Biographies of New Blesseds - 2006

Biographies of New Blesseds - 2006

The following Blesseds were beatified under Benedict XVI in 2006:

Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Eustáquio van Lieshout
Luigi Biraghi
Luigi Monza
Margarita María López de Maturana
Maria of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Maria Teresa Scrilli
Mariano de la Mata Aparicio O.S.A.
Moses Tovini
Paul Josef Nardini
Rita Amada de Jesus

30 April 2006

Bl. Luigi Biraghi (1801-1879)
Diocesan priest, Founder of the educational Institute of the Sisters of St. Marcellina

Luigi Biraghi was born in Vignate, near Milan, Italy, on 2 November 1801. He was the fifth of eight children.

At the age of 12 he entered the Minor Seminary of Castello sopra Lecco and continued his studies for the priesthood at the Major Seminaries of Monza and Milan.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milan on 28 May 1825.

The young Fr. Biraghi was then sent to teach at the Seminaries of Castello sopra Lecco, Seveso and Monza until his appointment in 1833 as spiritual director of the Major Seminary of Milan.

In 1855 he was named a doctor of the prestigious Biblioteca Ambrosiana and an honorary canon of the Basilica of St. Ambrose.

in 1864, he was appointed Vice-Prefect of the Ambrosiana and in 1873, Domestic Prelate of His Holiness Pius IX.

The Pope held Mons. Biraghi in such high esteem that n 1862 he wrote him a personally-signed letter asking him to exercise his influence as a mediator and peacekeeper among the Milanese clergy. At that time of political turbulence the clerics tended to be divided into two factions: the champions of the new Italian unity that was taking place, with the return of Lombardy to the Kingdom of Italy from Austria, and the supporters of the temporal power of the Popes.

The Marcelline Sisters

Mons. Luigi Biraghi was a very cultured man with a profound inner life and a scholar of patristics and archaeology. His idea of founding the institute of the Sisters of St. Marcellina sprang from his knowledge of and admiration for, Christian antiquity as well as his devotion to St. Ambrose.

St. Marcellina was born around the year 330 and was the elder sister of St. Ambrose and St. Satyrus, with whom she worked as a consecrated virgin. She died on 17 July 400, three years after her brother St. Ambrose, and was buried in the Basilica named after her brother, alongside his tomb.

In 1836, with the assistance of Mother Marina Videmari (1812-911), Mons. Biraghi founded the Institute popularly known as the "Marcellina Sisters" at Cernusco sul Naviglio.

He had met Marina Videmari at a spiritual retreat and contributed to her formation. She tuned out to be the Institute's first superior and ensured its continuation after Mons. Biraghi's death.

The "blessed method" became the badge of the Marcellina Sisters whose Constitutions, written by Mons. Biraghi, required no extraordinary acts of penance but rather ordinary fidelity in daily life.

Ore of their first pupils was Bl. Maria Anna Sala, who climbed the ladder of sanctity by adhering to the Founder's Rule in the simplicity of community life, earring the nickname "the living Rule".

A cultural and moral education

The Institute was concerned with the cultural and moral education of young women of noble birth, but also educated poor girls free of charge. As Mons. Biraghi had no other pastoral assignments or commitments, he was able to dedicate all of his time and energy to the Sisters' spiritual formation and the organization of the new Congregation.

The foundation of other houses it Italy and beyond rapidly followed: they included Vimercate (1841), Milan (1854), Genoa-Albaro (1868) and Chambéry, France (1876). It later spread to Brazil (1912), Switzerland (1919), England (1954), Albania, Canada (1958) and Mexico (1984). According to the Institute, Africa is their next place of foundation.

Mons. Biraghi died on 11 August 1879, at the age of 78. He was buried in the family grave in Cernusco sul Naviglio, but in 1951 his remains were translated to the chapel of the Marcellines' Mother House, also in Cernusco.

Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, then Archbishop of Milan, introduced his Beatification Cause on 27 October 1971.

Pope John Paul II declared him "Venerable" on 20 December 2003.

Bl. Luigi Monza (1898-1954)
Parish priest, Founder of the Little Apostles of Charity and the 'Our Family' Association

Luigi Monza was born into a poor farming family on 22 June 1898 in Cislago, in the North-Italian Province of Varese.

Luigi entered the seminary at the age of 18. He already had an experience of working the land, late nights studying and the fight for survival that is common to the poor.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milan on 19 September 1925. Immediately, the young priest was put in charge of the parish prayer group at Vedano Olona.

The beginning of Fr. Monza's priestly ministry was marked by every sort of trial, even unmerited imprisonment under the Fascist regime, with the Fascists falsely accusing him of organizing an attack on the local magistrate. They threw him and the parish priest into jail. Fr. Luigi was released four months later.

In 1929 he was moved to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miracles in Saronno, where he set up various projects for youth.

In a "paganized" world, as Fr. Luigi would call it, this holy man of God saw the life of the early Christian communities as a social ideal in which love was the primary rule for human coexistence, hence, the most suitable means for proclaiming Christ's Gospel to his contemporaries. Christians were called to be a leaven of love in society, in daily life and in the activity of each person, as Fr. Monza never failed to remind them:

"Christians, each one of you must become an artist of souls, and we must paint the beauty of Jesus not on canvas but in souls. And may the paint brush of the apostolate never fall from our hands".

A priest 'according to God's Heart'

In 1936 he was invited to the Parish of San Giovanni in Lecco, where he carried out his ministry according to God's Heart and was immensely popular. He was always available to the poor, the sick and those who, like him, suffered unjust persecution.

During the Second World War, Fr. Monza did his utmost to help his parishioners on the front, but took care not to become embroiled in politics.

In 1937, Fr. Luigi felt that God was calling him to found the Secular Institute of the Little Apostles of Charity, a community of consecrated women who would seek to bring "the zeal of the first Christian community" to society.

