Sunday, April 29, 2018


Another modern virgin martyr soon to be beatified is ANNA KOLESAROVA, who  was born in 1928 in the village of Vysoka nad Uhom, outside the city of Michalovce, in the eastern Slovak region of Zemplin, in what was then a part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia. Her family was described as a pious farming family that attended church regularly and lived out their faith in their daily lives.

When she was ten years old, her mother died, and it fell on Bl. Anna to look after the household, as well as her older brother Michal. Her life was described as modest and simple, going regularly to church.

During the autumn of 1944, the Second World War was approaching its final and bloodiest phase, the Eastern front was passing through the eastern Slovak district of Michalovce, which was then a part of Hungary. During this violent transition period, the inhabitants of Vysoká and the surrounding villages would hide in their cellars, waiting for the shelling and fighting to end.

On 22 November, the village was occupied by the Soviet Red Army troops. Jan Kolesár sheltered with his family and their neighbors in the cellar under the kitchen. During a tour of the house, a drunken Soviet soldier discovered the hideout and peered inside. At first, at her fathers insistence, Bl. Anna emerged from the hideout, walked up to the kitchen and served the soldier with food and water.

Due to the uncertainty of the war, she and the other women of the village wore black dresses in order not to attract unwanted attention to themselves, and to discourage improper behavior from the soldiers. Despite this however, the soldier later started to make sexual advances towards her. When she refused him, he ordered her, either to sleep with him or be killed. She, however, despite his threats to shoot her, again refused. She pulled herself out of his grip and ran back to the basement. The soldier pursued her, then allowed her to say goodbye to her father before he pointed his  rifle at her and killed her on the spot.

Despite the massive fighting that was ongoing around the village, Bl. Anna was buried in the evening the next day, with the funeral conducted in secret, without a priest present. Catholic funeral rites were performed one week later by Father Anton Lukac on 29 November.

Father Lucac, who was the parish priest in the nearby village later himself investigated Bl. Anna’s death. He interviewed the villagers and obtained signed statements from five witnesses. He then recorded the incident into the parish chronicles of Pavlovce. Another native of the village, the Jesuit priest Fr. Michal Potocky, also gave testimony about the saint’s life and the circumstances surrounding her death. Despite this, after the war, the new socialist government of Czechoslovakia banned mention of the incident, and strictly enforced a ban on any open gatherings at the grave site.

The house where Bl. Anna  is today used by a Catholic youth organization which was founded and dedicated to her memory. That organization; Domcek, is organizing in volunteer work, prayer, workshops, sports games and social events. Three times a year in February, April and August, at nearby Pavlovce, there is a large Catholic youth gathering, dedicated to Bl. Anna's legacy, which each year draws more and more young people.

Monday, April 23, 2018


Last year Sister Anne Gardiner was given the “Senior Australian of 2017 Award” for her years of service to the nation's remote Tiwi indigenous community.  

 Her testimony was so inspiring that a number of different organizations pitched in to help fly her to the women's day event in Rome. Now 86, sister was asked to be the guest speaker at the Australian Embassy to the Holy See's celebration of International Women's Day, which took place March 8.

In her speech, sister said the biggest lesson she learned was simply how to listen, which meant getting to know and accept the Tiwi ways and working with their cultural traditions rather than speaking as someone from the outside and expecting them to completely adapt to western models.

“The biggest gift you can bring to indigenous people is to listen to what they are saying,”  explaining that by listening, one is able “to communicate back with them so that you know you are really understanding what they are saying.”

Though most of the Tiwi people are bicultural and are able to engage with the larger Australian population, they still maintain strong roots in their own heritage, particularly when it comes to leadership and the family structures.

Sister Anne was born in Gundagai in New South Wales in 1931. From a farming family, she went to school at the Mercy School of St Stanislaus, completing her education at St Joseph's Boarding College in Albury.
She entered the Order of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on 31 May 1949, attracted by the opportunity to work with Aboriginal people.

Sister Anne vividly recalls the day she flew to the Tiwi Islands to start her missionary work in 1953 at the age of 22. “That was a moment of joy when I landed. I got out of the plane and the children all ran up to me, pinching my skin and saying ‘you look so young.”

