Tuesday, December 31, 2013


SERVANT of GOD ANFROSINA BERARDI was born 1920  in Italy. She was brought up according to the religious and moral principles of his family.

A fundamental feature of the life of Anfrosina  was the long suffering caused by a serious illness that led to her death within a few years. Despite the suffering, she lived a life of prayer and sacrifice by example and word.

Initially she became ill with appendicitis. After being operated on she continued to suffer, having trouble swallowing. Due to yet another problem she had another operation, with little chance of survival.

After receiving  her First Communion and Confirmation, on 13 October 1932, Anfrosina spent the last five months of her life in bed, almost without being able to feed.

She died on 13 March 1933, surrounded by her family and many people, attracted by the fame of her spiritual life.

Despite her young age, she demonstrated a surprising capacity to endure suffering and due to her relation with Jesus and Mary is considered a mystic.


Mario di Donato, 1980
My God-son James loves this saint, BLESSED NUNZIO SULPRIZIO, who was born in Sulmona in central Italy in 1817. He was the son of a poor cobbler. Orphaned at the age of nine, he was first cared for by a grandmother, and later went to live with an uncle, a blacksmith. For six years Nunzio suffered patiently and meekly the harsh treatment and abuse of his coarse and brutal guardian. Worked beyond the strength of his weak constitution and often deprived of food, he was reduced to a pitiful condition.  Wounded in the foot or left leg, he was sent to the hospital for three months. God himself through suffering and the cross carved a saint.

After a difficult and painful return to his uncle's workshop he received a call  from his uncle Francis Sulprizija to come to Naples. There he was again admitted to the hospital for incurable diseases. His uncle loved him as his own son. He did not get better and the doctors decided to amputate his leg but he was too weak.

M. di Donato, 1990
He suffered with patience and holiness never forgetting Jesus. He died at the age of 19 in 1836. His body is in Naples in the church of St. Mary Advocate, where a portrait made at the request of his uncle hangs.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


For this feast, one of my favorites, I present modern day martyrs!  I pray you all had a blessed and joyfilled Christmas!  This blog got behind as I was hospitalized 5 days before Christmas with cellulitis in the leg that had the knee replacement in October. All is well now, but I must keep leg up most of the time, which gives me more quiet and prayer time than usual!

Antonia was born in Sardinia in 1919, the second-born of ten children. She was forced to leave elementary school, only after taking four years of classes, in order to take over the household duties from her mother, Grazia. She often called Antonia "the flower of my life."

Her mother developed a heart condition that prevented her from continuing to perform her domestic chores. Grazia claimed that Antonia "never once went against me". Antonia was obedient and hard working. She willingly and diligently performed her duties and took on responsibilities as if she were already an adult. For instance, she cooked, baked, cleaned, washed clothes, cared for the children, carried water into the house, and gathered wood for baking.

When she was ten years old, she joined a youth group called "Catholic Action". She thought it was a beautiful experience and said that it "helps one to be good". She was well-liked by her peers and encouraged others to join Catholic Action because they received spiritual benefits from good works and received good catechesis.  Antonia renounced her personal pleasures and sacrificed her wants for that of her family members needs and others.

While coming home from gathering wood in a forest with a friend, Antonia was attacked by a teenage boy from behind. The attacker grabbed her by her shoulders and tried to force her to the ground while her friend screamed and ran for help. Antonia managed to escape twice but was knocked down the third time and severely beaten on the head and face with a rock. Though mortally wounded, Antonia resisted the would-be rapist. At autopsy, the doctors determined that Antonia's body had not been sinfully violated. The beautiful and virtuous, Antonia, died a martyr of holy purity at age 16 similar to St. Maria Goretti who died at age twelve.

SERVANT of GOD ELENA SPIRGEVICIUTE born in Lithuania and died 1944 defending her purity.
She wrote in a journal about the events of her city of Kaunas during this period of war, but also revealed her spiritual life.  Elena, shaken by the circumstances that the country is experiencing, confesses that a crisis: "I decided to be a good Catholic, but it is difficult without the help of the Lord, and I feel lost ... Would you be good, do not want lead a bleak existence, but contribute something good, be helpful. "
The conflict between Nazi and communist partisans spread an atmosphere of terror in her city. September was the massacre of local Jews, shocking the entire population. Elena's diary reveals her despair. This tragedy led her to wonder about her vocation in this broken world.