'Our Family' Association

Having acquired some experience, Fr. Luigi and his Little Apostles founded the "Our Family" Association to provide social and health-care assistance, education and formation, especially for the disabled and disadvantaged and children who, educated with the best medical, scientific and pedagogical methods available, could be integrated into the difficult social context of that time.

Today, the Little Apostles of Charity still work in this Association as well as in other apostolates; they have spread from Italy to Sudan, Brazil and Ecuador, and are present in China, Morocco and Palestine.

Their Founder died of a heart attack on 29 September 1954 before seeing these developments. He is buried in the Province of Como.

'Good Shepherd of the Gospels'

Bl. Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster paid this exemplary priest and shepherd of souls a high tribute comparing him to the "Good Shepherd" of the Gospels.

Fr. Luigi's zeal in parish activities, his care for catechesis and the liturgy, his warm preaching and his closeness to the poor made him a model of priestly life and a prototype of the "Ambrosian priest". The fame of his holiness spread rapidly and increased with the passing years. His message continues to fascinate people today: "hiddenness" in daily life together with brotherly love and sharing, all based on the enthusiastic example of the early Christians.

Pope John Paul II declared Fr. Luigi Monza "Venerable" in December 2003, and Pope Benedict XVI, in a decree of 19 December 2005, recognized a miracle brought about through his intercession.

14 May 2006

Bl. Maria of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1866-1912)
Virgin, Religious Sister of the Institute of the Sisters Crucified Adorers of the Eucharist

Maria Grazia Tarallo was born on 23 September 1866 in Barra, Naples, Italy, to Leopoldo Tarallo and Concetta Boriello. She was baptized the following day in the Ave Gratia Plena Parish in Barra. Growing up, she received a solid Christian and human formation in her family.

A child "called" by God while still young, Maria Grazia made a private vow of virginity at age five in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother.

When she was just 7 she made her First Communion, and at the age of 10 she received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Maria Grazia's life was especially directed toward Christian perfection and total consecration to God.

When she was 22 she wished to enter the convent, but her father opposed her desire as he wanted her to marry. However, the young man who proposed to her died before they could marry, thus leaving her free to enter the convent.

On 1 June 1891 she entered the Monastery of the Sisters Crucified Adorers of the Eucharist, in Barra, founded by the Servant of God Maria Pia Notari who was a witness to the virtuous and holy life of Maria Grazia and to whom she gave the name "Sr. Maria of the Passion".

Sr. Maria lived her vocation of love for Christ's Passion, the Eucharist and Our Lady of Sorrows to the full. She was known to say: "My name is Sr. Maria of the Passion and I must resemble the Master".

As a nun, she was given different responsibilities, from that of Novice Mistress and as spiritual guide of her Sisters, to that kitchen and laundry service porter.

She was always exemplary and edifying in her life of charity and prayer and was admired by everyone in her community.

Sr. Maria's desire to be a victim soul for sinners was summed up by her in this way: "I want to be holy, loving Jesus in the Eucharist, suffering with Christ Crucified and seeing Christ in my brothers and sisters".

Sr. Maria of the Passion died on 27 July 1912 in Barra, leaving to her Sisters the following testimony: "I exhort you to holy perseverance according to the Rule. readiness in obedience and especially daily Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Love Jesus in the Eucharist, never leave him alone, do not anger him, do not disappoint him".

Bl. Rita Amada de Jesus (1848-1913)
Virgin, Foundress of the Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Rita Amada de Jesus was born on 5 March 1848 in Ribafeita, Portugal. She was the daughter of Manuel Lopes and Josefa de Jesus Almeida and was baptized eight days after her birth.

Rita grew up in a very devout environment; her family prayed the Rosary and had spiritual reading every evening. From childhood, she showed a great devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as well as devotion to the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and for the Pope.

In the 1830s, Masonry expropriated all Church properties in Portugal and ordered the closing of all male and female religious houses. Religious Institutes were forbidden to admit new members, with the hope that in due time they would close. Bishops and priests were also attacked and impeded from fulfilling their priestly duties.

Apostle of the Rosary

Rita's family felt a great desire to live an authentically Christian life and God rewarded them by giving Rita a missionary call: to free the youth from religious indifferentism and immorality through the family apostolate.

In spite of religious persecution, she began to travel from place to place, parish to parish, to pray and teach the Rosary, inviting Christians to imitate the Virgin Mary.

She thus became the Apostle of the Rosary at age 18, and in doing this kind of apostolate she met people who did not lead exemplary lives. Young Rita did all she could to help them, and fortunately  through her many men and women were touched by God's grace and asked to receive the sacraments.

On the other hand, many others were not happy and became her life-threatening enemies.

When she was still at home with her parents, Rita dedicated much time to prayer and penance in order to discern God's will. With her confessor's help, she understood that the Lord was calling her to Religious life, but entry was still forbidden.

Rita continued her apostolate, with the hope that one day she could officially consecrate her life to God. She rejected the young men who befriended her and would often repeat: "I belong to someone else".

Rita's spiritual life was characterized by Eucharistic reparation and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a great desire to save souls. She even involved her family in the apostolate, and needy women were often lodged in their house as long as it was necessary.

'Gathering together the children'

It wasn't until age 29 that Rita was finally admitted to the only Religious Institute that was functioning at that time, the non-Portuguese Institute of the Sisters of Charity in the city of Oporto. All the local Institutes had been expelled from Portugal.

However, she was disappointed with Institute's spirit and charism and eventually left it. In agreement with her Jesuit spiritual director, Fr. Francisco Pereira, she accepted economic help from a noble family and prepared herself to initiate courageously what God was asking of her: to gather children from single mothers and educate them. She was offered a house for this work by that noble family.

On 24 September 1880, Rita succeeded in founding a new Religious Institute known as the Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, whose spirituality was founded on the Holy Family of Nazareth. At the same time she opened a school for poor children in her own parish and extended her activities to other dioceses in the Country.

