Friday, January 24, 2014


 As our country is in the throws of a bitter cold week,  I think of our Oblates in Montana where it is almost unbearable for man and beast.

On OCT. 31, our Holy Father gave us another possible American saint.  She was American by birth, Irish-Ameri­can by temperament, but Italy was her home.

was born on 20th December 1895 in Glendale, Ohio. Her mother was Irish and her father, Giambattista,  was originally from Parma, Italy. His brother, Vittorio,  was a famous explorer who was the first to map out the Jubba River in Somalia. His tragic death convinced Giambattista to return to Italy with the family to be close to their elderly parents.  The family had been living in Butte, Mont., until Celestine was almost 15.

Celestina  studied to become an English teacher, a subject which she taught for many years in numerous public schools throughout Parma. Her students would later testify not only to her professional competence, but also to her strong talent as an educator. For the young people who spent too much time on the streets, Celestina opened a room in her house, fitting it out with board games and books to create a meeting place for the young.  She also taught them catechism.

In the meantime, with her sister Maria, Celestina developed her spiritual life under the guidance of  the Benedictine Abbot Emanuele Caronti, until she decided to become a  Benedictine oblate in 1922. Her commitment to the poor and the needy, especially with the outbreak of the Second World War, became more intense and heartfelt, while her relationship with God deepened, as demonstrated by her ever ready and welcoming smile and her extreme faith in Divine Providence.

In 1935 she had already begun teaching in the schools of the Xaverian Missionaries and the following year she visited India for a few months to see her sister Maria who was living there as a missionary. The prospect of the mission was also beginning to open up to her. She received the offer to co-found a female branch of the Xaverian missionaries. Initially Celestina refused, with the motivation that: “I am better at ruining the works of God than at doing them”. After a year of interior battle and prayer she accepted the offer, seeing it as will of God.

This is how Celestina became the first “mother” to so many young missionaries, to whom she fully gave of  herself . In 1966, with great generosity she stood aside, in the hope that a “younger” mother would take her place but, without stopping to encourage, welcome, console and love all her missionary daughters.

"Come, follow me!" The Lord whispered to her - she did just that throughout her life in Montana, Parma, In­dia, Massachusetts, Brazil, Congo, Burundi, and beyond.  Venerable Celestine Bottego, born in the new world, was a foundress of a religious community in the old world, and missionary to the whole world.

She died on 20th August 1980 at the age of 85.

Book on her life

Saturday, January 18, 2014


was born in 1947  of Catholic Cajun (French-Canadian)  descent in  Louisiana. Charlene has become the focus of a popular belief that she is a saint, a person who is in heaven, who has performed a number of miracles. The Roman Catholic Church has not given any official approval or begun any processes leading towards her canonization, but local Catholic clergy and diocesan officials have permitted, promoted, and participated in the popular veneration of Charlene.  

Charlene was the second-oldest of ten children born to Joseph Elvin and Mary Alice Richard. Adults and children who knew her considered her to be smart but otherwise unremarkable. She was a devout Catholic but no more so than was customary in the local Cajun community. Her mother said, "She liked sports and was always busy with something. She went to church and said her rosary, but she was just a normal little girl." In May 1959, after reading a book about Therese of Lisieux Charlene asked her grandmother whether she, too, could become a saint by praying like Therese.

She became ill and only two weeks before her death was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia and hospitalized at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana. At the request of her family, she was informed by the hospital chaplain, Joseph Brennan, a newly ordained Catholic priest, that she was going to die.Though the illness was painful, she remained cheerful, meekly accepted her fate, and offered up her suffering to God. Father Brennan was deeply impressed by her faith and visited her daily. While dying, Charlene prayed for other individuals to be healed or to be converted to Catholicism.. The Director of Pediatrics at the hospital, Sister Theresita Crowley also witnessed her calm acceptance of suffering and prayers for others. Father Brennan and Sister Crowley claimed that those for whom Charlene prayed recovered from their illnesses or became Catholic. Charlene died on 11 August 1959 at the age of 12.

After her death a widespread belief formed in the area that Charlene would intercede in heaven for people's prayers to be answered. By 1989, the belief had spread outside the Cajun area. Hundreds of people were visiting Charlene's grave each week

No official canonization procedures have begun for Richard, though the Layfayette diocese began collecting testimonials about reputed help obtained through her in 1991. Unlike the traditional support for canonization of a saint, which begins with popular devotion and is only later recognized by the Church, support for Richard began outside her immediate home area and was first promoted by the clergy, beginning with Brennan, Crowley, and Calais. The bishop of the Layfayette diocese at the time of her death, Maurice Schexnayder, visited her grave multiple times and referred to her as a saint.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


BLESSED ALBERTINA BERKENBROCK was born in São Luís, Brazil. Her grandparents immigrated from  Germany to Brazil and brought with them their three children, one of who was Johann Hermann, who would become Albertina's father. Johann married Elisabeth Schmöller and the couple had nine children. They were a pious farming family that attended church regularly and lived out their faith in their daily lives.

