Biographies of Blesseds - 1998
BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW BLESSEDS - 1998
The following were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998 :
Anton Maria Schwartz
Antônio de Santanna Galvão
Cerefino Gimenez Malla
Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi
Florentino Asensio Barroso
Francisca of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Aldea Araujo
Giovanni Maria Boccardo
Maria Encarnacion Rosa of the Sacred Heart
Maria Maravillas de Jesus Pidal y Chico de Guzman
Maria Gabriela de Hinojosa Naveros and companions:
Josefa Maria Barrera Izaguirre
Maria Angela Olaizola Garagarza
Maria Cecilia Cendoya Araquistain
Maria Engracia Lecuona Aramburu
Maria Ines Zudaire Galdeano
Teresa Maria Cavestany y Anduaga
Maria Restituta Kafka
Maria Sagrario of St Aloysius Gonzaga
Nimatullah Youssef Kassab Al-Hardini
Rita Dolores Pujalte Sanchez
Teresa Grillo Michel
24 OCTOBER 1998
BL. THEODORE-ANNE-THERESE GUERIN was born on 2 October 1798 in Etables, France, the daughter of Laurent and Isabelle Guerin She was given the name Anne-Therese when she was baptized on 3 October 1798, the day after her birth. A prayerful child, she received her First Holy Communion when she was 10 years old. On the day of her First Communion, she told the parish priest that she desired to give her life to God and to become a nun. She often sought solitude along the rocky shore near her home, where she devoted hours to reflection and prayer.
When Mother Theodore was 15 years old, her father was murdered by bandits. For the next several years, Mother Theodore cared for her mother and younger sister. She was nearly 25 years old when she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence at Ruille-sur-Loire, France, on 18 August 1823. She received the religious habit on 6 September 1825 and professed first vows on 8 September 1825. She professed perpetual vows, which were optional at the time, on 5 September 1831. As a Sister of Providence, she was known as Sister St Theodore.
While a novice, Mother Theodore became seriously ill, probably with smallpox. In an attempt to save her life, her physician gave her a remedy that cured the illness but damaged her digestive system. From that time on, Mother Theodore's physical health was fragile.
In France, she taught at Preuilly-sur-Claise and served as superior of schools in the city of Rennes and the small community of Soulaines. While at Soulaines, she received a Medal of Honour from the Academy of Angers in recognition of her teaching expertise. Also while in Soulaines, she studied medicine with a local physician and soon became known for her tender way of caring for people of all ages.
In 1839, in response to a request from the Bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, USA, Mother Theodore agreed to lead five missionary Sisters of Providence to the United States of America to establish a motherhouse and a novitiate, to provide educational opportunities for the children of pioneer families and to care for the sick poor.
Sister St Theodore and her five sister companions left France on 27 July 1840 and arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, the evening of 22 October 1840. There, in the midst of a forest wilderness, Mother Theodore established a motherhouse and a novitiate. From the beginning, kneeling before the Eucharist in a humble chapel built of logs, Mother Theodore dedicated the mission to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Through that first cold and harsh winter, as the Sisters of Providence struggled to survive, to learn the English language and to adjust to the customs of their new homeland, Mother Theodore developed plans for an academy for young girls.
In the summer, on 4 July 1841, Mother Theodore and the other Sisters of Providence welcomed the academy's first student. Within a year, the Sisters of Providence opened schools in the community of Jasper in southern Indiana, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village and at Saint Francisville, Illinois, which was part of the Diocese of Vincennes at the time.
By the time of Mother Theodore's death in the spring of 1856, the Sisters of Providence Congregation had established schools throughout the state of Indiana, two orphanages in Vincennes, and pharmacies at Vincennes and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village, where free remedies were dispensed to the poor.
During the nearly 16 years of her life and ministry in Indiana, Mother Theodore encountered countless hardships and difficulties: dire poverty caused by a fire that destroyed the congregation's barns and harvested crops; prejudice against Catholics and, especially, against Catholic women religious; misunderstandings; persecution; and the separation of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from the Sisters of Providence in Ruille, France.
Through all those years of growth, struggle and sorrow, Mother Theodore's faith did not waver. She remained steadfast in her belief that she was fulfilling God's will and that God was with her.
In times of uncertainty, Mother Theodore advised the Sisters of Providence: "Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful". She told the sisters, too: "With Jesus, what shall we have to fear?".
Mother Theodore's final illness began during Holy Week in March 1856. In the community's diary she wrote these words, her final written words: "I am obliged to keep my bed. What a beautiful week to be upon the Cross. O good Cross, I will love thee with all my heart".
Mother Theodore died on 14 May 1856. She is buried in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
The cause for the beatification and canonization of Mother Theodore Guerin was opened on 8 September 1909. In July 1992, Mother Theodore received the title "venerable" in recognition of a virtuous life lived to a heroic degree.
By: Penny Blaker Mitchell
BL. ANTÔNIO DE SANTANNA GALVÃO was born in 1739 in Guaratinguetá, São Paulo, Brazil, to a deeply religious family of high social standing. When he was 13, his father sent him to the Jesuit seminary In Belém, but on account of the anti-Jesuit climate, his father later recommended that he pursue his vocation with the Alcantarine Franciscans instead.
On 15 April 1760, he entered the noviciate at St Bonaventure Friary in Macacu, Rio de Janeiro. After making his solemn profession in 1761, he was ordained a priest on 11 June 1762 and was sent to St Francis Friary in Sao Paulo, where in 1768 he was appointed preacher, confessor of the laity and porter.
In 1769-70 he served as confessor to the "Recolhimento" of some devout women, the Recollects of St Teresa in Sao Paulo. Here he met Sr Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit, who said she had visions in which Jesus was asking her to make a new "Recolhimento". The new foundation, Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence, was established on 2 February 1774 and modeled on the Conceptionists. In its early days, it accepted young girls who wished to live as religious without being bound by vows.
After Sr Helena's unexpected death in 1775, Friar Galvao showed humility and prudence in caring for the Recollects. Due to the great number of vocations, more space was required. It took him 28 years to build the convent and the church, which was dedicated on 15 August 1802. Friar Galvao gave his full attention to the Recollects' formation. His principal work is the excellent Rule or Statute he wrote for them, which clearly reveals his personality. In 1929 this convent became a monastery, incorporated into the Order of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1781 Friar Galvao was appointed novice master in Macacu and in 1798, guardian of St Francis Friary in Sao Paulo. He was reelected in 1801. But the "Recollects da Luz" and the Bishop of Sao Paulo appealed to the Provincial: "None of the inhabitants of this city will be able to bear the absence of this religious for a single moment ... ". As a result, he returned. In 1802 he became definitor and in 1808, visitator general and president of the Chapter, but was forced to give up these posts for reasons of health.