Her generous endeavours were accompanied by many problems caused by the local Authorities, who often demanded the closing of such institutions. These reached their climax when a Republic was established in 1910 and active religious persecution against the Church broke out. The Government expropriated all Church property and all the foreign Institutes left Portugal.

Forced into hiding

Mother Rita took refuge, together with some of her Sisters and some children, in her parents' home. They disguised themselves as gypsies when they had to go out to escape notice.

For a period of three years they enjoyed relative peace. Mother Rita was able to gather the Sisters that had been scattered at her parents' house.

Furthermore, she was inspired during this time to send small groups of Sisters to Brazil, which ensured the Institute's survival.

Mother Rita did not reach Brazil. She died on 6 January 1913.  Her funeral was celebrated by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Viseu, in her own parish.

15 June 2006Bl. Eustáquio van Lieshout (1890-1943)
Priest, Missionary of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Humberto van Lieshout was born in Aarle-Rixtel, Holland, on 3 November 1890. He was the eighth of 11 children born into a deeply Catholic farming family. He was baptized on the day of his birth.

His life can be divided into two periods, the time he spent in his own Country (1890-1924) and his time as a missionary in Brazil (1925-1943).

Humberto was popular at home and at school for his sociable, cheerful nature. He already felt called to the priesthood as a child. Despite the contrary opinion of his teacher, who did not see Holy Orders as right for him, and of his father, who wanted him to work on the farm and did not consider him capable of secondary studies, Humberto managed to get his way and attended the secondary school in Gemert.

After reading the biography of Fr. Damien de Veuster, Humberto decided to join the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He entered the novitiate in Tremeloo, Belgium, on 23 December 1913 and was given the name "Eustâquio". He made his temporary vows in 1915 and his perpetual profession three years later.

The young man was ordained a priest on 10 August 1919. His first assignment was as assistant novice master for his order.

Fr. Humberto continued to exercise his ministry in his native Country for five years, serving in parishes at Roelofarendsveen and at Maasluis near Roterdam, where many Belgian immigrants had fled from the German invasion. His pastoral zeal in caring for the people earned him a decoration from the Belgium State.

Call to the missions

In December 1924, Fr. Eustâquio was sent to Spain to learn the language, with the plan that he would be going to Uruguay as a missionary; instead, he was sent to Portuguese-speaking Brazil and sailed from Amsterdam in 1925 with the Provincial and two other missionaries, including Gil van de Boogaard, who became a close friend. In all, he spent 10 years in Agua Suja in Romaria, six in Poá and two in Belo Horizonte.

In 1926 Fr. Eustâquio became parish priest of Agua Suja and counsellor of his Congregation, and he devoted himself in particular to the poor and the sick.

In 1935 he was appointed parish priest in Poá, in the area of Sao Paulo, and again zealously dedicated himself to caring for families, the sick and the poor. He was known to have the gift of healing through the intercession of St. Joseph, and this activity was especially directed towards the strengthening of the faith of the people and freeing them from the tendency toward superstition.

A growing reputation

The reputation of Fr. Eustâquio began to spread throughout the Country and people travelled long distances to see him. The "disturbance" this caused provoked the interference of civil Authorities, and it left Fr. Eustâquio's superiors feeling that he should be transferred.

In 1942 he was sent to the Parish of Ibiá and almost immediately to Belo Horizonte. Because he was already venerated as a holy man and a healer, he continued to be sought out by the thousands of people and his life became a real pilgrimage.

Juscelino Kubitscheck, Prefect of Belo Horizonte, considered himself healed by a miracle through the intercession of Fr. Eustâquio and donated a plot of land to the parish on which the Church of the Sacred Hearts was built. At the celebration for the laying of the foundation stone, Fr. Eustâquio was heard to say: "I began the church but I will not finish it".

'Thanks be to God!'

In 1943, during a retreat that he was preaching to students of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus College at Belo Horizonte from 18 to 21 August, Fr. Eustâquio seemed very tired. The day after the retreat he had a high temperature and stayed in his room.

His condition worsened in the following days, but he was still prepared to celebrate Mass as usual. Immediately after Mass on 23 August, he retired to the sacristy, sat down on a bench and fainted. Doctors were slow to diagnose him as having typhus.

Fr. Eustâquio knew his illness was incurable. He received the Sacrament of the Sick and renewed his profession. He asked for his friend, Fr. Gil, and was heard to say: "Thanks be to God, I am ready! But how long Fr. Gil is taking!".

Fr. Gil finally arrived on 30 August. Fr. Eustâquio exclaimed, seeing him in the doorway, "Fr. Gil, thanks be to God!" and died instantly. 17 September 2006

Bl. Moses Tovini (1877-1930)

Moses Tovini was born on 27 December 1877 in Cividate Camuno, Italy, and was the first of eight children. His father Eugenio was an accountant and his mother, Domenica Malaguzzi, was a teacher. His uncle, Bl. Giuseppe Tovini (beatified in 1998), was his godfather.

Moses was a very bright boy and started elementary school in Breno at the age of 5. When he was 9, he moved to Brescia to continue his schooling and lived there with his uncle and godfather.

Moses received his First Holy Communion on 14 November 1886.

In 1889, he was sent to a school in Romano Lombardia to finish his junior high school studies. It was here that he met Dominic Menna, who became a lifelong friend.

In 1891 the third centenary of the death of St. Aloysius Gonzaga was solemnly celebrated at the school, and the two students were so deeply fascinated by this young saint that they began to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

Moses asked the advice of his father concerning his vocation. His father convinced him not to begin priesthood studies at that time. He was then sent to a high school in Celana, Bergamo, where he felt very lonely and did not "fit in" with the street-wise boys there.