On August 16, 1928, she made her First Communion, an experience she described as the most beautiful day of her life. She also had special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a model of purity and the patron saint of São Luís.

At school Albertina was a model for her peers and a cause of admiration to adults. Her teachers especially praised her spirituality and morals, superior to children of her age. She was a diligent student who knew her Catechism and kept God's Commandments.

At home, when her brothers teased and taunted her, as siblings do, she would not retaliate. With her Christian upbringing, even the childhood games she played reflected her deep religious sense. She played happily with the poorest children and shared her bread with them.

On June 15, 1931 Maneco Palhoça, one of her father's employees, tried to rape her. She fought back but when the attacker realized he would fail and she would identify him, he grasped her by the hair and slit her throat with a knife.  He said he had discovered her body and accused aother man of killing her. But people became suspicious because when Maneco passed through the room where Albertina's body was laid out, witnesses said that every time he approached her body, blood would seep from the gash in her neck.

Finally he was arrested. He confessed to his crime as well as two other murders. He was tried, convicted and given a life sentence. In prison he admitted to his fellow prisoners that he murdered Albertina because she resisted his rape attempts.

Albertina Berkenbrock is considered a martyr in the defense of chastity.

Friday, January 10, 2014


was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1941. Montse, as she was known by everyone, grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family. After graduating from high school, she continued her studies at the Barcelona Women’s Professional School. A very pious and devout girl, she felt in 1957 that God was calling her to Opus Dei, a Catholic institution that helps people to seek holiness in their ordinary life.  She loved sports such as netball and tennis and liked outings with her friends. She climbed most of the mountains near Seva, where she used to spend the summer.

With her Mother
In June 1958, she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her leg. The cancer caused intense pain, which she reportedly bore with serenity and heroic fortitude. As a result, she continued bringing many friends and schoolmates closer to God during her illness.  Little by little her illness took its course. She couldn't sleep at night. She offered her pain for the Pope, the sick and others. She never complained but was always cheerful.

First Communion

She died in Barcelona on Holy Thursday, March 26, 1959. According to witnesses, she died looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary. Her last words were, "How much I love you! When are you coming for me?" So died a young girl who exhibited a great love for Christ and the Eucharist and a great devotion to Our Lady. Her reputation for sanctity has spread beyond her own country.

With her Mother

Monday, January 6, 2014


Since we are still within the season of the Child, today being the feast of the EPIPHANY, we offer the story of this young girl who certainly understood the suffering of Christ and all who were to relate to Him.

VENERABLE ALEXIA GONZALEZ-BARROS- GONZALEZ  was a Spanish girl who is in the process of beatification. She died at age 14 because of a tumor in the spine. The film by Javier Fesser, Road, released in Spain on October 17 of 2008, was inspired by her life.

The youngest of seven children, Alexia was born in Madrid on March 7, 1971. Her family belonged to Opus Dei . From four years until the onset of her illness, she studied in the school of Jesus Master, of the Society of St. Teresa of Jesus. She made her First Communion in Rome, on May 8, 1979 . The next day, during a papal audience, Alexia received  the sign of the cross and a kiss on the forehead, by Pope John Paul II, which was usual with children who approached him.

With her Parents
On 4 February 1985 , when she was not yet 14 years old, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, which soon left her paralyzed. She suffered for four years, suffering prolonged medical treatment and operations over a 10 month period.

Alexia accepted her illness offering her sufferings for the Church, the Pope and others.

After surgery, with Mother
"Jesus, I want to get good, I want to heal, but if you do not want, I want what you want", prayed Alexia.

Her various biographers  narrated that her strength, peace and joy were constant throughout the disease as a result of her faith and religious education.

She spent sleepless nights, offering them for others.  It was here that she began to show her fortitude and compliance. She never complained and she obeyed absolutely everything, doing her rehab exercises as she was told, in spite of pain.

At the end Alexia received the sacraments and proclaimed
that she was "happy because I'm going to Heaven", "where I am expecting quiet and infinite peace" .

In no time her reputation for holiness spread spontaneously. In 2011 the documentary “Alexia” opened in Spain. The film includes interviews with family, friends, teachers, doctors and priests that were close to her as well as several experts involved in her process of canonization. The documentary follows her childhood and relationship with her family and classmates, who define her as “a very normal girl that loved life.”

The story is told through the eyes of Hugo, the name she gave to her guardian angel.