In 1811 he founded St Clare Friary in Sorocaba, Sao Paulo. After 11 months, he returned to Sao Paulo to St Francis Friary. In his old age, he obtained permission from the Bishop and the guardian to stay at the Recolhimento da Luz. He died on 23 December 1822.
Friar Galvao was buried in the Recholhimento church, and his tomb continues to be a destination for pilgrimages of the faithful, who obtain graces through the intercession of this "man of peace and charity", the founder of the "Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Luz".
BL. FAUSTINO MIGUEZ, Sch.P. was born on 24 March 1831 in Xamiras, a village of Acebedodel Rio, Celanova, in the province of Orense, Spain. He was the fourth child of a hard-working Christian family. After studying Latin and the humanities in Orense, there he heard God's call to be a priest and teacher in the spirit of St Joseph Calasanz. In 1850 he entered St Ferdinand's novitiate of the Piarist Fathers in Madrid. In his long life as a Piarist, almost 50 years dedicated to education, he was sent to schools in San Fernando, Guanaboacoa, Getafe, Monforte de Lemos, Celanova, El Escorial and Sanlucar de Barameda.
Convinced that "those who want to teach need to learn", he worked tirelessly, training himself daily to fulfil his educational mission. God endowed him with a special love for the young and a sensitivity that enabled him to approach them with kindness, to know them and to seek their welfare. School was the place where he met the Lord, whom he loved and served in children. Through piety and learning he opened horizons of culture to them, encouraging them and teaching them to love what is true, noble and sublime. A Piarist for all children, his devotion to them was expressed in his concern for the weakest and neediest. Fr Faustino, like St Joseph Calasanz, lauded education as "the noblest work, the greatest and the most sublime in the world because it embraces the whole of man as God conceived him ...".
He spent many hours hearing confessions and was renowned for his patience and wise advice. His whole life was dedicated to the love of God and to learning. He combined scientific research with his vocation as an educator and studied the healing properties of plants, which he believed were Providence's remedy for illness. He prepared medicines and cured many of the sick who consulted him. The Miguez Laboratory in Getafe is one of his great legacies to society.
In Sanlucar de Barrameda, he encountered the illiteracy and marginalization of women and, aware of their importance in the family and in society, he felt an urgent need to assist with the human and Christian advancement of girls, especially the very poor. This Inspired him to found the Calasanctian Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherdess on 2 January 1885. He devoted great wisdom to their formation, imbuing their life with a spirit of prayer, humility, simplicity and ardent love for Mary so that, as Mother and Shepherdess, she might be the model for their vocation of service to the young and the lowly. He outlined their charism in the Constitutions: "The aim of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherdess is to seek souls and lead them to God ......
Obedience required him to leave his congregation for Getafe, but Fr Faustino knew that if it was God's work it would last. Indeed, the congregation expanded to Andalucia, Castille and Galicia, and he had the joy of seeing new foundations in Chile and Argentina. He died in Getafe, at the age of 94, on 8 March 1925.
BL. ZEFIRINO AGOSTINI, the elder of two sons, was born on 24 September 1813 in Verona, Italy, to Antonio Agostini and Angela Frattini. Their father was a doctor and they grew up in a true Christian family. He was baptized an 28 September 1813 in the Church of Sts Nazarius and Celsus, which would later become his place of work.
After his father's death they were raised by their mother, whose wisdom and gentleness would make a lasting impression on Zefirino. Zefirino wanted to be a priest; he attended the local schools and studied philosophy at the seminary as a day student, always showing love for his vocation and attention to the problems of his time. He was ordained on 11 March 1837 by Bishop Grasser of Verona and celebrated his first Mass in St Nazarius Church. Here he was a curate for eight years, in charge of the boys' recreational programme and the teaching of Christian doctrine.
In 1845 he was named parish priest. Given its size, poverty and problems, some said his acceptance of this post was "truly heroic". With deep devotion to God and ardent love for his people, Fr Agostini could accept people and their sufferings with a fatherly heart and discern the signs of the times with prophetic vision. His first commitment was to find time for the Lord and cultivate familiarity with him in daily prayer.
His openness to God produced an ardent apostolic zeal, which made him tirelessly attentive to all his parishioners. Among his many activities for the poor and needy, he showed his concern for the education of women by establishing an after-school programme for girls and attending to the religious instruction of their mothers. The moral and material poverty of young girls prompted him to take a special interest in them. He discovered St Angela Merici and her ideals. He spoke enthusiastically about her to young women and celebrated her feast-day as early as 1855. The Holy Spirit and the need to rescue and educate girls spurred him to accept an offer made by three young members of the after-school programme to devote themselves, like St Angela, to the neediest.
After patient waiting and much prayer, Fr Agostini realized that following St Angela's example was the Lord's will. Trusting in Providence, although he lacked the means, he succeeded in founding the Pious Union of Sisters Devoted to St Angela Merici. Their rule was approved by Bishop Ricabona in 1856. That same year, on 2 November, he opened his first charitable school for poor girls. The first women to assist him lived with their families. After 1860 some chose community life and Fr Agostini prepared the first rule for the Ursuline community, which was approved that year. On 24 September 1869 the first 12 Ursulines made their profession; on 18 November, the Congregation of Ursulines, Daughters of Mary Immaculate was founded. Some continued to help in the parish while living at home.
Fr Agostini cared for all with respect seeking nothing but God's will and the good of souls. Those who knew him described him as humble and persevering full of pastoral zeal. In 1874 he made revealing remark to his sisters: "Do no be dismayed by toil or suffering, nor by the meager fruit of your labours. Remember that God rewards not according to results, but effort". He worked tirelessly for the glory of God, irresistibly drawn to the crucified Lord. He died on 6 April 1896.
3 October 1998
BL. ALOJZIJE STEPINAC was born into a large Catholic family on 8 May 1898 in Krasic. After graduation from high school in 1916, he completed military service during World War I. In 1924 he decided to study for the priesthood and was sent to Rome, where he attended the Pontifical Germanicum-Hungaricum College. He earned doctorates in theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University and was ordained on 26 October 1930.
As a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Zagreb, his work was marked by an energetic involvement in charitable activities, especially in the city's poorer neighbourhoods. At Christmas 1931 he established the archdiocesan Caritas.
On 29 May 1934 Pope Pius XI named Fr Stepinac as Co-adjutor Archbishop of Zagreb at the age of 36. He visited the old parishes of the Archdiocese, created 12 new ones, established close ties with lay associations and with youth groups, promoted the Catholic press and, as the question of the Concordat between Yugoslavia and the Holy See was current, became wholeheartedly involved in protecting the rights of the Catholic Church. He succeeded Archbishop Bauer upon the latter's death on 7 December 1937.
