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Josepha was born on 11 December 1820, in Algemesi, Valencia Province, Spain, and died on 24 February 1893. She was the first of five children in a spiritual family. She was baptised on the day she was born, confirmed in 1828, and made her First Communion a year later.

Although schools were not available, she learnt to read and write, and she became skilled in embroidery. At the age of thirteen, her mother died. Being the eldest, she helped her father raise her younger brothers and sisters, living in her maternal grandmother’s home. At the age of 18, under spiritual direction from her parish priest, she consecrated herself with the vow of perpetual chastity.

She entered the then Third Order (since 1979, called the Secular Order) of Discalced Carmelites, but documents were lost during the Spanish Civil War of 1936, and the date is unknown. In Algemesi, there is today a large picture of the Virgin of Carmel embroidered in gold and silk, made under Josepha’s supervision.

In an age when spirituality in Third Orders endeavoured to replicate the way of life of the religious, Josepha seems to have lived out her Carmelite spirituality in her secular condition. She invited young women to her house, taught them embroidery, prayer and the evangelical virtues, sharing her wisdom and spiritual understanding. She died on 24 February 1893, having received the last sacraments. At her request, she was buried in the Carmelite habit.

On 20 October 20 1946, Josepha’s remains were removed to the parish Church of St. James and placed in a beautiful metal and glass coffin for all to venerate. After careful investigation of her life and obtaining “fifteen sworn depositions,” His Holiness John Paul II proclaimed the Decree for her heroic virtues on 3 January 1987. On 1 September 1988 the proposed miracle for her Beatification was accepted. The Beatification ceremony was celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica on 25 September 1988. Her feast is celebrated on 6 November.

With thanks to the late Brian Healey OCDS who compiled this short biography.

Josefa Navel Girbes is an exceptional mistress of secular holiness: a model of Christian life in her heroic simplicity; a model of parish life. Her entire life proves how one can reach holiness in all states of life in a total consecration to God and in a selfless love for one’s brothers and sisters, even while living in the world. Without extraordinary gifts an exceptional woman in her genuine simplicity as a daughter of the people. She carried out her duties faithfully, in intense union with God, in the midst of the ordinary circumstances of her working day."

A quote from the General Promoter of the Faith, Monsignor Petti, at the conclusion of the Theological Consultors’ examination.