The year was 1953. Sr Anne was just 22 years old and, as a member of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, she had been asked to move to Bathurst Island, the smaller of the two Tiwi Islands, 80km north of Darwin, to live among the Tiwi Aboriginal people.

“I didn’t know very much about indigenous people at all. I was enthusiastic, I was full of life, I wanted to change the world, but to go to Bathurst Island I think the people there changed me,” she said.

 She recalls she didn’t know exactly what her mission would be, but she was well guided by the man who had founded the Tiwi Catholic mission in 1911, Bishop Francis Xavier Gsell, who she met in Sydney on her way to her new posting.

Receiving  Senior Award

“And I asked him ‘What will I do? I’m going to Bathurst Island.’ And he looked down through his beard and looked deep into me and said two words, ‘Love them’.”

“And that's what I've tried to do all through my life, is to love them,” she said. “It was the best advice ever.”

When Sister Anne first arrived on the island, she joined three other sisters from the order, three religious brothers, one priest and one lay missionary who were living there at the time. They were the only white people the Tiwi had really ever seen and encountered.

A number of years after arriving, the sisters launched a bilingual school and Gardiner was made principal. She was put in charge of a leadership team that was tasked with helping her run the school.

Currently, Sister Anne is the only sister left working at the mission on Bathurst Island, with one priest who offers the sacraments.

A beloved figure in the community, she still teaches religious education classes and drives around town on an electric scooter with a banner that says “share a prayer.” Being well known throughout the island, she said people will either stop her with a request or she will approach them and ask for prayer requests, “and in that way let them know I care about them.”

Photo Monica Napper
Sister says it is the Tiwi women who form the backbone of Church life on the island. “If we look back over the years, it is religious and laywomen who have worked in these outback places that have nurtured and kept the faith together. When they didn't have a priest it was the women who were there”.

She urged both women and men in the Church to be involved in its ministries, saying that Pope Francis “asked us to get out there and get the smell of the sheep, to work with the people and hand over to the people as much as we can of what we've been doing.”

Monday, April 16, 2018


The co-founder with Bl. Jospeh Alberione of the Daughters of St. Paul, VENERABLE TECLA (TERESA)  MERIO was born in Castagnito d'Alba in 1894.  The daughter of peasants she asked to join the Sisters of Cottolengo of Turin, but was not deemed suitable for health reasons. 

Teresa Merlo met Father Alberione  (BLOG 4/13/18) in the church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian in 1915. The meeting had been arranged by her brother, who was a seminarian at the time. Father Alberione had already heard of Teresa’s desire to be a religious. He invited her to join the group of young women he was forming at Alba with the aim of one day founding a feminine congregation dedicated to the apostolate of the press. This community would complement the Society of St. Paul, the congregation of men which he had started a year before. With great faith, Teresa said “yes.”

In 1918, the women were invited by Father Alberione to move to the small city of Susa and take charge of the diocesan newspaper. He explained that this would involve the direction, composition, and printing of the paper; the women would learn the typographical skills from their brothers in the Society of St. Paul. The women named their little workshop the “St. Paul Typography” and placed it under the great Apostle’s patronage. Soon the group began to be called the Daughters of St. Paul.

Four years later, the first nine members of the Daughters of St. Paul were allowed to make their perpetual profession of religious vows. Twenty-eight-year-old Teresa Merlo took the name Thecla, in honor of St. Thecla, the early follower of Paul.  Bl. Thecla Merlo was appointed Superior General of the new community.

With Father Alberione

The difficulties which the sisters encountered from society and from the Church’s hierarchy were immense. No one had ever heard of  women religious operating printing presses and composing books and newspapers.

With tremendous vision and trust in God’s will for this new form of apostolate, the little group continued to grow and develop. Under Mother Thecla’s guidance, the fledgling community expanded to twenty-five communities in Italy and established new foundations in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States.

Mother Thecla remained Mother General until her death in 1964. During her lifetime she traveled around the world, and under her direction the Daughters of St. Paul established themselves in every continent.

Mother Thecla once wrote: “The power idea that must animate us is the thought of souls. This thought must spur us on. We must be concerned about how we are to reach people and bring them the word of truth and salvation. How many souls never hear of God! Who will help them?”