Entering the seminary

After Moses took a mathematics exam which all the other boys boycotted, he became the target of their bullying. To escape their abuse the young Moses returned home and in this circumstance was able to confirm his desire to enter the seminary in Brescia. Thanks to the intervention of his uncle Giuseppe, he was admitted to the seminary even though the school term had already begun.

When the health of his dear Uncle began to decline, he was allowed to live with him and care for him. But on 16 January 1897, Uncle Giuseppe suddenly died and it was Moses who had to organize the funeral.

Upon finishing studies at the minor seminary Moses' parents intervened for a leave of absence. He was then enrolled for a year of military service in the army in Brescia.

Also in this environment many opportunities existed for the young man to witness his adherence to the Gospel or to demonstrate his virtue. Once he even silenced an official who was in the habit of blaspheming.

With his discharge from the army on 31 October 1898 with the rank of sergeant, he returned to his home parish where he instituted the charity of "St. Anthony's Bread" and furthered his studies for the priesthood.

On 10 March 1990 he was ordained a deacon and on 9 June 1900, when he was only 22 years old, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Brescia.

His first assignment was as chaplain of Astrio. A short time later, the Bishop sent him off to Rome, where he spent four years continuing his studies.

Professor and catechist

In 1904, Fr. Tovini returned to Brescia with degrees in mathematics, philosophy and a licence in theology. There he asked his Bishop for permission to enter the new Congregation of Oblate Priests that had been opened in that city.

From November 1904 until his death, Fr. Tovini served as professor at the seminary of Brescia. He also studied in Milan to obtain a degree in dogmatic theology. He dedicated all his time and energy to his students and prepared his lessons with great fidelity and obedience to the teachings of the Church, the Pope and the Bishop.

Fr. Tovini did not limit himself to his lessons and schooling. During vacation time, he organized religious education courses for teachers, weeklong catechetical sessions and, of course, performed his more direct priestly duties as well.

In 1915 he was appointed parochial vicar at Provaglio d'Iseo; and with the outbreak of World War I, this duty exempted him from being enlisted and enabled him to continue teaching at the seminary.

The following year he was made vice pastor of the parish of Torbole, because the current pastor had been called to active duty.

Although avoiding the immediate battle ground, he nonetheless risked his own life with the outbreak of Spanish flu, ministering fearlessly to the sick.

When the war ended, he was given a new assignment to assist the seminarians who had been unable to complete their studies due to their involvement in the war.

Throughout his life as a priest, Fr. Tovini was always eager to teach catechism.

In 1919 he was appointed vice-prior of the Diocesan Commission of the Catechism, and in 1926 he became director of the institute for Training Catechism Teachers in Brescia. Here, he prepared hundreds of teachers for the State schools.

In 1922, he and Don Giuseppe Schena began the Catholic Action Movement in Italy.

In 1923 he was appointed canon of the Cathedral and was also vice-official of the ecclesiastical tribunal. In 1926 he was appointed rector of the seminary.

'Three pillars' of priestly vocation

As rector, Fr. Tovini taught the seminarians the "three pillars" upon which they were to build their vocation: the Eucharist, the Immaculate Virgin and the Pope. He was a true father to them, with constant vigilance over their souls and the necessary severity and goodness that this watchfulness demanded.

His "benevolence" was often misunderstood as weakness and criticized by his immediate collaborators, but he silently accepted this cross since his main concern was for the proper formation of seminarians.

On 23 January 1930, Fr. Tovini was hospitalized and diagnosed with pneumonia. On 27 January he asked for the Sacrament of Last Rites; the following day he died.

That same evening, 28 January, the Bishop of Brescia wrote in his diary: "This morning, around 11 o'clock, Mons. Tovini died. I pray to find a rector that will be like him".

Blessed Sára Salkaházi (1899-1944)
Martyr , Member of the Sisters of Social Service

Teacher, bookbinder, milliner, journalist: this was the resume of Sára Salkaházi when she applied to join the Sisters of Social Service, a Hungarian religious society that today is also active in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan and the Philippines.

The Sisters of that new congregation, founded in 1923 by Margit Slachta and devoted to charitable, social and women's causes, were reluctant to accept this chain-smoking, successful woman journalist, and she was at first turned away from their Motherhouse in Budapest. But 16 years later, she became the Society's first martyr, at the hands of the Nazis.

Fun-loving and intelligent, Sára was born into a well-to-do family at Kassa-Košice, Upper Hungary, now Slovak territory, on 11 May 1899. She studied to become a teacher. In the classroom, she learned through her students about the social problems of the poor, which she publicized via newspaper articles.

To widen her horizon and experience first-hand what discrimination meant, Sára became a bookbinder's apprentice, where she was given the hardest and dirtiest work. She learned that trade, then went to work in a millinery shop, all the while continuing to write articles for newspapers.

She became a member of the Christian Socialist Party and then worked as editor of that party's newspaper, focusing on women's social problems.

Kicking one habit for another

After she had come into contact with the Sisters of Social Service, Sára felt a strong call to join them. Following her initial rebuff, she quit smoking — with great difficulty — and was admitted to the Society at age 30, in 1929. She chose as her motto Isaiah's "Here I am! Send me!" (Is 6:8b).

Her first assignment was to her native Kassa (which at the end of World War I had been incorporated into Czechoslovakia) to organize the work of Catholic Charities; subsequently, she was sent to Komarom, for the same task.

In addition, she wrote, edited and published a Catholic women's journal, managed a religious bookstore, supervised a shelter for the poor and taught.

The Bishops of Slovakia then entrusted her with the organization of the National Girls' Movement. She thus began giving leadership courses and publishing manuals.

For the sake of Him alone

In one year alone, she received 15 different assignments, from cooking to teaching at the Social Training Centre, all of which exhausted her physically and spiritually. When several novices left the Society, Sára also considered leaving, especially since her superiors would not allow her to renew her temporary vows (she was deemed "unworthy"), nor permit her to wear the habit for a year. These decisions hurt her deeply.