The advance of Nazism in Europe prompted the Archbishop in 1936 to support a committee which had been founded to help those who were fleeing this threat, and in 1938 to institute the Action for Assistance to Jewish Refugees. His defence of human rights and of those who were being persecuted prior to, during and after World War II encompassed all persons regardless of race, religion, nationality, ethnic group or social class.
Archbishop Stepinac never missed an occasion to condemn racism and to defend human rights for every person and nation. In 1943 he wrote: "We always stressed in public life the principles of God's eternal law regardless of whether we spoke about Croats, Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox or whoever else.... The Catholic Church does not recognize races that rule and races that are enslaved".
By 1945 Yugoslavia was under communist rule. Archbishop Stepinac, wrote a biographer, "treated the new authorities from the first moment in accordance with the Gospel" but nonetheless "remained firm in his stance ... to defend the divine rights of the Church, as well as the vital interests of the Croatian people". That same year, after publishing a letter which denounced the execution of priests by communist militants, Archbishop Stepinac was arrested for the first time.
Following the Archbishop's release, Yugoslavia's new leader, Josip Broz Tito, attempted to persuade him to have the Catholic Church in Croatia break from Rome. What had been a tense situation became confrontational when the Catholic Bishops of Yugoslavia issued a pastoral letter on 22 September 1945 in which they referred to the promises made - and then broken - by the Belgrade Government to respect freedom of conscience and religion as well as private ownership. The Bishops demanded freedom for the Catholic press, Catholic schools, religious instruction, Catholic associations, and "full freedom for the human person and his inviolable rights, full respect for Christian marriage and the restitution of all confiscated properties and institutions".
Following attacks on the Church and a media campaign against him personally, Archbishop Stepinac was put on trial in September 1946, a trial which was condemned by many people, most notably Pope Pius XII. On 11 October 1946 the Archbishop was sentenced to 16 years of hard labour and the loss of his civil rights. His primary " crime" was the defence of the unity of the Catholic Church in Croatia and its unity with the See of Peter.
Two days after this sentence, members of the Jewish community in the United States protested, saying that "this great man has been accused of being a collaborator of the Nazis. We Jews deny this.... Alojzije Stepinac was one of the few men in Europe who raised his voice against the Nazi tyranny, precisely at the time when it was most dangerous to do so". In fact, during the war Archbishop Stepinac helped to hide countless persons, predominantly Jews, in monasteries and other Church properties. Some of them remained until the end of the war.
Due to ill health, Archbishop Stepinac was moved from prison in 1951 and put under house arrest in Krasic where he could, nonetheless, perform priestly functions, receive visitors and communicate in writing to the faithful, penning more than 5,000 letters. Of the letters which remain, it is noteworthy that Archbishop Stepinac never expressed even a single word of resentment for those who had persecuted him.
Pope Pius XII named him a Cardinal on 12 January 1953 and called him "an example of apostolic zeal and Christian strength". The Cardinal's hat was given to Stepinac, wrote the Pontiff, "to reward his extraordinary merits ... and especially to honour and comfort our sons and daughters who resolutely confess their Catholic faith despite these difficult times". Following this, the Yugoslav regime broke diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
In December 1959, asked to testify at the trial of the spiritual director of the diocesan seminary, the Archbishop wrote the authorities, citing the reasons he could not attend and reflecting on the long history of maltreatment which he received as Archbishop of Zagreb. He concluded: "I know what my duty is. With the grace of God, I will carry it out to the end without hatred towards anyone, and without fear from anyone". He died on 10 February 1960 and is believed to have been poisoned.
21 June 1998
BL. JAKOB KERNwas born in Vienna, Austria, on 11 April 1897 and given the name Franz Alexander at birth. His father was a skilled gardener and his mother a devout mother of three children. He entered the archdiocesan minor seminary in Hollabrunn at the age of 11.
He was drafted in 1915 and assigned to Voklabruck for officer training. In the summer of 1916 he was sent to the Italian front, where he was shot on 11 September. He barely recovered and was transferred to Salzburg and eventually given leave.
He returned to Vienna and resumed his theological studies at the archdiocesan seminary, but despite his previous injury, he was recalled to military service at the front, where he witnessed the end of the war and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He returned to the seminary, but then his innate altruism began to take concrete form. With sincerity of heart, he decided to make vicarious satisfaction for another priest, Fr Isidor Bogdan Zahrodnik, who had left the Premonstratensian Abbey of Strahov and joined the Czech National Church. Franz Alexander decided to enter the Premonstratensian Abbey of Geras in Lower Austria, near the Czech border.
He entered the novitiate in 1920 and was given the name Jakob (after the Norbertine martyr Jacobus Lacoupe, from the Netherlands, who was hanged by Protestants in 1572). After finishing his theological studies he was given a dispensation for receiving ordination before final vows and was ordained a priest in St Stephen's Cathedral on 23 July 1922.
Soon the consequences of his war injury became obvious. As time passed, the pain became more severe, but he carried out his priestly service with great zeal. People in Geras sensed the sincerity of the young priest, his human warmth, but also his sensitivity in helping to carry their burdens.
His illness, however, progressed unmercifully. During the Easter season of 1923 he contracted a cold. Hemorrhages followed and his war wounds discharged pus. As a consequence, two ribs had to sawed off and a third one extracted. Because of his weakened condition the doctors had to operate without anesthesia. The patient endured the pain with full consciousness and even apologized to the surgeon for causing so much trouble.
He seemed to recover after a short stay in Meran, but his lungs quickly deteriorated. His solemn profession was set for 20 October 1924, but surgery was also scheduled for the same day. As the sister prepared the table for the Holy Communion that would be his viaticum, he told her: "Tomorrow will be my last Holy Communion. I will celebrate my solemn profession in heaven". He died during surgery on 20 October and was buried in Geras five days later.
BL. MARIA RESTITUTA KAFKA was born in Brno (in what is now the Czech Republic) on 10 May 1894, the sixth daughter of a shoemaker, and was given the name Helena at Baptism. She grew up with her family in Vienna and was employed as a salesgirl and later as a nurse. As a nurse she came into contact with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity (known as the "Hartmannschwestern") and entered their congregation in 1914, taking the name of an ancient martyr, Restituta.
From 1919 she worked for 20 years as a surgical nurse and soon gained the reputation not only of a devoted and capable nurse but one who was particularly close to the poor, the persecuted and the oppressed. She even protected a Nazi doctor from arrest which she thought was unjustified.