In February 1942, she writes: "My heart is full of anything. I am glad that you understand what happiness is. But seriously I think I can find a greater peace of cloistered convent. The term evokes the solitude, the silence, the peace. Lord, behold, serious dreams. I want Him, surely. I want to live something. Oh, how I wish the war was over! To finish my studies and devote myself  to God.

On January 3, 1944 four armed and drunken men break into the house, declaring themselves Soviet partisans. They tried to harass Elena who opposed them. They threaten her with death. Unyielding: "I'd rather die"  resisting the violence of her assailants she is shot.

Lithuanians consider her a symbol of national resistance, recognizing her as a martyr.

  (1898- 1914) was a Polish teenager who has been beatified as a virgin-martyr by the Roman Catholic Church. She died while resisting an attempted rape by a Russian soldier.  She was almost immediately venerated by people in her hometown following her death.   She is sometimes called the Polish Maria Goretti.

She grew up in a Catholic family who prayed everyday and displayed the love of God to her. Often, Karolina would gather neighbors and relatives, mainly children, and they would read the Scriptures together under a pear tree near her home.  She loved praying the rosary, using the beads given to her by her mother. Her prayers often caused her to get less sleep than she needed. “Often during the day she quietly whispered the words, ‘Hail Mary!’ as she herself often said, because they made her ‘feel a great joy in her heart’”.

She would pray the rosary constantly, and even though it was a long walk to Mass, she would go during the week, in addition to Sunday.]Karolina’s uncle, Franciszek Borzecki, was one inspiration for her faith. Because of her love for serving, she helped her uncle in the library, and she also helped organize things at her parish. In addition to serving the Church, she taught her younger siblings and the children of the area their catechism.

In 1914, World War I broke out in Poland, affecting the Kozka family forever. The Russian army began capturing cities, and in November 1914, they controlled Wal-Ruda. The situation grew worse as stories spread of the soldiers stealing possessions and raping women. Fear spread through the city. On November 18, an armed Russian soldier came to their house, and he ordered Karolina and her father to go with him, saying he was taking them to the commanding officer.

When the trio reached the edge of the forest, the soldier commanded Karolina’s father to return home. The man went back to his home, leaving his daughter in the clutches of the Russian. Two boys on their way back from the village witnessed the attack of the soldier on Karolina. He attempted to force himself on her, but she struggled and refused to give in. Angered, the man stabbed her with his bayonet multiple times. Karolina ran towards the swamps, which saved her from further attacks since the chase was difficult for the soldier. When he saw her fall, he gave up the chase. But it was too late for Karolina; the wounds inflicted on her by the soldier had caused too much blood loss. She died in the swamps, her purity intact.
She is the patron of youths and farmers.


Emulating St. Maria Goretti, she was born in 1923  and died  in 1943.
"... I wanted to preserve my honor, to die a martyr and not fall into the hands of the Germans ...".
These words spoken by Rosa Del Bene in her agony, testify to her voluntary choice to sacrifice herself to the death in defense of  purity, in honor of freedom and justice.

Those who knew Rosa testified to the sanctity of her life, especially in prayer. At the end of her life she voluntarily chose, with courage and unshakable faith, to live out her faith rather than to give into the against the overbearing, unjust Nazi cruelty during the painful, humiliating period of military occupation of the territory of Palena.

Coming from a deeply Christian family  she joined the militant Catholic Action in Palena. During the war she chose martyrdom to the loss of her purity against the impending violence of an Austrian soldier. Her brother, Salvatore,  and others were at her death bed and testified to the holiness of her death.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


BLESSED CHIARA BADANO was born in 1971 in Italy. Her mother tried to teach her daughter to love and serve those in need. By the time she was in kindergarten, Chiara was saving up her money to donate to the African Missions. In elementary school, she would give away her lunch snack to another less fortunate classmate. Even when her mother started to pack her two snacks, Chiara would simply give both away.  At age nine she joined the Focolare Movement and received the nickname "Luce" by the founder Chiara Lubich. The group focused on the image of the forsaken Christ as a way to make it through difficult times. Chiara later wrote that, “I discovered that Jesus Forsaken is the key to unity with God, and I want to choose Him as my only spouse. I want to be ready to welcome Him when he comes. To prefer Him above all else".