But Sára accepted these hardships and made up her mind to remain faithful to her calling for the sake of the One who called her. Her faithfulness paid off as she received permission to renew her vows some time later.

She wanted to go to the missions, to China or Brazil, but the outbreak of World War II made it impossible to leave the country. She worked instead as a social lecturer and administrator in Upper Hungary and Sub-Carpathia (which had also been part of Hungary until the end of World War I), and took her final vows in 1940.

As national director of the Catholic Working Girls' Movement, Sister Sára built the first Hungarian college for working women, near Lake Balaton. In Budapest, she opened Homes for working girls and organized training courses.

To protest the rising Nazi ideology Sister Sára changed her last name to the more Hungarian-sounding "Salkaházi".

As the Hungarian Nazi Party gained strength and also began to persecute the Jews, the Sisters of Social Service provided safe havens. Sister Sára opened the Working Girls' Homes to them where, even in the most stressful situations, she managed to cheer up the anxious and discouraged.

As if her days were not busy enough, she managed to write a play on the life of St. Margaret of Hungary, canonized on 19 November 1943. The first performance, in March 1944, was also the last, since German troops occupied Hungary that very day and immediately suppressed this religious production.

The life of St. Margaret may have provided the inspiration for Sister Sára to offer herself as a victim-soul for the safety and protection of her fellow-Sisters of Social Service. For this, she needed the permission of her superiors, which was eventually granted. At the time, they alone knew about her self-offering.

Meanwhile, she kept hiding additional groups of refugees in the various Girls' Homes, under increasingly dangerous circumstances. Providing them with food and supplies became more and more complicated every day, given the system of ration cards and the frequent air raids. Nevertheless, Sister Sára herself is credited with the saving of 100 Jewish lives, and her Community, with saving 1,000.

One life ransomed many

The Russian siege of Budapest began on Christmas 1944. On the morning of 27 December, Sister Sára still delivered a meditation to her fellow-Sisters. Her topic? Martyrdom! For her, it would become a reality that very day.

Before noon, Sister Sára and another Sister were returning on foot from a visit to another Girls' Home. They could already see in the distance, armed Nazis standing in front of the house. Sister Sára had time to get away, but she decided that, being the director, her place was at this Home.

Upon entering the house, she too was accompanied down into the air raid shelter where the Nazis were already checking the papers of the 150 residents. About 10 of them were refugees with false papers. Some were declared suspicious and were to be taken to the ghetto, while those in charge would have to "give statements at Nazi headquarters before being released".

As she was led out, Sister Sára managed to step into the chapel and quickly genuflected before the altar, but her captors dragged her away. One of the Nazis suggested, "Why don't we finish them off here in the yard?". But another gestured, "No".

That night, a group of people was driven by agents of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross regime to the Danube Embankment. Sister Sára was among them. As they were lined up, she knelt and made the Sign of the Cross before a bullet mowed her down. Her stripped corpse and those of her companions were thrown into the river.

The other Sisters anxiously awaited Sister Sára's return. A youngster from the neighbourhood brought them news of the shooting the following day. It seems that the Lord had accepted Sister Sára's sacrifice, because none of the other Sisters of her Community was harmed.

Every year, on 27 December, the anniversary of her martyrdom, the Sisters of Social Service hold a candlelight memorial service on the Danube Embankment for Sister Sára Salkaházi. The voluntary offering of their first martyr saved not only many persecuted Jews, but also her Religious Community.22 October 2006

Bl. Paul Josef Nardini (1821-62)
Diocesan Priest, Founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family

Paul Josef Nardini was born on 25 July 1821 at Germersheim, a little town on the Rhine River in Germany. His Mother, Margaret Lichtenberger, a single parent, gave him her surname at birth.

But being unemployed and therefore unable to care for her son, Margaret was obliged to entrust him to her paternal aunt, Maria Barbara, who was married to Anton Nardini of Italian origin. They gave him their surname, loved him like a son and gave him a healthy education in all aspects.

Although Paul Josef loved his adoptive parents very much, he never forgot his own mother. When he became parish priest of Pirmasens, he took her to live with him in the rectory.

Preparing today for tomorrow

From childhood he applied himself to his studies and distinguished himself from his peers for his extraordinary diligence and excellent grades.

After grammar school his vocation to the priesthood became clearer, and Bishop Johannes von Geissel admitted him to the seminary in Speyer, where from 1841 to 1843 he studied philosophy.

After completing the philosophy curriculum Bishop Nikolaus von Weis sent him to the University of Munich, where he obtained a theology degree summa cum laude.

On 5 June 1846 he received minor orders and the following day was ordained a subdeacon. Having concluded his studies he returned to Speyer and was ordained a deacon on 11 August. The following 22 August he was ordained a priest in the cathedral.

Fr. Nardini spent the first years of his priestly ministry as parochial vicar at Frankenthal, regent of the parish of Geinsheim and prefect of the diocesan boarding school of Speyer.

On 17 February 1851 Fr. Paul Josef was entrusted with the pastoral care of the difficult, poor parish of Pirmasens, a post he held until his death. During this time he demonstrated uncommon human and moral skills and piety. His example of self-abnegation, sacrifice, determination and apostolic effort was important in re-evangelizing the largely Protestant area.

His effectiveness as a parish priest, his preaching of God's Word, catechizing and love for the Eucharist combined to earn him a reputation of sanctity and the title of "Father of the Poor".

Pastoral needs, birth of an Order

Deeply concerned about the condition of neglected children and older persons, in 1853 he called the Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer of Niederborn to assist in the education of the poor children in his parish. He also asked them to care for the sick and those who suffer from material or spiritual misery, regardless of their race or religion.

The work proved to be more than they could handle, and in 1855 they were recalled.

Fr. Nardini replaced them with four young women of the Third Order of St. Francis, and so on 2 March 1855 the Congregation of the "Poor Franciscans" began. Subsequently, the name was changed to "Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family" and today they are also known as the Sisters of Mallersdorf.