When Hitler took over Austria, Sr Restituta made her total rejection of Nazism quite clear. She called Hitler "a madman" and said of herself: "A Viennese cannot keep her mouth shut". Her reputation spread rapidly when she hung a crucifix in every room of a new hospital wing. The Nazis demanded that the crosses be removed, threatening Sr Restituta's dismissal. The crucifixes were not removed, nor was Sr Restituta, since her community said they could not replace her. Sr Restituta was arrested and accused not only of hanging the crosses but also of having written a poem mocking Hitler.
On 28 October 1942 she was sentenced to death for "aiding and abetting the enemy in the betrayal of the fatherland and for plotting high treason". She was later offered her freedom if she would leave her religious congregation, but she refused. When asked to commute her sentence, Martin Bormann expressly rejected the request, saying: "I think the execution of the death penalty is necessary for effective intimidation.
While in prison she cared for the other prisoners, as even communist prisoners later attested. After various requests for clemency were rejected by the authorities, Sr Restituta was decapitated on 30 March 1943.
BL. ANTON MARIA SCHWARTZwas born in Baden, near Vienna, Austria, on 28 February 1852, the fourth of 13 children. His father was a theatre musician. After elementary school Anton became a singer in Heiligenkreuz and attended the Schottengymnasium in Vienna.
In 1869 he joined the Piarists in Krems, but due to the Kulturkampf the congregation was threatened with suppression, so he left the community and entered the seminary in Vienna. Despite poor health he was ordained on 25 July 1875, but because of the family's economic straits after his father's death, he had to rent vestments and a chalice for his first Mass. For four years he served as chaplain in Marchegg. For his rigour and his social involvement he became known as "the pope of Marchegg".
In 1879 he was appointed chaplain to the Daughters of Charity Hospital in Vienna-Sechshaus, where he came into direct contact with the sufferings of young apprentices and workers. After a dying apprentice told him: "The Church has religious institutes for everyone: the sick, prisoners, students - we apprentices are the only ones forgotten", he decided to found a religious community for them, the Congregation of Christian Workers of St Joseph Calasanz, known as the "Kalasantiner". In Vienna Fr Schwartz built the first church for workers, which was consecrated on 17 November 1889.
At the Kalasantinum monastery he began his work with four confreres and fought against the way young workers were exploited, particularly as a result of low wages, unpaid overtime work and work on Sundays and holidays. By appealing to the Christian faith of businessmen he knew, he was able to protect these apprentices from abuse. His aim was the Christian and moral formation of workers and he founded an "Oratory for Apprentices", which provided lodgings, employment and religious instruction. He founded a similar oratory for workers.
Even before Leo XIII's Encyclical Rerum novarum, he denounced the exploitation of workers and defended their right to organize. His involvement became politically explosive when he declared his solidarity with striking tram drivers (1889), carpenters and servants (1905). He also supported the struggle of tailors and shoemakers against the large firms.
In 1908 he withdrew from all public controversy. Social democrats accused him of teaching apprentices not to be self-sufficient, and certain Christian journalists accused him of "social democratic tendencies". He died in the odour of sanctity on 15 September 1929.
23 May 1998
BL. TERESA GRILLO MICHEL was born in Spinetta Marengo (Alessandria), Italy, on 25 September 1855. She was the fifth and last child of Giuseppe, the head physician at the Civil Hospital of Alessandria, and of Maria Antonietta Parvopassau, a descendent of an illustrious family of Alessandria. At Baptism she was given the name of Maddalena.
After the death of her father, the family moved to Turin, where Maddalena attended elementary school and her mother supervised the university studies of Francesco, her elder brother. When Maddalena finished elementary school, she was sent to a boarding school run by the Ladies of Loretto in Lodi, where she passed her final exams at the age of 18.
After leaving school, she returned to Alessandria, where, under her mother's guidance, she was introduced to society It was here that she met her future husband, Giovanni Michel, a cultured and brilliant captain of the Bersaglieri.
After their wedding on 2 August 1877, they moved first to Caserta, then to Acireale, Catania, Portici and, lastly, Naples.
After her husband died of sunstroke during a Naples parade in 1891, Teresa sank into a depression which bordered on total despair. Her sudden, almost unexpected recovery, due to reading the life of the Ven. Cottolengo and to the help of her cousin, Mons. Prelli, led her to embrace the cause of the poor and needy.
Teresa began to open the doors of her family home to poor children and people in need. At the end of 1893, seeing that the numbers of the poor continued to grow, she sold the Michel family home and purchased an old building on Via Faa di Bruno. Here she began her work of rebuilding, adding an upper floor and buying some modest dwellings nearby. Thus began the "Little Shelter of Divine Providence".
The work Teresa had begun was certainly not without difficulties, which came not only from the authorities but especially from friends and relatives. Nevertheless, the solidarity and affection of the poor, of generous persons and of the women who worked with her were evident. Following many requests to the ecclesiastical authorities, on 8 January 1899 Teresa Grillo was clothed with the religious habit in the small chapel at the Little Shelter, together with eight of her co-workers, and founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Divine Providence.
In her remaining 45 years, her primary concern was to spread and build up the institute. In fact, immediately after its foundation, her community opened houses at various places in Piedmont, and soon spread to the Veneto, Lombardi, Liguria, Apulia and Lucania. On 13 June 1900 the institute was extended to Brazil, and in 1927, at the request of Bl. Luigi Orione, she also established houses in Argentina.
Sparing no effort, Teresa inspired and encouraged her sisters with her caring and charismatic presence in the community. As many as eight times she crossed the ocean to visit Latin America, where at her request numerous foundations sprang up with nurseries, orphanages, schools, hospitals and homes for the elderly. She made her eighth voyage in 1928, at the age of 73.
On 8 June 1942 the Holy See granted the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Divine Providence apostolic approval.
Bl. Teresa Grillo died in Alessandria on 25 January 1944, at the age of 89. By then her institute had 25 houses in Italy, 19 in Brazil and 7 in Argentina.
BL. GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO was born in Testona di Moncalieri (Turin), Italy, in 1848 and was ordained a priest in Turin in 1871. After his ordination, he was appointed assistant and then spiritual director of the seminaries in Chieri and Turin. In this office he was a guide and father to his seminarians and gave them the best of his heart and his priestly knowledge.
In 1882 Fr Giovanni M. Boccardo was appointed parish priest of Pancalieri. He obediently accepted this post, which was to be his last on earth. The separation from his seminarians must have deeply pained his sensitive heart. For Fr Boccardo, who maintained and increased his early apostolic enthusiasm despite the stress of daily life, his parish was a true "mission land". On the day set for his solemn entry into the parish, at the sight of the church's bell tower in the distance, Fr Boccardo offered himself as a victim for the good of his parishioners, so that the Lord would not allow a single one of the souls entrusted to his pastoral care to stray.