While Chiara was a conscientious student, she struggled in school and even failed her first year of high school. She was often teased in school for her strong beliefs and was given the nickname “Sister.”  She also enjoyed the normal teenage pastimes such as listening to pop music, dancing, and singing. Chiara was also an avid tennis player and she enjoyed hiking and swimming.

When she was 16 she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a painful bone cancer. Chiara’s faith and spirit never dwindled even after the cancer left her unable to walk and a CAT scan showed that any hope of remission was gone. In response, she simply said, “If I had to choose between walking again and going to heaven, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would choose heaven.  Chiara died of the cancer in 1990 after a two-year-long battle. Two thousand people attended her funeral and  the mayor of Sassello shut down the town so people would be able to attend.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


On this Gaudate or Rejoice Sunday, as my godson made his First Holy Communion ( a very moving experience for us all)  we present our next child saint, BLESSED CECILIA EUSEPI
who was born in 1910.  She has been compared to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose book The Story of a Soul she read as a young girl, and strove to follow the Little Flower's "little way." When she was already dying of tuberculosis, Cecilia's confessor instructed her to keep a diary of her own life, which was called Story of a Clown. She considered herself a "little clown" and wrote that it must be her extreme weakness that appealed to God.

She was born in Monte Romano, Italy, the youngest of eleven children and was sent to a convent school at age six. When she was twelve, she joined the Order of the Servants of Mary as a tertiary.

 At age thirteen she received permission from the bishop to join the order as a postulant. She studied at Rome. She had hoped to become a missionary, but her poor health prevented her from doing so and she returned home two years prior to her death. During her final illness her religious practice was a comfort and she was frequently visited by members of Catholic Action and seminarians and priests who sometimes asked her for her opinion on their homilies. She died singing hymns to the Virgin Mary, on the date that she had predicted she would die after having a dream about Thérèse of Lisieux. People said her funeral was like the feast day of a saint.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Our next child "saint" as we progress through Advent is VENERABLE ANTONIETTA MEO. She was born in 1930 in Italy and may become the youngest saint who is not a martyr ever canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Antonietta was raised in an upper middle class household in Rome as the younger daughter of Michele and Maria Meo. She was nicknamed "Nennolina". She attended Catholic schools and stood out as an active, charismatic little girl who led her playmates in all their games, even after she became ill. She was noted for her kindness. Her teachers said she was a child like other children, but stood out because of her personal charm and her sense of humor and the joyousness of her personality.

She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, at the age of five after she fell and injured her knee. When her leg had to be amputated, she bore the ordeal "cheerfully." She was fitted with a heavy, artificial leg so she could keep playing with other children. Catholic theologians have called her a "mystic" because the six-year-old wrote "extraordinary" letters to Jesus Christ in the last months of her life that displayed understanding and actions beyond the norm for a child of her age. "Dear baby Jesus, you are holy, you are good," she wrote in one of the letters. "Help me, grant me your grace and give me back my leg. If you don't want to, then may your will be done."

At first she dictated letters to her mother; later she wrote poems and letters herself and left each at the foot of her crucifix.  She wrote or dictated more than 100 letters to Jesus or to the Virgin Mary, describing "holy visions" in many of them. After Mass, people sometimes saw her approach the tabernacle and say, "Jesus, come and play with me!"

Antonietta made her first Communion in December 1936. The people who were at the ceremony were deeply impressed, because the child was transfigured, in an ecstatic adoration of her Lord, which happened every time she received the Eucharist.
First Communion

A letter to Jesus
 The child viewed the loss of her leg as a sacrifice to Jesus for the conversion of sinners. "I am very happy that Jesus gave me this problem so that I may be his dearest one," she told her father, Michele, after her leg was amputated. "Pain is like fabric, the stronger it is, the more it's worth," she told her father. She told her mother: "When you feel pain, you have to keep quiet and offer it to Jesus for a sinner. Jesus suffered so much for us, but He hadn't committed any sin: He was God. How could we complain, we who are sinners and always offend him?"

She insisted on writing a last letter to Jesus a few days before her death, even though it was interrupted when she had to vomit. In it, she asked Jesus to take care of everyone she loved, and asked for strength to bear her pain. She finished the letter with the words "Your little girl sends you a lot of kisses." She told her mother when it was time for her to die. "In a few hours, I will die, but I will not suffer anymore, and you shouldn't cry. I should have lived a few days longer, but St. Theresa of the Child Jesus said, "it's enough!" After the child's death, her mother had a vision of Antonietta in a glorified state that reassured her that the child was now in heaven. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Carlos in Assisi

As we enter into the season of Advent, which is the time for children, we march ahead to the Birth of  The Child. I am also preparing my godson for his first Holy Communion on Gaudate (Rejoice) Sunday. In this Holy Season I am reminded of how many children and teens have been added to the roster of saints or are considered for sainthood.

