Saturday, September 29, 2018


I can’t believe I have not yet done a Blog on my namesake BLESSED HILDEGARD BURJAN.  She set up several organizations for the promotion of women's rights and for the rights of all workers and their families. She was even elected to the Austrian Parliament where she served until her retirement due to ill health.

She was born into a  non-practicing Jewish family in 1883 in the then Prussian city of Gorlitz, and studied philosophy at the University of Zurich. In 1907 she married the Hungarian entrepreneur Alexander Burjan. Following a period of illness (severe renal colic) she discovered the Catholic faith and was baptised in 1909. She moved to Vienna where she became a member of the Austrian parliament, dedicating her political activity to serving the Gospel in support of workers and the oppressed, in keeping with the teachings of Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical "Rerum novarum".

In 1912 she founded the Association of Christian Women Home Workers, offering help to the hungry, creating a support network for families and combating child labour. In 1919 she founded the Congregation of Sisters of "Caritas Socialis".  She  gave birth to a daughter, against the advice of doctors who recommended an abortion for health reasons. She thirsted after justice, seeing the Face of Jesus in the poor and suffering. "We cannot help people with money and small offerings", she would say, "rather we must give them the confidence that they are capable of doing something for themselves".

She  stressed the importance of women in the workplace.  During World War I she defended the idea of women replacing men in factories and hailed the trend even after the war. The prelate Ignaz Seipel said that he had never met a more enthusiastic or wise politician as Burjan while Cardinal Friedrich Gustav Piffl dubbed her as "the conscience of the Parliament".  In 1918 she earned a seat on the district council and became the vice-chair to the chairman of the Christian Socials Leopold Kunschak.

With her husband

Her main achievement remains the founding of a religious congregation for serving the poor and on 4 October 1919 founded the congregation titled the "Sisterhood of Caritas Socialis". The first ten women joined that October at a special  Mass. In 1918 she became active in the Christian-Socials and in 1919 became one of the first female members of the Austrian Parliament; she spoke in the Parliament for the first time on 12 March 1919 and at one point filed a petition for the extension of legal rights of expectant and nursing mothers. She promoted issues such as equal wages for men and women and social protection for the working class as well as social and spiritual care for poor families. She was invited to run in the 1920 elections and was proposed as the Minister for Social Affairs but declined due to poor health.

In 1933 on her deathbed she murmured: how beautiful it will be to go to rest in God!" and then kissed a Crucifix and spoke her final words: "Dear Savior - make all men lovable so that You might love them. Enrich them with Yourself alone!

Bl. Hildegard Burjan is proof that sanctity is possible in political life. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna at her beatification said:  She "announced the Gospel through action. Her beatification comes at a good time to highlight that action is a core issue. ... Hildegard was a convincing Christian because, without too many words, she acted. In our own time we must again learn to understand what it means to be disciples, and to this end what we need are not theories, but examples of people who speak through their actions.”  This is never more true than in our present world.

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