After serving as parish priest in Pancalieri for two years, the village was stricken with cholera. Bl. Boccardo threw himself into caring for the sick, even at the risk of his own life, spending on them all his physical and moral energies and means. When the epidemic was over the village was left with abandoned elderly, orphaned children and poor people who no longer had a roof over their heads or any resources. This situation made a deep impression on his fatherly heart. He prayed, sought advice and, when he was certain of God's will, he laid the foundations of the Hospice of Charity and later, of a congregation of sisters called the Poor Daughters of St Cajetan, who in a who in a few years spread throughout Piedmont and Italy.
He knew that a parish priest's first duty was evangelization: he preached Jesus Christ and his Gospel in its entirety. Other important tasks were the celebration of the Eucharist, the administration of the sacraments, catechesis and diligence in the ministry of confession. He was the "good father", the father of all, especially of the sick and the poor. His life was filled with arduous penances hidden beneath a constant smile. When it was a question of doing good, he never refused. As a faithful pastor, he served his parish with paternal affection until his death on 30 December 1913. His secret? He did not seek himself, but sacrificed himself to strengthen in his faithful the life of the spirit as well as the body.
BL. TERESA BRACCO was born on 24 February 1924 in the village of Santa Giulia (Diocese of Acqui), Italy, to Giacomo Bracco and Anna Pera, two humble and devoutly Catholic farmers. From an early age she showed signs of great piety, particularly a love of the Eucharist and a tender devotion to the Virgin Mary. After a long day of tiring work, her father would lead the family in reciting the Rosary. Teresa learned to pray by following her parents' example.
The formation she received at home was strengthened by the catechesis given by an exceptional parish priest, Fr Natale Olivieri, who gave her many religious books to read but, most importantly, inspired her by his holy life.
At school, Teresa's teachers marveled at her exemplary conduct. As a young girl and throughout her adolescence she was often found in church with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle, immobile and almost ecstatic in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. She spared no sacrifice to nourish her love for Christ in the Eucharist, rising early in the morning and walking over a kilometre to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. She spent the rest of her day in work and prayer, fingering her rosary when her tasks allowed it.
One of her most striking virtues, however, was her modesty in speech and dress. She instinctively fled from trivial conversations. One witness said: "She was different from the other girls". At the age of nine, she saw a picture of the then Ven. Dominic Savio in the Bollettino Salesiano, with the caption: "Death rather than sin". She exclaimed: "That goes for me!". She cut out the picture, pasted it on a card and hung it over her bed It remained her favorite object of devotion for the rest of her life.
In the autumn of 1943 guerrilla warfare intensified in the Acqui region. The mountains and woods afforded many hiding places for partisans and draft resisters. On 24 July 1944 a fierce clash occurred between partisan forces and German troops on the road between Cairo Montenotte and Cortemilia. The next day the Germans returned to collect their dead: they burned farms, looted homes and terrorized the people.
They extended the round-up to the entire area and on 28 August reached Santa Giulia, which they thought was as a stronghold of the partisans, even though the latter had moved elsewhere. They seized three girls, one of whom was Teresa. A soldier, perhaps a non-commissioned officer, took her to a deserted place in the woods. Indomitable, Teresa tried to run from the thicket in the hope of getting help from a nearby family. But the ruffian grabbed her and threw her to the ground. She resisted the savage aggression with all her might, but the enraged soldier throttled her until she choked. He shot her twice with his revolver and to vent his rage, crushed part of her skull with his boot. Teresa had fulfilled her intention: "I would rather be killed than give in".
BL SECONDO POLLO was born on 2 January 1908 in Caresanablot, Italy, a small town about four kilometres from Vercelli. As a boy he showed a special love for the Blessed Sacrament and a very tender devotion to Our Lady. After entering the minor seminary of Montecrivello, he made great spiritual progress and was considered a model seminarian.
He was sent to the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome for his philosophical and theological studies. After ordination he was assigned to the minor seminary in Montecrivello, while serving at the same time in various parishes: Cigliano, Borgo D'Ale, Saluggia, Livorno Ferraris and beyond the archdiocesan boundaries. Teaching catechism was a particular delight for him; he would seek people out wherever they were to be found, even using a stable once as a makeshift classroom. When a parish was entrusted to him, he joyfully exclaimed: "I am a parish priest!".
He was later assigned to teach philosophy and theology at the major seminary and was appointed spiritual director. He soon acquired a reputation as a preacher and confessor of extraordinary spiritual insight. In September 1936 he was named archdiocesan chaplain to the Italian Youth of Catholic Action; he also served as a prison chaplain.
From the end of 1940 to the beginning of 1941 he administered a parish in Larizzate before being drafted as a military chaplain. He was assigned to the Val Chisone battalion of the Alpine regiment and was sent to Montenegro. Despite his lack of physical aptitude, he served with distinction and won the admiration of officers and soldiers alike. On 26 December 1941, the feast of St Stephen, he was fatally wounded while assisting a comrade on the battlefield.
Although in great pain he said: "Look after the others; they're worse than I am". Someone heard him whisper: "I am going to God who is so good", as he bowed his head and died.
10 May 1998
BL. RITA DOLORES PUJALTE SANCHEZ was born in Aspe, Spain, on 19 February 1853. Her parents, Antonio Pujalte and Luisa Sanchez gave her and her four siblings a deeply Christian upbringing. As a young girl she was a model of piety and apostolic activity: she belonged to the Daughters of Mary, the Third Order of St Francis, the St Vincent de Paul Society, and was a catechist as well.
In 1888 she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and took her temporary vows two years later. Highly esteemed by her community, she was given positions of responsibility, and the foundress, before dying in 1899, recommended that she be elected Superior General, which the community did in 1900. Mother Rita served as Superior until 1928, when she retired to devote herself to prayer and recollection at St Susanna's College in Madrid.
BL. FRANCISCA of the SACRED HEART of JESUS ALDEA ARAUJO born in Somolinos, Spain, on 17 December 1881. Orphaned at an early age, she was accepted as a boarding student at St Susanna's Colleges in Madrid, which belonged to the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At the age of 18 she entered the institute's novitiate and made her temporary vows in 1903.
She was assigned to teaching and fulfilled this task with great dedication until 1916, when she was elected assistant and, later, general secretary. She was at St Susanna's College when the religious persecution began.