In our age, most children are not aware of saints as heroes, as their focus is on sports or TV or movie heroes. In preparing James, I am weekly introducing him to two young people whom he can look to for sanctity in their lives, so he has guidelines for his own life.

The first we present this week is VENERABLE CARLO ACUTIS  (1991-2006)  who was only 15 years-old when he researched and compiled a book on the miracles of the Eucharist. His mother,  Antonia,  helped him in the project.

Carlo was an exceptional young man. He was very pious, but knew how to live with the modern devices, including computers. He was very good in this area, and even created a website talking about the holiness and duties of Christians. In high school, he liked to make friends with people who had a lack of social spirit. He was highly acclaimed by his teachers. During the holidays, he liked to go to Assisi to visit and pray at the places where St. Francis lived.

He was a great friend of Jesus Christ and daily received Holy Communion.He had a great love of the Virgin Mary. Dying of leukemia at the age of 15, he offered his life for the Pope and for the Church.”The heroism with which he faced his illness and death has convinced many that he was truly somebody special. When the doctor that was treating him asked him if he was suffering a lot, Carlo answered: ‘There are people who suffer much more than me!’”

He is remembered as being a pleasant and thoughtful boy who had a variety of interests. His strong faith manifested itself in daily Mass and in the way he defended the moral teachings of the Church whenever they were contested in school. 

He is called “a teen of our times.” “He is still spreading his faith and devotion universally as a youthful eucharistic evangelizer, especially helping those who are skeptical about the sacramental realities of our faith.

Carlos as a child

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Mother Prioress making cheese
Many of you have heard of the Cheese Nun" and maybe even seen the PBS documentary about her. Mother Noella Marcellino, O.S.B is a Benedictine nun who earned a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Connecticut. Studying fungi in France on a Fulbright Scholarship, she concentrates on the positive effects of decay and putrefaction as well as the odors and flavors of cheese. She is at our Mother Abbey in Conn.

She was praised by Rémy Grappin, the late Director of Research at France's National Institute of Agricultural Research, who said that she had studied the biodiversity of raw-milk cheese fungi.

For her efforts, Mother Noella was inducted into the Grand Ordre Des Gourmandins and Gourmandines des Fromages d'Auvergne in 2002; was honored in 2003 by the French food industry with its first French Food Spirit Award for promoting an understanding of French cheeses and helping to preserve traditional ways of making them; and received the Grand Prix de la Science de l'Alimentation from the International Academy of Gastronomy in 2005.

Our own foundation here on Shaw  has had a cheese nun, who after a hiatus of 15 years, is back in the swing of things. Shaw Island’s Our Lady of the Rock (OLR) Monastery was the first certified raw milk dairy in the State of Washington.

Dairy barn & kitchen
In 1981, OLR received one of the first licenses in the state of Washington to produce cheese and raw milk, as a licensed Grade A Dairy. Mother Prioress says that their desire always was to produce cheese, with milk as a “side business” (which is not the case now; fluid milk is what we sell). At the time of licensing, we purchased cheese-making equipment (simple molds for the cheese curds, and testing equipment).

For awhile, we did make cheese. The cheese was a true farmstead cheese, with no added cultures, i.e., using only the native cultures found in and around the monastery. The cheese was sold at the Shaw store, the Orcas landing and at Frederick & Nelson department store in Seattle. It was a good time for Mother Prioress and the Monastery but this was in the days when most Americans only knew processed cheese so at the sight of a speck of mold, they fled.

Mother Dilecta feeds Jersey
But, life intervened, and the Community became very busy with other things – Mother Prioress, in particular. Fortunately, this year, the monastery is back in business working with one of our Oblates, Gigi, who is a professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Gigi has helped with milking cows, making cheese on her own, and giving Mother support and technical advice. She has also helped with the aging process, monitoring the molds, helping out with packaging and labels.

Last weekend, we had a cheese launch on Shaw. Only 10 couples were invited but we sold $265 of cheese, and received a donation of $600 for equipment..

