May 2013: Frère Roger

April 2013: Blessed Edmund Rice


March 2013: St Patrick


February 2013: Dorothy Day


January 2013: St Francis of Assisi


December 2012: St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)


November 2012: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta


October 2012: Thomas Merton


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