On 20 July 1936 the revolutionaries attacked St Susanna's College, battering the doors and firing shots. All the sisters, aware of the danger, were praying in the chapel: the they had recited the Rosary and were commending their souls. The superior asked the soldiers to allow Mother Rita, aged 83, blind and infirm, and Sr Francisca, ill as well to leave. The two religious took refuge in a nearby flat. Two hours later a group of armed revolutionaries dragged the two elderly sisters down the stairs, put them in a car and took them to a Madrid suburb, near the town of Canillejas, where they made them get out and then shot them.
The next day the doctors performing the autopsy were astonished that the bodies were not stiff and were emitting an indescribable perfume. When the bodies were exhumed in 1940 to be taken to the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, the doctors and other witnesses said that the bodies were still flexible and retained the colour of a living person. Given their reputation for holiness, in 1954 their uncorrupted bodies were taken to Villaverde, near Madrid, and put in chapel of their institute's college.
BL. MARIA SAGRARIO of ST ALOYSIUS GONZAGA (in the world: Elvira Moragas Cantarero) was born in Lillo, Spain, on 8 January 1881, to Ricardo Moragas and Isabel Cantarero. She was the third child of four. In 1886 her father became the pharmaceutical purveyor to the royal household and the family moved to Madrid. She completed her studies with distinction and was one of the first women in Spain to obtain a degree in pharmacy.
After her father's death, her professional ability became evident. She also became aware of her religious vocation, but, on the advice of her spiritual director and at the insistence of her younger brother who still needed her help, she was obliged to postpone her plans.
In 1915 she was admitted as a postulant to the Carmel of St Anne and St Joseph in Madrid. On 21 December she began her novitiate and received the name Maria Sagrario of St Aloysius Gonzaga. She made her temporary profession on 24 December 1916 and her solemn profession on 6 January 1920.
In April 1927 she was elected prioress and used her mandate to serve the community. In 1930 she became novice mistress and frequently told her novices of her desire to be a martyr. She was elected prioress for the second time on 1 July 1936, two weeks before the Spanish Civil War broke out with a wave of religious persecution.
On 20 July the convent was attacked by a violent crowd. She provided for the safety of her sisters and took refuge with one of them at the home of that sister's parents, where she remained until her arrest, despite her brother's pleas that she move to his home. On 14 August the "soldiers" arrested her and the other sister.
Her serene attitude and total surrender to God's will is well-documented by her daughters' testimony. She was interrogated by the secret police and an effort was made to force her to reveal the whereabouts of the convent's valuables. She resisted the questioning in silence and refused to betray anyone.
On 15 August she was taken to the Pradera of San Isidro and shot. Given the increasing fame of her martyrdom, the process for her canonization was begun in 1962 and closed in 1965. On 8 April 1997 Pope John Paul II approved the decree establishing her martyrdom.
BL. NIMATULLAH YOUSSEF KASSAB AL-HARDINI was born in 1808 in Hardin, Lebanon. From childhood he was strongly influenced by the monastic tradition of the Maronite Church. Four of his brothers became priests or monks, and Nimatullah entered the Lebanese Maronite Order in and Nimatullah entered the Lebanese Marionite Order in Qozhaya, near the Qadisha ("Holy Valley"), for two years of probation. He was initiated into community prayer and manual work, and soon became known for his love of the Blessed Sacrament. He was often found in the chapel on his knees, his arms raised in the form of a cross, his eyes fixed on the tabernacle.
After his profession he was sent to the monastery of Sts Cyprian and Justina in Kfifan to study philosophy and theology. He was ordained a priest and became director of the scholasticate and a professor until the end of his life. One of his students was St Sharbel.
During the two civil wars of 1840 and 1845 he suffered greatly with his people. His brother, Fr Elisha, suggested he withdraw to a hermitage, but he replied: "Those who struggle for virtue in community life will have greater merit". He was reprimanded for being too hard on himself and too merciful and indulgent towards his confreres. He is said to have remarked: "A monk's first concern, night and day, should be not to hurt or trouble his confreres".
He had a great love of the Virgin Mary and recited the Rosary every day. He was particularly devoted to the Immaculate Conception and after the Angelus would often say: "Blessed be the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin".
In 1845 the Holy See appointed him general assistant of the order. He asked the Superior General to send monks to further their studies at the new college founded by the Jesuits in Ghazir. He served as general assistant for two more terms, but refused to be appointed Abbot General: "Better death than to be appointed Superior General".
In December 1859 he was teaching at the monastery of Kfifan, when he was afflicted with pneumonia caused by the bitter cold in that region. His condition worsened, leading to his death on 14 December. He died holding an icon of the Blessed Virgin and saying: "0 Mary, I entrust my soul to you".
BL. MARIA MARAVILLAS de JESUS PIDAL y CHICO de GUZMAN was born in Madrid, Spain, on 4 November 1891. She was the daughter of Luis Pidal y Mon, Marquis of Pidal, and Cristina Chico de Guzman y Munoz. At the time her father was the Spanish ambassador to the Holy See and she grew up in a devoutly Catholic family.
She made a vow of chastity at age of five and devoted herself to many charitable works. After coming into contact with the writings of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Jesus, she entered the Carmelite monastery of El Escorial in 1920. Four years later, Sr Maravillas and three other religious founded a Carmel in Cerro de los Angeles, where she made her solemn profession that same year. The monastery quickly grew and in 1933 she made a foundation in Kottayam, India. From this Carmel other foundations were made in India.
During the Spanish Civil War the nuns lived in an apartment in Madrid. In September 1937 they were able to found another Carmel in the Batuecas (Salamanca).
In 1939 they were able to restore the monastery of Cerro de los Angeles. Even amid enormous deprivation, Mother Maravillas instilled courage and happiness, always being an admirable example to her daughters.
In the following years foundations were made in Mancera de Abajo, Duruelo, Cabrera, Arenas de San Pedro, San Calixto, Aravaca, Talavera de la Reina, La Aldehuela and Montemar-Torremolinos. She then restored and sent nuns to her original Carmel of El Escorial and to the venerable monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. In order to unite the monasteries founded by her and others attracted to them, in 1972 she obtained approval from the Holy See for the Association of St Teresa.
She distinguished herself by her faithfulness in fulfilling the Rule and Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelites and supported many charitable projects for the poor in Spain. She had a great enthusiasm for the charism of Carmel. By word and example she led a fervent contemplative life in service to the Mystical Body of Christ.
She died with great peace at the Carmel of La Aldehuela on 11 December 1974. She kept repeating: "What happiness to die a Carmelite!".