This weekend, we’ll feature the cheeses at the Holiday Boutique on Shaw and at the Shaw Store.

At present to make this venture work  we need a large wine cooler which has controlled humidity and temperature.  Cost $1400.00

Mother Prioress teaches cheese making

We also need a new Jersey cow ($1,800)

Mother Prioress is our very own cheese nun- West coast Style!

Mother Prioress milking- Child watching

Monday, November 25, 2013


Since our Order is dedicated to the Contemplative life as well as to Farming, I found this recent article interesting!

At the end of the General audience in St. Peter's Square , Pope Francis recalled that November 21, is the date upon which we celebrate “Pro Orantibus Day” marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple.

The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders, and the Pope said “It's a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work".

"Let us give thanks to the Lord - he added – for their testimonies of cloistered life” and he urged the faithful to lend their spiritual and material support to these brothers and sisters of ours “so that they can carry out their important mission".

And the Pope went on to remind those present that November 22 is the date upon which the International Year of Family Farming will be inaugurated. The initiative promoted by the United Nations and other organizations aims to become a tool to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agricultural systems based farmer families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives and fishing families.

Commending the initiative, Pope Francis said that "it highlights the countless benefits that family farming contributes to economic growth, to social solidarity, to respect for creation and to the moral fiber of the entire community”.

Monastery Farm
Monastery Herb Garden
Monastery Harvest

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Beatification Day
BL. GIUSEPPE "PINO" PUGLISI (1937- 1993) was a priest in the rough Palermo neighborhood of Brancaccio (Sicily). He openly challenged the Mafia who controlled the neighborhood, and was killed by them on his 56th birthday.

Dom Pino was born in Brancaccio, a working-class neighborhood in a family of modest means. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a dressmaker. He entered the seminary at age sixteen. 

Following ordination, he worked in various parishes, including a country parish afflicted by a bloody vendetta. He was ordained as a priest in 1960 by Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini from Palermo. Ruffini regarded Communism as a greater threat than the Mafia. He once questioned the Mafia's very existence. To a journalist's question of "What is the Mafia?" he responded: "So far as I know, it could be a brand of detergent."

This denial persuaded Dom Pino of the need to challenge church authorities. "We can, we must criticize the church when we feel it doesn't respond to our expectations, because it's absolutely right to seek to improve it," he said. With his trademark humor, he added: "But we should always criticize it like a mother, never a mother-in-law!"
Dom Pino with Youth
In 1990, Dom Pino returned to his old neighborhood becoming the priest of San Gaetano's Parish. He spoke out against the Mafia who controlled the area and opened a shelter for underprivileged children. He was offered other parishes by the local curia, in less troublesome Palermo neighborhoods, but he opted for San Gaetano.

With little support from the Palermo archdiocese, he tried to change his parishioners' mentality, which was conditioned by fear, passivity and omerta (imposed silence). In his sermons, he pleaded to give leads to authorities about the Mafia's illicit activities in the area, even if they could not actually name names. He refused their money when offered for the traditional feast day celebrations, and would not allow the Mafia "men of honor" to march at the head of religious processions.

He tried to discourage the children from dropping out of school, robbing, drug dealing and selling contraband cigarettes. He ignored a series of warnings. Those parishioners that made attempts to reform matters were sent strong messages. A small group who organized for social improvement found the doors of their houses torched, their phones receiving threats, and their families put on notice that worse things lay in store.

On September 15, 1993 he was killed in front of his parish church by a single bullet shot at point-blank range. The murder was ordered by the local Mafia bosses, the brothers Filippo and Giuseppe Graviano. One of the hit men who killed Puglisi, Salvatore Grigoli, later confessed and revealed the priest’s last words as his killers approached: "I've been expecting you".

During his visit to Sicily in November 1994, Pope John Paul II praised  Bl. Giuseppe as a "courageous exponent of the Gospel." He urged Sicilians not to allow the priest’s death to have been in vain and warned that silence and passivity about the Mafia was tantamount to complicity.

To underscore this anti-Mafia conviction, Dom Pino composed a parody of the Our Father in the Sicilian dialect:

"O Godfather to me and my family, You are a man of honor and worth. Your name must be respected. Everyone must obey You. Everyone must do what You say for this is the law of those who do not wish to die. You give us bread, work; who wrongs You, pays. Do not pardon; it is an infamy. Those who speak are spies. I put my trust in You, Godfather. Free me from the police and the law."