Mother Thecla was a woman both of her time and ahead of her time. She had a singular desire to reach the people of her day with the word of truth and salvation. And she courageously led the Daughters of St. Paul to the forefront of evangelization with each new form of media as it was developed. Embracing the press, radio, film, and TV, she wrote: “Our Congregation will always be young, because it will make use of every new means to do good.”

Friday, April 13, 2018


BL. JAMES ALBERIONE  may not be universally well known, yet many of us read great books which we have purchased from the Pauline bookshops.  He was also the spiritual guide of Bl. Joseph Timothy (previous Blog).

Bl. James was born into a family of poor farmers in the year 1884 in Italy. His parents, Michael and Teresa, were deeply devout and raised their children to also live their Faith. James from an early age longed to become a Priest.

Both his parents placed great emphasis on learning and gaining a good education and  taught their children a love of knowledge.

The Alberione family eventually moved to Cherasco in the diocese of Alba, where James came to the notice of Father Montersino, who encouraged James to follow his calling from God. At the young age of 16, James entered the Seminary.

It was a night spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that would lead James to become more than an ordinary priest as he felt God call to him to pursue an avenue of evangelisation to young people.

He was ordained a Priest in 1907 and spent a brief spell in Narzole as an assistant Pastor.  It was here that he also began to reflect on women’s role within the Church, a thought that would stay with him for many years.

During these years of guiding young seminarians as their spiritual director and also of teaching Catechesis to the young people, it began to dawn on Fr. James that a new Era called for a better way of communicating the Faith to all people around the world. It was at this time also that he authored two books, one dealt with women and how their gifts could benefit the Church.

And it was during this time that Father James felt called to found a new Order to be undertaken to spread the Gospel. This Order would at first be termed the Pious Society of St. Paul, which would be better known as the 'Pauline Family' of Brothers and Sisters, when Father James began and incorporated the 'Daughters of St Paul', with the help of a young woman Teresa Merlo who had also embraced his ideal of spreading the Gospel message.

Father James and Teresa realized that they were living in an age where the technology of communication was ever growing and expanding into new formats. But this dream nearly faltered when Father James Alberione became seriously ill and little hope was held for a recovery. But upon recovering he credited his healing to St. Paul, for he while he was sick he had seen in a dream these words, "Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I want to enlighten. Be sorry for sin." Father James took this as his living Motto and for his Order of the Pauline Family.

This also led him to enlarge his family to include the prayerful apostolate of 'the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master', which was a group of Sisters who would dedicate their lives to prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. He chose Sr. Scholastica Rivata to join him in this prayerful addition to the Pauline family. Both realized that prayer was essential for the lifeblood of their Order.

There are now thousands of Pauline bookshops around the globe, helping to instruct the Faithful and those wishing to learn the Faith. All of which came from his vision and passion that has blazed a trail for future enterprises as many look at the life of this remarkable Saint and learn to emulate his philosophy of perseverance and giving all Glory to God.

Father James Alberione died in 1971 and was beatified in 2003 by (St.) Pope John Paul.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


In the last Blog we mentioned the spiritual director of Bl. Luigina Sinapi. This leads us to two more blesseds, not known in this county, but who have an on-going effect on our present Church.

was the first priest of the Society of St. Paul. He was born on June 13, 1896 , at Narzole d’Alba in Italy, and at a young age, 12 years old he had his first encounter with Father Alberione. Assisting the pastor of Giaccardo’s parish, Father Alberione heard the young boy’s first confession and was impressed by his docility, devotion to the sacraments and spirit of prayer.

Aware of his desire to become a priest, in October of 1908 Father Alberione invited Joseph to accompany him to the seminary. On September 4, 1917 while still a seminarian, Joseph Timothy joined the Society of St. Paul and two years later was ordained a priest. Soon after, he was named as the vice-superior and treasurer of the Pious Society of St. Paul.

On January 6, 1926, Father Alberione entrusted Father Giaccardo with the task of establishing the first house of his Institute in Rome. While in Rome, Father Giaccardo mediated matter between Father Alberione and the Holy Father in the approval of his Congregation.

In 1936, Father Giaccardo relocated to Alba, Italy as the Motherhouse director. Furthermore, he also dedicated himself to the spiritual, moral and cultural formation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master.

