SISTER BLANDINA SEGALE, known for her work in New Mexico, is on her way to becoming a saint. This is the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in New Mexico that a decree opening the cause of beatification and canonization has been declared.
Rosa Maria Segale was born Jan. 23, 1850, in Cicagna, Italy, and was 4 when her family moved to Cincinnati. Her first word as a child was reportedly “Gesu” (Jesus). In 1866, she and her sister, Maria Maddelena, entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, becoming Sister Blandina and Sister Justina.
She spent much of her ministry helping those in New Mexico. She helped start schools in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Along with the Sisters of Charity, she founded St. Joseph’s Children Health. That organization petitioned for her canonization. Sister Blandina, a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, came to Trinidad, Colorado, in 1877 to teach poor children and was later transferred to Santa Fe, where she co-founded public and Catholic schools.
During her time in New Mexico, she worked with the poor, the sick and immigrants. She also advocated on behalf of Hispanics and Native Americans who were losing their land. Church officials said the work she’s done embraces issues still prevalent in today’s society.
But while this Italian-born sister was dedicated to helping the sick and immigrants, it is her encounters with Western outlaw Billy the Kid that has became the stuff of legend. Seems she intervened to stop the Kid murdering four doctors who had refused to treat his friend's gunshot wound. Sister Blandina nursed the friend back to health and when Billy came to Trinidad, Colorado, to thank her, she asked him to abandon his violent plan and he agreed.
Another story claimed that when the Kid spotted Sister Blandina during an attempt to rob a covered wagon he called off the attack. He just tipped his hat and left.
Many of the tales were recorded in letters that Sister Blandina wrote to her sister, which were later published in the book, At the End of the Santa Fe Trail.
Later The nun found St Joseph's Hospital in Albuquerque before returning to Cincinnati in 1897 to start Santa Maria Institute, which served recent immigrants.
Her life is well documented in the order’s archives in Cincinnati. She was friends with Cecil B. DeMille and exchanged letters with Edison that included sketches for new hearing aids. At age 81, she traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Pius to plead the case for canonization of St. Elizabeth Seton.
Sister Blandina died in 1941 at the age of 91, but her work still resonates today, with poverty, immigration and child care still high-profile issues.
Her encounters with Old West outlaws later became the stuff of legend and were the subject of an episode of the CBS series Death Valley Days. The episode, called The Fastest Nun in the West, focused on Sister Blandina's efforts to save a man from a lynch mob. But her encounters with Billy the Kid remain among her most popular and well-known Western frontier adventures.