Fr. Nardini personally supervised the care and formation of the Sisters, securing their food and lodging, even to the point of depriving himself of a regular evening meal.

Fr. Nardini's concern for others was not only material, but above all spiritual. It was exactly in performing a work of mercy, taking Viaticum to a dying parishioner on a frigid winter night, that the holy priest caught a pulmonary typhus and died on 27 January 1862.

Not only the Sisters, who at that time numbered about 220 in 35 locations, mourned his loss, but the entire local community, who already considered him a saint.

The mortal remains of Bl. Paul Josef Nardini are venerated in the Pirmasens chapel of the Congregation he founded.

The Beatification cause was begun in June 1997 in the Diocese of Speyer; Pope Benedict XVI approved his heroic virtues on 19 December 2005, opening the way to Beatification.

On 26 June 2006, the Pontiff recognized the miracle attributed to Fr. Nardini's intercession and authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the Cause for his Beatification.

Bl. Margarita María López de Maturana (1884-1934)
Religious Foundress of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz

The life of Mother Margarita was a devout and generous response to God's call. From childhood she cultivated a deep love for God which developed throughout her lifetime. She is reported as once saying: "There are very important moments in life when God shows us the way to follow and then leaves it to our free will to respond". Her constant choice was always a generous "yes" to the God of love.

Pilar, as she was named at Baptism, was born with her twin sister Leonor, in Bilbao, Spain, on 25 July 1884. The twins were the youngest of five children born to Juana Ortiz de Zarate and Vicente López de Maturana.

According to early accounts the twins were inseparable. They grew up sharing everything, including their love for God. Both, in fact, decided to enter the convent. But it was Leonor's desire to make the sacrifice of detachment from her sister that prompted her to chose to enter a different Order from her beloved twin, the Carmelites of Charity.

Opening to a vocation

In 1901 Pilar's widowed mother enrolled her in the boarding school of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy (Mercedarians) in an effort to distance her from a suitor and resulting relationship that Doña Juana felt was premature for Pilar's 16 years of age.

Her initial difficult adjustment at the school was soothed by the simplicity and manner of educating of the Religious, which made her feel at home and comfortable in her new environment.

Shortly thereafter, she desired to enter the Order, and following her 19th birthday, the age established by her mother, she entered the novitiate in the Cloistered Mercedarian Monastery of Vera Cruz in Berriz on 10 August 1903, taking the name Margarita María.

In 1906 she began to work in the Order's boarding school, where she had also studied. She remained there for more than 20 years, distinguishing herself by fervent prayer and charity.

The Order of Our Lady of Mercy was founded by St. Peter Nolasco in 1218 in order to ransom Christian captives. To the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, St. Peter added a fourth vow, to act as hostages if necessary to free from the Moors the Christian captives whose faith was in danger. As centuries passed the need to offer oneself in ransom declined, but this missionary spirit remained in the hearts of those who lived the charism.

New fruits of the charism

Consonant with the Mercedarian charism, Sr. Margarita María felt a strong desire to practice the fourth vow. She applied this vocation of the ransom of captives to the task of converting the pagan world.

After 17 years of faithful religious life, the Mercedarian spirit inspired Sr. Margarita, in 1920, to form an association of Mercedarian Missionary Youth, encouraging them to be co-missionaries through prayer and various activities.

The missionary spirit pervaded not only the youth residing with them, but the whole monastery as well. By September 1924 the request was made to the Superior General of the Order of Mercy to petition Rome to redefine their religious status from a contemplative Order to an active missionary Order. On 23 January 1926 permission was granted ad experimentum to take up the missionary life. By 19 September 1926 the first group of six missionary Sisters departed for Wuhu, China, where they arrived safely on 5 November of the same year. The second missionary expedition that left Berriz on 30 October 1927 went to Saipan, in the Mariana Islands of the South Pacific, arriving four months later on 4 March 1928.

A third missionary expedition that set out for Ponape Island, Japan, in 1928 was conducted by Mother Margarita María, who had just been named Superior a year earlier on 16 April 1927.

In 1930 the final approval and blessing came from Rome for the official transformation of the Mercedarian Monastery of Berriz into a Missionary Institute. On 30 July 1931, during the First General Chapter of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz, Mother Margarita María was elected as the first Superior General.

Before her death in Spain due to cancer on 23 July 1934, she had travelled the world twice on missionary work.

Mother Margarita's missionary zeal sprang from her intense union with Christ, who offered himself in ransom for all. Her desire to live the fourth vow and save souls inspired her missionary spirit. Her writing defines the stimulus for the missionary spirit as a "desire to love Jesus Christ in a new and total way; to love him above all in those who do not love him".

Margarita María's Beatification cause was opened on 30 July 1943. Her writings were approved on 4 March 1954. On 16 March 1987 her heroic virtues were proclaimed, followed by recognition on 28 April 2006 of a miracle attributed to her.

Bl. Maria Teresa Scrilli (1825-89)
Foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Carmel

Maria Scrilli was born on 15 May 1825 in Montevarchi, Arezzo, Italy, into an influential family. She was the second daughter of parents who had been hoping for a son and heir. Her mother's disappointment and lack of affection on this account affected her deeply.

In adolescence, a serious illness confined Maria to bed for nearly two years. She recovered miraculously after invoking the intercession of the holy Martyr, Fiorenzo. During her long convalescence she realized the Lord was calling her to the consecrated life.

She therefore decided to enter the Carmelite Convent of St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi in Florence, although her parents were strongly opposed to it. She returned home after only two months, but the time had nevertheless served to confirm her certainty that God was calling her to do something more.