The following seven blesseds were born in Spain: BL. MARIA GABRIELA de HINOJOSA NAVEROS, on 24 July 1872 in Alhama, Granada; BL. JOSEFA MARIA BARRERA IZAGUIRRE, on 23 May 1881 in El Ferrol, La Coruna; BL. TERESA MARIA CAVESTANY y ANDUAGA, on July 30 1888 in Puerto Real, Cadiz; BL. MARIA ANGELA OLAIZOLA GARAGARZA, on 12 November 1893 in Azpeitia Guipuzcoa; BL. MARIA ENGRACIA LECUONA ARAMBURU, 2 July 1897 in Oyarzun Guipuzcoa; BL. MARIA INES ZUDAIRE GALDEANO, on 28 January 1900 in Echavarri, Navarre; and BL. MARIA CECILIA CENDOYA ARAQUISTAIN, on 10 January 1910 in Azpeitia, Guipuzcoa.
The six religious came from devout Christian families and were all members of the Madrid house of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in France in 1610 by St Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal.
In early 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, religious persecution was intensified. That same year the community realized the danger of remaining in Madrid and moved to Oronoz, leaving a group of six nuns in the charge of Sr Maria Gabriela de Hinojosa. By July they were confined to their apartment, where they enjoyed relative peace. However, an anti-religious neighbour reported them to the authorities; their freedom was curtailed, their belongings confiscated and arrests followed. Nevertheless, they refused to seek refuge in the consulates to save their lives. Their fervour was stronger than the threat of death, and when their apartment was searched on 17 November, they expressed their desire to die for the faith, exclaiming: "What a joy, martyrdom is not far off!". They spent the night in prayer.
The following evening, a patrol of the Iberian Anarchist Federation broke into the apartment and ordered all the sisters to leave. In the noisy mob was the majestic serenity of the nuns. They were taken by van to a vacant area. As they held each other's hand, a barrage of gunfire shattered their bodies, except for Sr Maria Cecilia, who had unwittingly started to run when she felt the sister next to her fall. Moments afterwards she surrendered, declaring herself a nun, and was shot five days later at the cemetery wall in Vallecas on the outskirts of Madrid.
4 May 1998
BL FLORENTINO ASENSIO BARROSO, was born in Villasexmir, Vallolid, Spain, on 16 October 1877 into a poor but Christian family. He was ordained a priest on 1 June 1901. He gained a licentiate and doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of Valladolid, where he taught until he was obliged to give up by the illness and death of his Archbishop, Cardinal Cos.
He was then appointed parish priest of the metropolitan cathedral. He was a prolific preacher and many of his homilies have been preserved. He was also spiritual director and confessor to many religious congregations. The fame of his zeal led to his appointment as Bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro. He was consecrated on 26 January 1936. A plot to disrupt the ceremonies organized for his entry into the city obliged him to postpone it to the following day and limit it to the prescribed liturgical rite. The busy four months and 23 days of his governance ended tragically. Bishop Asensio introduced many reforms and was ever available to the poor and the sick. He also wrote a pastoral letter appealing for unity in Christ.
Notwithstanding his spirit of goodwill and collaboration he was unable to overcome the authorities' hostility, and was forced to witness their anticlerical activities, profanation and spying. On 20 July 1936, he was put under house arrest and then imprisoned. On 8 August he was put in solitary confinement. Accused of collaborating with the enemies of the people he was tortured, mutilated and mocked. After midnight he was loaded with 12 others onto "a death truck" and taken to the cemetery to be executed. He did not die immediately and so his executioners fired three shots in his temple.
His body was thrown into the common grave. After exhumation, his remains were identified and transferred to the cathedral where they were laid to rest in the burial place of the diocesan Bishops in the cathedral crypt.
BL. MARIA ENCARNACION ROSA of the SACRED HEART, baptized Vicenta, was born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala on 26 October 1820 to a pious Christian family. At the age of 15, awed by the mystery of Bethlehem, she heard the Lord's call. On 1 January 1837, she entered the Beaterio of Bethlehem founded by Bl. Pedro de Betancout and was clothed that same year. Here she was tormented by the lack of a truly religious atmosphere and realized that the community was drifting away from its original charism. But faithful to her original call, she hesitated before transfer ring to the convent of the Catalinas, where despite its prayerful atmosphere, she found no peace either. Thus she returned to her original "Bethlehem", the model of an organized and well-directed community impressed upon her mind. She was elected prioress in 1855. She revised the constitutions bringing them into line with the order's original charism but the older sisters refused to accept them. She therefore planned a new Beaterio in Quetzaltenango which she founded in 1861.
Mother Maria Encarnacion gradually formed a lasting relationship of deep intimacy with the Lord. She was intensely attracted by Christ's humanity, contemplated at the most poignant moments of his life. Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane was the central point of her contemplation, which led her to interiorize the Lord's sorrows and promote in the Church a special devotion to the intimate sorrows of his Sacred Heart, and reparation for humanity's sins. This ideal formed by her spiritual experience became a firm tradition of the Bethlemite Sisters who dedicate the 25th day of every month to the prayer of reparation. Mother Maria Encarnacion of the Sacred Heart introduced the reform she had so desired and thus saved her institute's original charism. She died on 24 August 1886, the eve of the feast of the Sorrows of the Sacred Heart whose celebration the Lord himself had asked of her. The Institute of Bethlemite Sisters is present today in 13 countries.
BL. CEREFINO GIMENEZ MALLA, known as "El Pele" was born a Gypsy in Fraga, Huesca, Spain, probably on 26 August 1861, and a Gypsy he remained. He chose Teresa Giminez Castro a Gypsy from Lerida as his wife and settled with her in Barbastro. In 1912 he regularized this Gypsy-style union and became a model Christian. He had no children but adopted one of his wife's nieces, whose descendants are still living. He was a flourishing horse dealer with a respectable position in society and ever ready to give generously to the poor. Unjustly accused of theft and imprisoned, he was finally declared innocent: the lawyer for his defence announced: "El Pele is not a thief, he is San Ceferino, patron of Gypsies". In his dealings, he never cheated anyone. Held in great esteem El Pele was frequently sought by Gypsies to help them solve the conflicts which sometimes flared up between them. His reputation for charity and piety was widespread and although he was illiterate, educated people esteemed him for his honesty and his wisdom. He was a member of several religious groups. At the start of the Spanish Civil war, at the end of July 1938, he was arrested for trying to defend a priest who was being dragged through the streets of Barbastro, and for keeping a rosary in his pocket. He was offered freedom if he would stop reciting the Rosary. He preferred to stay in prison and face martyrdom. He was shot at dawn on 8 August 1936, against the walls of Barbastro cemetery. He died clutching his Rosary and crying: "Long live Christ the King!".
