Eusebia Palomino Yenes was born just as the sun was setting on the 19th century, on 15 December 1899, in Cantalpino, a small town in the province of Salamanca (Spain), to a family that was as rich in faith as it was poor financially. Her father Agustín, a good and kindly man, worked as a seasonal farmhand for landowners in the district, while her mother Juana Yenes looked after the home and the four children. The countryside was quiet in winter, with little work and bread was hard to find. Her father was then forced to ask for charity from other poor families in the villages around. Sometimes little Eusebia would go with him. She was just seven and unaware of the sacrifices that were being made: she enjoyed the walks along the country lanes and happily skipped beside her father her pointed out the beauty of creation to her. He was able to enchant her with catechesis that he drew from the brightness of the Castilian landscape. Then when they reached a farmhouse, she would smile at the good people who welcomed her and ask for “some bread for the love of God.”
Her first encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist at the age of eight gave her a surprising perception of the meaning of belonging to and offering oneself as a total gift to the Lord. Very soon she had to leave school to help the family, and after proving her early maturity in looking after children of local families – she was just a child herself still – while her parents were at work, at twelve years of age she went to Salamanca with her older sister and worked as a domestic with some families as child minder and jill of all trades. On Sunday afternoons she attended the festive oratory run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and got to know the Sisters who decided to ask her to help in the community. Eusebia accepted more than willingly and immediately began work: she helped in the kitchen, brought in the wood, looked after the cleaning of the house, hung out the washing in the large courtyard, accompanied some of the girls who were attending the state school and carried out other tasks in town.
Eusebia's secret desire to consecrate herself completely to the Lord grew and became more and more the substance of her prayer and everything she did. She said: “If I carry out all my duties diligently I will please the Virgin Mary and will one day succeed in being a Daughter of the Institute.” She did not dare ask for this due to her poverty and lack of education; she did not think she was worthy of such a grace, she thought, since it was such a great Congregation. The Sister who was the Visitor, and to whom she confided her wish, welcomed her with motherly kindness and reassured her: “Do not worry about anything.” And in the name of the Mother General she gladly decided to admit her.
On 5 August 1922 she began her novitiate in preparation for her profession. Hours of study and prayer alternated with hours of work filled Eusebia's days, and she was very happy. Two years later, in 1924 she professed the religious vows that bound her to the love of her Lord. She was assigned to the house in Valverde del Camino, a town with 9,000 inhabitants at the time in the extreme south-west of Spain in the mining area of Andalusia near the border with Portugal. The girls at the school and the oratory, when they first met her, could not hide their disappointment: the new arrival seemed a rather insignificant person, small and pale, not pretty, with huge hands, and to top it all off she had an ugly name.
The following morning the little Sister was at her workplace: many tasks including the kitchen, reception, the wardrobe, looking after the small garden and assisting the children at the festive oratory. She enjoyed “being in the house of the Lord every day of her life.” This was the “royal” situation in which her spirit felt honoured, where she felt she was living in the highest realms of love. The little ones were soon won over by her tales about the missions, or the lives of the saints, or episodes of Marian devotion, or anecdotes about Don Bosco, all of which she remembered thanks to a good memory. She was able to make them attractive and telling through the power of her own conviction and simple faith.
Everything about Sr Eusebia reflected God's love and her strong desire to see that he was loved: this shone through her hardworking days and confirmed the topics she preferred to talk about in her conversations: first of all Jesus' love for all humankind saved through his Passion. The Five Holy Wounds was what Sr Eusebia read every day. She drew points for teaching from this devotion, using a simple set of rosary beads, which she advised for everyone with frequent hints. In her letters she became an apostle of devotion to the Merciful love according to the revelations of Jesus to a Polish Sister, today known as Saint Faustina Kowalska. This devotion was spreading through Spain at the time through Dominican Father Juan Arintero.
The other “pole” of Sr Eusebia's piety and catechesis was the “True devotion to Mary” taught by French Saint Louis M. Grignion de Montfort. This was to be the soul and weapon of Sister Eusebia's apostolate throughout her short life. She targeted girls, young people, mothers of families, seminarians and priests. “Perhaps there was no parish priest in all of Spain,” it was said during the beatification process “who did not receive a letter from Sister Eusebia about being Mary's slave.”
When Spain entered the turbulent period of revolution at the beginning of the 1930s due to the rage of godless people who wanted to see the destruction of all religion, Sr Eusebia did not hesitate to take her principle of “availability” to the extreme, literally prepared to strip herself of everything. She offered herself to the Lord as a victim for the salvation of Spain, for freedom of religion. The victim was accepted by God. In August 1932 came the early signs and a sudden illness. Then asthma which she had earlier suffered from at different times began to affect her to the point of being intolerable, aggravated by various other insidious illnesses.
During this time, visions of blood saddened Sr Eusebia even more than her inexplicable physical ills. On 4 October 1934, while some of the Sisters were praying with her in the room where she was consuming her sacrifice, she interrupted them and paled: “Pray very much for Catalonia.” It was the initial moment, the workers uprising in Asturia and the Catalonian one in Barcelona (4-15 October 1934) that would be called the “revolutionary uprising.” She had other visions of blood for her dear superior, Sister Carmen Moreno Benítez, who would be shot along with another Sister on 6 September 1936: in 2001, after recognition of her martyrdom. she was declared Blessed.
Meanwhile Sr Eusebia's ills grew worse: the doctor attending her admitted that he did not know how to describe the illness, added to her asthma, that made her limbs crumple like a ball of wool. Those who visited her felt her moral strength and the light of holiness that shone from those suffering limbs, but that left her mind absolutely clear along with her delicacy and kindness in dealing with people. She promised the Sisters who stayed with her: “I'll be back on my rounds.”
In the middle of the night of 9 February 1935, Sr Eusebia just went, appearing to be sleeping peacefully. For all of the following day her fragile remains, adorned with so many flowers, were visited by the whole population of Valverde. The same expression was heard many times over: “A saint has died.”