While seeking to discern the Lord's plan for her, Maria opened a small school at home where she devoted herself to educating young girls. She provided a moral, civil and religious education, inculcating in them a holy fear of God and the love of virtue. Several other equally zealous young women joined her. Their outstanding spirit of sacrifice attracted the admiration of the Chief Magistrate and of the Superintendent for Schools, who put them in charge of the Scuole Norma li Leopoldine.

Carmelite experience takes root

Gradually, Maria came to understand that she should found a religious institute devoted exclusively to the education of children from the earliest age through adolescence.

On 15 October 1854, after obtaining the approval of her Bishop and of Duke Leopold II of Habsburg, Grand Duke of Tuscany, she and her three companions were clothed with the Carmelite habit, and Maria founded the Institute known today as the Sisters of Our Lady of Carmel. For her name in religion, she chose "Maria Teresa of Jesus".

The Sisters were so full of love of God and apostolic zeal that the number of their pupils and aspirants rapidly increased. In spring 1856, at the request of the Municipality of Foiano, Mother Maria Teresa sent several Sisters there to run the girls' school; their work was deeply appreciated.

Unfortunately, political turmoil, anticlericalism and freemasonry, all widespread at that time, put an end to the new institution almost as soon as it began. The political leaders of Montevarchi, who frowned upon the Carmelites' presence, confiscated their school in 1859 via the law of partial suppression and obliged them not to wear the religious habit.

But the Sisters would not admit defeat, and the Foundress opened a house and private school in Montevarchi. Due to lack of space in the new premises and to avoid further difficulties, several Sisters and Mother Maria Teresa lived at her family home.

In 1862 individual citizens were deprived of the right to earn a living — let alone to run a private school —, and the Religious had to close their school and return to their respective families.

Taken for dead but still alive

Mother Maria Teresa moved to Florence in 1878. With the Archbishop's blessing she could at last reconstitute her community. She opened a boarding school for poor girls which enriched Florentine society with many young women of sound principles. After so many misfortunes, it seemed that everything had turned out for the best, but the Sisters' troubles were not yet over.

Perhaps because of their austere life and unhealthy living conditions. many Sisters died, including the Foundress. Years of suffering and adversity, borne with holy resignation, had undermined her health. She died near Florence on 14 November 1889, at the age of 64.

Again, it seemed that all was over. The Institute had only two Sisters, a novice and a postulant.

A former boarder, Clementina Mosca, had seemed to be a promising vocation, but she had entered the Dominican Convent at Sodo. Shortly after the death of Mother Scrilli, however, on 1 December 1898, Clementina decided to enter the tiny Carmelite Institute. Then, when the new Superior died, she became superior and under her leadership the Institute gradually began to flourish.

In 1919 new houses were opened, the Constitutions were drafted, and the Institute had many vocations and obtained diocesan approval "ad experimentum". On 27 February 1933, it received Papal Approval.

During the World Wars, the Sisters were asked to extend their apostolate to the wounded. Later ministry included assistance to prisoners and the elderly.

Mother Maria Teresa's charism lives on in her Institute in the nations where it is present today: Italy, the United States, Canada, Poland, India, Brazil, the Czech Republic and the Philippines.

Pope John Paul II declared Mother Maria Teresa of Jesus Venerable on 20 December 2003, and Pope Benedict XVI recognized the miracle required for her Beatification on 19 December 2005.

5 November 2006

Bl. Mariano de la Mata Aparicio O.S.A. (1905-83)
Augustinian Priest and Missionary

Mariano de la Mata Aparicio was born on 31 December 1905 at Puebla de Valdavia, Spain, and was raised in a profoundly Christian family.

Following the example of his other three brothers, he entered the Order of St Augustine in 1921 and took the habit from the hands of a compatriot, Fr. Anselm Polanco, the future Bishop of Teruel who was beatified in 1995.

In 1930, after completing his studies in Valladolid and Santa Maria de la Vid (Burgos), Mariano was ordained a priest.

After less than two years of priestly service in his native Spain, Fr. de la Mata Aparicio was destined for missionary work in Brazil. He arrived there in 1931, and there he remained for more than 50 years until his holy death in 1983.

His first assignment in Brazil was as coadjutor in the parish of Taquaritinga, in the State of São Paulo.

Two years later he was transferred to St. Augustine College, where he taught natural sciences until 1949. During that time he was also director of the college and held the post of vice provincial superior from 1945 to 1948.

He continued his apostolate in São Paulo State as professor and superior of Engenheiro Schmidt, where the vice provincial seminary was located.

In 1961 Fr. Mariano returned to teach at St. Augustine College and also took on the duties of spiritual director of the St. Rita of Cascia Workshop and parochial vicar of the Church of St. Augustine.

Fr. Mariano is remembered as the messenger of charity and for his educational work among the neediest of Brazil.

He was a companion to young and old, especially to the sick. As a Religious priest he spread goodness and simplicity through his kind and unimposing demeanour.

He was an exemplary priest in carrying out his apostolic missions as well as supportive and caring towards his brothers in community. He kept in touch with his family and took an interest in the events of his faraway homeland.

Serving God in others

A man rich in empathy, he lovingly tended to the needs of those who surrounded him, and went out of his way to visit the sick regularly, as was the case with Sergio Teixera. Fr. Mariano visited this student of his for an entire year on a regular basis, giving him private lessons during his illness.

Another student with hepatitis, Horacio Gentile, was visited almost every day during his 60-day hospital stay by the holy priest, notwithstanding the great distance and steep climb the prelate had to endure.

Fr. Mariano loved nature, plants and animals. His heart was sensitive to the beauty of God's creation and could be moved at its sight. He was also very interested in stamp collecting.

In the afternoons he could often be seen on his way to visit the St. Rita workshops that employed numerous poor people who made clothing for the needy. As their spiritual director, Fr. Mariano guided them patiently with his word and his teaching, always faithful to the Church.

Even with the passing of years, his waning strength and his diminished vision, the priest continued to make his pastoral visits.