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Our next lay saint to be is  VENERABLE SILVIA CARDOSO FERREIRO da SILVA better known as "Dona Sylvia".

One of the problems with little known holy people is there is nothing about them in English and I am at the mercy of Google translator-  which is at times almost un-intelligable. But this is what I could glean from several sources.

Silvia was born in 1882 in Portugal the oldest of  four children of Umbelino Manuel Ferreira da Silva and Joaquina da Conceição Cardoso Emilia. Following the death of her fiance, Silvia devoted herself to the care of poor children, founded homes for the abandoned, organized retreats for laity, and set an example by her love of Christ.

In 1918 she became sick with the flu that killed so many thousands in Europe. After this her apostolate became tireless.

She always carried a kind of bag where everything fit: rosaries and devotional medals and brochures, and clothing for the poor. The poor were part of her life. She was a woman of strong and deep piety, faith and hope, always caring for others. She not only cared for their bodies but also their souls.

Dona Silvia loved children always seeing Christ in them. She started homes for girls and for boys, soup kitchens, retreat houses, farms centers where the poor could have some leisure time but also be educated.  When she sensed that a boy was called to the priesthood, she encouraged him and paid for his education.

She died in 1950.


Friday, November 15, 2013


Our new Holy Father has been very busy the past month giving us new saints and furthering others along the path to sainthood.  One example is VENERABLE ATTILIO GIORDANI, a layman and Salesian Cooperator born in Milan in 1913, who was elevated October 11 to Venerable.

Son of a railway worker, Attilio got to know of St. Don Bosco at the Salesian Oratory in the city.  From an early age he was outstanding for his love of the Oratory and, by eighteen, for his dedication to the young people who frequented it. For many decades, he was an ardent catechist finding the resources for a life of grace through the sacraments, and in prayer and spiritual direction.

In over 10 years of military service, including those of World War II, he witnessed to the faith among his comrades in arms. After the war, he founded the "Crusade of Goodness" to restore hope to young people.

He married Naomi Davanzo, and they had three children. As a husband and father he showed great serenity and kindness, choosing voluntary austerity and evangelical poverty, in order to help the needy. Every day he was faithful to his meditation, Eucharist and Rosary.

When grown, his three sons went to Brazil to spend a period as volunteer missionaries. Attilio and his wife Noemi decided to go to share in the vocation of their sons, as volunteers in Operation Mato Grosso. In Brazil, he continued to work as a catechist and leader.

In Brazil
On December 8 (the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady), 1972, at Campo Grande, during a reunion, he spoke enthusiastically and ardently of the duty to give one's life for others, when he suddenly felt weak. He had just time to say to his son: "Pier Giorgio, you carry on" when he died of a heart attack.

His remains were brought back to Italy and now repose in the Church of St. Ambrose in Milan. He is a model for our times of  lay holiness lived in joy. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I am always fascinated to see how lay people become saints as several more have made it onto the roster of new saints- or future saints. The first of whom is
 BL. ODOARDO FOCHERINI whose life was nothing less than
adventurous. A professional journalist during WWII he saved more than 100 Jews from the Holocaust by helping them cross the Italian border with false documents. After being detained by the Nazis, he died in a German concentration camp at Hersbruck, Germany in 1944 due to septicemia of the legs.

Bl. Odoardo  was born in Carpi, Italy in 1907. He lost his mother when he was 2 years old. His father remarried and his adoptive mother loved him as her own son, directing his attentions towards life in the parish where Odoardo was formed in his faith.

He was of a sociable and friendly character and had many interests - the theater, journalism, songs from the mountains, playing the harmonica, bike riding and skiing.  He also had a special love of the youth whom he constantly engaged in parish life, offering them spiritual formation.
In 1930 he married Maria Marchesi, and between 1931 and 1943 they had 7 children.  His eldest daughter, Olga, still has the letters her father sent from prison, which are now part of their family treasure.

Odoardo first started helping Jews flee the Nazi persecution in 1942, but his large-scale effort did not begin until Sept. 8, 1943, when he asked his wife’s permission to help provide false identity cards so that Jewish refugees could cross the Italian-Swiss border. She told him: we and our children are safe, the Jews are not: go and help them.

At work, Bl. Odoardo always spoke against discrimination. He worked for 'L'Avvenire d'Italia,' a daily newspaper which still runs to this day. Its current editor believes Odoardo, the first journalist to ever be beatified, can teach modern journalists a very valuable lesson.