BL. GAETANO CATANOSO was born in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy on 14 February 1879. His parents were landowners and exemplary Christians. He was ordained a priest in 1902 and served as a parish priest, gaining a reputation for holiness. He keenly felt the sense of sin and the need for reparation which he expressed in the devotion to the Holy Face. He established the confraternity of the Holy Face in his parish and in 1920 he launched the bulletin The Holy Face through which he also promoted the association of the Poor Clerics, to encourage priestly vocations. In 1921 Fr Catanoso became parish priest of Santa Maria de la Candelaria, Reggio Calabria. He revived Eucharistic and Marian devotions, promoted catechetical instruction, the crusade against blasphemy and the profanation of feast days. He encouraged missions to the people, especially during Lent and the month of May, and set up the so-called "flying squads", teams of priests willing to cooperate in the parishes, giving homilies and hearing confession on these occasions. From 1921 to 1950 he served as confessor to religious institutes and Reggio Calabria prison; he was also hospital chaplain and spiritual director of the archiepiscopal seminary. In 1929 he offered himself as "a victim of love" to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In that period he founded the religious Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, for the purpose of constant prayer of preparation, humble service in worship, catechesis, charity especially to children, young people, priests and the elderly. The first convent was opened in Riparo, Reggio Calabria, and the first religious were clothed in 1935.
He showed great docility when the Archbishop curtailed his activities for the congregation. The constitutions he had written for his institute received diocesan approval on 25 March 1958.
He died on 4 April 1963 after spending his last days in continuous prayer.
BL. ENRICO REBUSCHINI was born on 25 April 1860 in Gravedona, on Lake Como, Italy, to a wealthy family. He was sensitive to the needy and was so generous that he would give away all he had, to the last penny. He felt called to the priesthood and the consecrated life but was firmly opposed by his father. After a year studying at Pavia University, he could no longer tolerate the anti-clerical and returned to Como. Military service, a diploma in accountancy and two years' in his brother-in-law's silk factory could not deter him from following his vocation. The Diocese sent him to Rome where he attended the Gregorian University and made an excellent impression there. But becoming gravely ill he had to return home. He recovered and embarked on a life of rigorous asceticism. He clearly perceived his objective: the gift of himself to God, a life constantly oriented to the Lord. He also became aware of his neighbours needs, and for them resolved to develop the virtues of listening and service, seeing in them God himself. Enrico had always had a strong inclination to care for the sick, so in 1887 he joined the novitiate of the Camillians, Servants of the Sick, in Verona. He was ordained a priest by the future Pope St Pius X on 14 April 1889. He was sent to Verona's civil and military hospital (1891-1899) and then to the Cremona community where he lived until his death. From 1903 to 1937 he was administrator of the new St Camillus clinic and for 11 years, superior of his house. In all his free moments he would retire to pray; God had blessed him with the gift of contemplative prayer. As he walked through the streets of Cremona, people "saw" that he was holy and called him the "mystic of the streets". During his 49 years as a priest, Fr Rebuschini served the sick, even to the very end. After celebrating Mass for a sick person he felt ill, and he died a few days later on 10 May 1938, from bronchial-pneumonia.
22 March 1998
BL. CYPRIAN MICHAEL IWENE TANSI was born in 1903 in Igboezunu, at the edge of: the forest near the ancient city of Aguleri in southern Nigeria. His parents, Tabansi and Ejikwevi, were Igbo farmers who practised the "traditional religion" and gave him the name Iwene at birth. In 1909 he was sent to the Christian village of Nduka, Where he was baptized three years later by Irish missionaries and given the name Michael.
His peers described him as studious and very demanding with himself, with a precocious personality and deep piety. At the age of 16 he received his first school leaving certificate, which qualified him for teaching. He taught at Holy Trinity Primary School in Onitsha for three years and served for a year as headmaster at St Joseph School in Aguleri.
In 1925, against the wishes of his family, he entered St Paul's Seminary in Igbariam. After finishing his philosophical and theological studies, he was ordained a priest in the cathedral of Onitsha on 19 December 1937 by the missionary Bishop Charles Heerey. The second indigenous priest of Onitsha and the first in the Aguleri region, he began his pastoral ministry in the parish of Nnewi.
In 1939 he was appointed parish priest of Dunukofia (Umudioka region), where he courageously tackled immoral customs and destroyed the harmful myth of the "cursed forest", which weighed heavily on the peace of consciences and families. To combat premarital cohabitation, he set up marriage preparation centres where girls and young women could be sheltered and receive Christian formation. For the moral education of young people he also established the League of Mary, with remarkable success.
On foot or bicycle, Fr Tansi went from village to village preaching, catechizing and setting up prayer centres that eventually became parishes. He spent hours and hours hearing confessions, even until late at night. His zeal, shining example and life of prayer and penance transformed the people into a true Christian community resulting in so many vocations to the priesthood and religious life that his parish held the diocesan record. The same energy characterized his years as parish priest of Akpu, where he served from 1945 until his transfer to Aguleri in 1949.
On an unspecified date between 1949 and 1950, during a priests' day of recollection, Bishop Heerey expressed, the desire that one of his priests would embrace the monastic life so that he could later establish a contemplative monastery in his Diocese. Fr Tansi immediately said he was willing. Bishop Heerey contacted the Trappist Abbey of Mount St Bernard in Leicestershire, England, which was willing to receive him for a trial period as an oblate.
In the summer of 1950 he led his parishioners on a pilgrimage to Rome for the Holy Year and left from there for Mount St Bernard. After two and a half years as an oblate, he was admitted to the novitiate on the vigil of the Immaculate Conception, taking the name Cyprian. One year later he took his simple vows and was solemnly professed on 8 December 1956.
For the next seven years he lived a hidden life of prayer and work, humility and obedience, in faithful and generous observance of the Cistercian rule. In 1963, after 13 years of valuable experience as a Trappist, the time now seemed ripe for establishing a monastery in Nigeria. However, political tensions led his superiors to choose neighbouring Cameroon for the foundation instead. This was a hard blow for Fr Cyprian, who had been appointed novice master for the African monastery. It was the only time in 13 years of monastic life that he ever lost his temper, but he quickly regained control and accepted God's will with supernatural heroism.
In January 1964 he began experiencing intense pain in one of his legs. Diagnosed as having thrombosis, the following morning he was found unconscious and was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Leicester, where examination revealed an aortic aneurysm. He died the following morning, 20 January 1964. He was buried at Mount St Bernard on 22 January. Present for the funeral liturgy were several Nigerian priests living in London, including his spiritual son, Fr Francis Arinze, the future Archbishop of Onitsha, Cardinal and President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
His body was exhumed in 1988 and reburied In the priests' cemetery near the cathedral of Onitsha, where he had been ordained a priest 51 years earlier. After the beatification ceremonies, his remains will be buried in the parish church of his native village, Aguieri.
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