In early 1983 he was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumour of the pancreas, but the cancer continued to spread. He died on 5 April 1983. His mortal remains are preserved in the Church of St. Augustine in São Paulo.

Simply living the Gospel

Fr. Mariano was an Augustinian priest of authentic evangelical simplicity. By living according to the spirit of St. Augustine, he realized the fullness of his priestly and religious vocation.

Moved by love of God, he practised the Christian virtues to a high degree and faithfully observed his religious vows. He remains an important model for all simply because he did nothing extraordinary; rather, it was through the faithful fulfilment of his daily duties that he reached the heights of sanctity.

The cause for Mariano de la Mata Aparicio's Beatification was officially opened with the nulla osta on the part of the Holy See on 14 December 1996. On 20 December 2004 Pope John Paul II, recognizing his heroic virtues, declared him Venerable.3 December 2006

Bl. Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1877-1952)
Sister of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel

The daughter of Anthony and Kunjethy of Eluvathingal Cherpukaran, Rose Eluvathingal was born on 17 October 1877 in the village of Kattoor, in the Diocese of Trichur, India. Her mother's deep piety and great devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, had a strong influence on little Rose from her childhood.

From the stories that her mother told her, especially about St. Rose of Lima, she grew with a strong desire to practice the virtues, to suffer for Jesus and to be holy, and to do all this in a quiet, hidden manner.

During her developing years Rose began to detach herself from earthly possessions and pleasure and took a great interest in spiritual matters. This was all the more rooted in her at the age of 9 by means of an apparition of the Blessed Mother, after which the young girl offered herself totally to the Lord.

Notwithstanding the strong opposition of her father, who wanted Rose to marry into a rich family, she wanted to become a religious Sister. Her intense prayer life, which included the rosary, fasting and abstinence, as well as the rather sudden death of her younger sister, brought about a change of heart in her father, Anthony, who granted Rose permission to enter the convent.

In fact, her father accompanied her personally to the convent of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel at Koonammavu, the first indigenous congregation of Syro-Malabars.

But even with her desire to be a Religious, Rose was often afflicted with various illnesses which caused her intense suffering. Once, during a particularly painful attack, the Sisters were resolved to send her away for ever, but through an apparition of the Holy Family she received a miraculous healing that permitted her to continue following God's call.

Model of prayer, abandonment

On 10 May 1897 Rose became a postulant and took the name Sr. Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and on 10 January 1898 she received the holy habit of Carmel.

She practised the virtues of humility, charity and renunciation and grew in holiness with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the periods of grave illness and the trials of the powers of darkness that she endured, she was rewarded by intense spiritual joys.

On 24 May 1900 St. Mary's Convent was founded in the current Archdiocese of Trichur, and on the same day Sr. Euphrasia made her perpetual vows to God, a day of unspeakable joy, since now she belonged for ever to her Heavenly Spouse.

From 1904 to 1913 Sr. Euphrasia was entrusted with the duty of novice mistress and, sustained by the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit, she formed the future members of her Congregation. In their Mother Mistress the novices saw the heroic virtues of humility, poverty, penance, obedience and abandonment to God's will.

Although Sr. Euphrasia wanted to live a hidden life, she was chosen as Superior of the Convent of St. Mary at Ollur. Due to her profound humility she found it difficult to accept this new duty. But after an interior inspiration she acquired a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, placed it in the centre of the convent and entrusted the duty of Mother Superior to his Sacred Heart. She held the post from 1913 to 1916.

For almost 48 years the convent of St. Mary was home to Mother Euphrasia. Observing her life of prayer and holiness, the local people called her "Praying Mother", and her Sisters in community referred to her as the "Mobile Tabernacle", because the divine presence she kept within her radiated to all she encountered.

From the first years of her Religious life, Mother Euphrasia had the blessing of the spiritual guidance of Bishop John Menacherry. He ordered her to reveal to him every aspect of her spiritual life, and he wisely kept all of her letters.

When his successor, Mar George Alappatt, retired, he entrusted the letters to the Superior of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Trichur with the prophetic words: "You will need them". In fact, they are a precious treasure and an authentic mirror of the spiritual life of this holy, humble Religious.

Loving Church and neighbour

Mother Euphrasia spent much of her day in the convent chapel before the Blessed Sacrament and she also nourished a great love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary; as a result, she was naturally an apostle of the Eucharist and of the Rosary.

She was totally dedicated to love and was continually consoled by the Crucified Lord. She was the first to humble herself and to accept suffering, misunderstandings and rejection for love of Christ. Her strength came from Jesus, who had become her betrothed in spiritual matrimony as her letters testify.

From her profound union with the Lord Jesus came her capacity to give of herself to others, and so she fully incarnated the motto of her Congregation: "Remain united to me in contemplation and consecrated to me in action" (cf. Jn 15:5).

Thus, with a pure heart Mother Euphrasia gave her maternal love and tenderness to those who sought her help. She gave them the comforting words of Jesus' Gospel and interceded for them. For each little kindness bestowed upon her she would reply, "I will not forget it, not even after death".

Mother Euphrasia had a profound sense of Church and she personally felt the sorrows and problems of the Church of her day. She offered her mortifications and penances for the conversion of schismatics and asked the novices and children to pray for them.

She prayed ardently before the Blessed Sacrament for the Holy Father, for Bishops, priests and Religious.

Mother Euphrasia offered her life in sacrifice for love of God. She abandoned herself to his will and finally joined him in the heavenly embrace with her holy death on 29 August 1952.

After Mother Euphrasia's death many of those who had obtained her help during her lifetime now continued to beseech her help at her tomb. In 1990 her tomb was opened, and her mortal remains were moved to the convent chapel.

Pope John Paul II approved the Decree of the heroic virtues of the Servant of God in 2002, proclaiming her Venerable. On Sunday, 3 December 2006, she became the fifth Blessed of Kerala, India, and the sixth of the Nation of India.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
Various dates, 2006

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