Father Giaccardo celebrated his last Mass on the morning of January 12, 1948. During that same morning, Pius XII approved the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, a Congregation so dear to Father Giaccardo. He had offered his life for the approval of this Congregation.

Bl  Jospeh Timothy passed away on January 24, 1948. John Paul II beatified him on October 22, 1989.

Sunday, April 8, 2018


SERVANT of GOD LUIGINA SINAPI is another lay woman- mysticism.  She was born September 8 (the birthday of the Blessed Virgin), 1916 . IItriri, Italy. She was the eldest of five children of Francis Paul Sinapi, a cabinet maker, and Filomena Catena, a licensed midwife. Her twin sister died at birth.  

From early childhood, Luigina felt a strong love for Jesus that manifested itself in a desire to live in intimate union with Him. Her mother was a pious Catholic, and on one occasion she went to San Giovanni Rotondo to recommend her husband and her daughter to (St.) Padre Pio. He told her:  the Lord has great designs on the your daughter here on earth.

At the age of eight she received her first Holy Communion and also the Sacrament of Confirmation, as was the custom at that time. From that day she never neglected to receive the Eucharist, and if she was sometimes prevented to receive it for a serious reason she cried, "If I don't receive Jesus in my heart, I don't live."

She was "lively and impulsive", remembered one of her younger brothers. Concerning herself she said with a slight smile "I was always a terrible child.", but others who knew her all recall her being a very good girl.

At 16 years old, Luigina was fascinated by the ideal of the Daughter of St Paul 'to spread the Gospel by the most modern means of communications', so overcoming the resistance of her parents she entered the institute the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul in Rome. Unfortunately she was obliged to leave the institute because of her delicate health. She was comforted by her spiritual director, Bl. Father  Joseph Timothy Giaccardo, who exhorted her to offer her life for souls, and to remain in the Pauline family as a laywoman.

When she was 17 her mother died suddenly, so she took over the care of her younger brothers. It was not long after that she began experiencing extreme pain in her stomach and she was soon diagnosed with a tumor on the bottom part of the right intestine. The physician could not operate as he believed she would not survive the operation. As the days passed she grew more and more ill and her pain and suffering became more and more acute. 

On August 15, 1933, she and others believed that her last day had arrived. Luigina asked her grandmother to dress her and prepare her for  death  and with much devotion she received the Sacrament of the Sick. She was already in what seemed to be her last agony when suddenly Jesus appeared close to her bed and smiled at her.

In her simple childlike confidence and love which from her earliest years she had always addressed Jesus in her prayers Luigina looked at Jesus and said to Him in a loving reproach: "You have not shown Yourself to me for two long years and now that I am dying, you come?"

At Christ’s side was also His Mother. They ask her: “We have come to offer you a proposal. You however are free to choose: do you want to come right now with us to Paradise or remain on earth and offer yourself as a victim of expiation for the Church and for priests?”

In an instant, Luigina sees the dangers of apostasy, the defections that would come in the years ahead and she accepted the second alternative, still offering herself as a victim to God.

Jesus then tells her: “You will not go into a convent, but as an ordinary person you will live hidden from the eyes of the world. You will be poorly understood, you will suffer much, and you will die alone. You will live the extraordinary in the ordinary. From this moment on, I will leave to you my holy Mother: she will guide you and she will comfort you. Be not afraid.”

Jesus had barely finished speaking when Luigina suddenly found herself healed. After that vision, on the first Saturday of every month and on Marian feasts, the Blessed Mother,  always appeared to Luigina, leaving on the spot a heavenly aroma that lasted throughout the whole day.

Luigina died in Rome in April of 1978. Her doctor, Dr. Mark Grassi, testified that the last days were of great suffering for Luigina. Yet she was very peaceful, loving and happy. On one occasion, smiling she was overheard murmuring, "I am waiting!"

Friday, April 6, 2018


Soon to be blessed  (April 28 in Poland) HANNA HELENA CHRZANOWSKA was a Polish Roman Catholic Benedictine oblate who served as a nurse.  She worked in her profession during World War II when the Nazi regime targeted Poles, tending to the wounded and the ailing throughout the conflict. She was awarded two prestigious Polish awards for her good works. Her cause of sainthood began  a decade after her death in 1973.  Pope Francis declared her to be Venerable in 2015 upon the confirmation of her heroic virtue. She will be beatified on 28 April 2018 in Poland.