Olga was thirteen when her father was killed. She remembers him as a loving father who always wanted to play with his kids. He was also an affectionate husband who knew how to share with his wife both Christian values, with their work in the 'Azione Cattolica' and civil values, when he had a chance to save persecuted Jews.

Bl. Odoardo’s body was never found, since in all likelihood he ended up in the furnaces of Hersbruck. The official relic is his wedding ring, which he managed to keep from the clutches of the Nazi’s, miraculously smuggling it out of prison and back to his wife.

From the prison camp he wrote to his beloved wife Maria: "we must give everything in generosity, we can accept the cross, even if it becomes heavier, with the serenest of souls, and carry on.”  He is the first Italian "Righteous Gentile".

  "Righteous Among the Nations" Awarded by Yad Veshem

Monday, November 4, 2013


While she never visited the USA in her lifetime, MOTHER MARIA THERESIA BONZEL, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, made foundations in this country.

There are four provinces in the U.S. and a mission in Brazil.

Mother Maria Theresia was born Aline Bonzel Sept. 17, ( the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis) 1830, in Olpe, a small town in the Sauerland area of Germany.  She was the daughter of wealthy citizens of Olpe. Her father died early, and her mother raised her with a strong faith. Aline believed she was called to religious life but her mother protested. Eventually she allowed Aline to enter religious life.

Many difficulties, including heart disease, stood in her way until age 29, when she joined with two of her friends to form a community, although not the Franciscan sisters for whom she would eventually become foundress. This new community experienced conflict with another community doing nursing in Olpe and friction among its own co-founders. Causing more tension was Sister Maria Theresia’s wish to use the Franciscan rule, which ran counter to the established Augustinian rule. The Church authorities stepped in to create two communities. Sister Maria Theresia became the superior of the new community in Olpe, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration came into existence in 1863.

Mother Theresia was resistant to founding this new group, the Poor Franciscans of Olpe, but did what was asked of her. She wrote the Constitutions after the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.  She also needed to form a way of life, a style of clothing and provide for the economic needs of the new congregation.

 She sought to combine the contemplative and active religious life through an unfailing commitment to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the works of mercy in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

Mother Theresia started schools of advanced education for girls, and they began to provide nursing outside Olpe. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), she sent sisters to nurse victims of war, and five sisters eventually died from the diseases contracted there. Mother Theresia and 20 of her sisters were awarded medals by the Emperor for their service.

Their ministries came to an abrupt halt with the beginning of Chancellor Bismarck’s attempt to control the Church. To evade having the young community’s property confiscated as “church property,” it became the property of Aline Bonzel, Mother Theresia’s maiden name. Soon new candidates could not be accepted. The community was at a standstill, forbidden to perform most of their ministries.

 At the invitation of Bishop Dwenger, Mother Maria Theresia sent seven sisters to Lafayette, Ind. in 1875. In the U.S. they could not only nurse freely, but were asked to become teachers to the children of German immigrants. Soon more sisters were needed for the work in Lafayette. Since the Kulturkampf forbade accepting any new members into the community, Mother Maria Theresia secretly invested three young women during the night and sent them in lay clothes to America. She even considered sending the entire community to the U.S.  But by 1850 the legislation of the Kulturkampf, still in effect, was no longer enforced. Growth came quickly in Germany.

In 1875, Mother Maria Theresia sent six members of the order to the United States, where they established hospitals, schools and other institutions. The nuns landed in New York Dec. 12, 1875, and continued on to Lafayette, Ind., where they established a hospital.

Today, the sisters operate 14 hospitals across the Midwest and  serve God’s people, the poor and vulnerable in Colorado, California,  and New Mexico.

The remainder of Mother Maria Theresia’s life was spent leading the community in Germany. At each election for the general superior she was overwhelmingly elected, despite her wish to leave that office.  In 1900 she was awarded the medal of the Order of the Red Cross by Emperor Wilhelm II in recognition of the great work of the congregation. In 1903 she was near death for weeks, but recovered. In 1904, despite her protestations and weakening health, she was reelected general superior. Mother Maria Theresia died Feb.6, 1905.

Her first miracle occurred with the sudden healing of a 4 year old boy living in Colorado Springs. She will be beatified Nov. 10 in Paderborn, Germany.