Hanna was born in 1902 in Warsaw.  She was part of an industrialist (maternal side) and a land-owning household (paternal side) that maintained a long-standing tradition of charitable works. Her parents were well known for this in their native Poland. Her home's religious circumstances were also quite unique since half were Roman Catholic and the other half was Protestant (descended from the Jauch house). Her maternal grandfather Karol set up a technical school for aspiring artisans while his wife Maria set up a health center for poor children in Warsaw
She was a relative of the Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz (on her father's side) who was best known for writing the novel Quo Vadis.
Since childhood she suffered from respiratory and immune system deficiencies and spent a great deal of time in hospitals and sanatoriums in order to recover from illness. In 1910 the family relocated from Warsaw to Kraków.
Hanna was  curious and exuberant, attending an Ursuline high school and graduating with honors. During the Bolshevik Revolution she tended to the wounded soldiers and later began studies at the School of Nursing in Warsaw in 1920.  It was also around this  time that she worked under the Servant of God Magdalena Maria Epstein. She gained a scholarship to a nursing school in France in 1925 while later going on to work with the members of the U.S. Red Cross as a nurse in a time when the profession was not so well respected.
She also traveled to Belgium to observe the nursing profession there as part of her education in order to gain greater experience and broader knowledge of the field. During her time as a nurse she became a leading light in the field in her region and a well known face in her local area due to her temperance and her good works among the people whom she was dedicated to serving.
Hanna became an instructor at the University School of Nurses and Hygienists in Krakow from 1926 until 1929 and also served as the editor of the monthly publication "Nurse Poland" from 1929 to 1939.
Drawn to St Benedict and aspiring to follow his example and the message of the Gospel in an effort to draw closer to God she became an Oblate, with the desire  to fuse her faith with her work as merciful and charitable.
In 1940 during World War II she lost her father who died during the Sonderaktion Krakau at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and her lieutenant brother Bogden died at the hands of Soviet soldiers on the orders of Joseph Stalin in the Katyn massacre. As the war continued she organized nurses for home care in Warsaw and helped to both feed and resettle refugees. At the conclusion of the war she became the head of a nursing home where she attended to administrative duties and cared for residents while working with nursing students.  She also served as the director of the School of Psychiatric Nursing in Kobierzyn until the Communists closed it.  She then  moved into nursing the poor and the neglected in her own parish area. She  attained a scholarship to the USA from 1946 until 1947.

In 1966 she was diagnosed with cancer and despite several operations  the disease spread. On 12 April 1973 she received the Sacrament of the Sick  and the next day lost consciousness, dying a day later. Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow Karol Józef Wojtyła ( the future St.Pope John Paul II) celebrated her funeral. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


St. John's Bible


Until His final hour He had never
refused her anything or turned away,
lest she should turn their love to public praise.
Now she sank down beside the cross, disguised,
heavy with the largest stones of love
like jewels in the cover of her pain.
But later, when she came back to His grave
with tearful face, intending to anoint,
she found Him resurrected for her sake,
saying with greater blessedness, “Do not –”
She understood it in her hollow first:
how with finality He now forbade
her, strengthened by His death, the oils’ relief
or any intimation of a touch:
because He wished to make of her the lover
who needs no more to lean on her beloved,
as, swept away by joy in such enormous
storms, she mounts even beyond His voice.

(Rainer Maria Rilke1908)

Sunday, April 1, 2018



"Christ Opening the Gates of Dachau" in the Russian Orthodox Memorial Chapel of Dachau. Dedicated to the RESURRECTION OF JESUS, the chapel holds an icon depicting angels opening the gates of the concentration camp and Christ Himself leading the prisoners to freedom. The simple wooden block conical architecture of the chapel is representative of the traditional funeral chapels of the Russian North .

Interestingly enough Dachau was liberated during Holy Week, so this icon is a fitting image. While it reminds us of the horrors of another era, we see in our own day, in every country, the devaluation human life. The Resurrection of Jesus reveals that death is destroyed and we have hope of life beyond this “vale of tears”, as we await our resurrection into His Life.