BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW BLESSEDS - 1996
The following were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996:
24 November 1996

BL. CATHERINE JARRIGE was born on 4 October 1754 in the village of Doumis, France, situated in what is now the Diocese of Saint-Flour. Known in the local dialect as "Catinon-Menette", literally, "Cathy the little nun", she was the youngest of seven children born to a tenant farmer. She had a poor but happy childhood and was considered somewhat mischievous, since she liked to play jokes on her friends, for which she later apologized. She went to work as a domestic at the age of nine and lost her mother when she was 13. As she grew up she learned to make lace and at the age of 20 moved to Mauriac.

Poor and humble herself, the Lord called her to serve the less fortunate: the poor, the sick, the orphaned. She responded generously and entered the Dominican Third Order, becoming a 11 "menette", a "little nun", like her patron saint, Catherine of Siena. The "menettes" had no community life but lived in their own homes, a garret in Catherine's case, which she shared with her sister.

The "menettes" however made a promise of chastity and prayed in common. As she went begging for alms, she would finger her rosary, the Dominican prayer par excellence, under the apron of her dress focusing all her attention on contemplating the mysteries of Christ. Catherine loved to dance, particularly the graceful dance of Auvergne called the "bourree". Once she became a "menette", she had to give up all dancing: a difficult struggle for her, given her impetuous nature. At her sister's wedding, she yielded and was the first on the dance floor. The next morning she repented and promised never to dance again - a promise she kept for the rest of her life.

For 60 years, until the age of 82, the poor, the sick and orphans were her lords and masters. In them she saw the suffering face of Christ and she served, fed, clothed and cared for them as she would have for Christ himself. She spent part of the day begging for alms from the well-to-do families of Mauriac. With a gracious smile she would say in jest: "Put it there! Put it there!", pointing to the two pockets of her apron.

In 1791 Catherine was very concerned about the priests who had refused to accept the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and were being driven from their posts. She was firmly opposed to the meddling of the civil power in religious matters, but fought back with charity. For nine years she devoted all her charitable efforts to aiding nonjuring clergy, particularly in 1792 when the persecution reached the region of Cantal. She found hiding places for the priests and brought them food and clothing. She was also able to procure vestments, hosts and wine so they could celebrate Mass. She even accompanied to the guillotine a nonjuring priest who had defended the sanctity of marriage.

After the persecution ended, she helped rebuild the Church. Having been known as the "menette", of the poor", she was now called the "menette", of the priests". She died on 4 July 1836.


BL. OTTO NEURURER was born on 25 March 1882 in Piller, Austria, the 12th and last child of a family of peasants. In that region life has always been hard. Otto's father died when he was still a young boy and so responsibility for raising the children as well as for their small farm and mill was left entirely to the mother. She was a devout and good woman, but suffered occasional periods of depression. To some extent Neururer inherited this tendency. He had brilliant intellectual talents but was rather timid. By temperament he did not seem destined to the life of a hero.

His formation was similar to that of many others born in the mountain villages who had the opportunity to pursue higher studies. At Brixen (Bressanone) he first attended the minor seminary and then entered the diocesan major seminary. After completing his studies he celebrated his first Mass in his native village.

Otto Neururer was a curate and teacher of religion in many places. At the beginning of the century ideological and social tensions arose in Tirol both in political and ecclesiastical circles. Fr Neururer, who had fully understood the message or Rerum novarum, joined the Christian Social Movement. This decision caused problems with his higher superiors who in general adhered to more conservative views. The difficulties which resulted caused Fr Neururer acute suffering but they never affected his great priestly zeal.

In 1938 the Nazis occupied Tirol. Their take-over triggered the first bloody persecution of the Church in the history of Austria. This persecution was particularly brutal because the Nazis sensed a strong ideological resistance on the part of the Tirolean faithful. Thousands of people were harassed, had their civil rights curtailed, were subjected to interrogation by the Gestapo and were thrown into prisons and concentration camps. Many priests were condemned to death or killed.

At that time Otto Neururer was parish priest in Gotzens, a village near Innsbruck. Moved by a strong sense of priestly responsibility, he advised a girl not to marry a divorced man who was leading a notoriously dissolute life. This intervention of the parish priest brought the revenge of the Nazi authorities. The man who had been rejected by the girl happened to be a personal friend of the Gauleiter, i.e., the highest Nazi authority in Tirol.

Neururer was arrested on the charge of "slander to the detriment of German marriage" and interned first in the concentration camp of Dachau and later in Buchenwald. The sadistic tortures to which he was subjected caused incredible suffering, but even so he shared his scarce food rations with prisoners who were even weaker than himself. In the Buchenwald camp he was approached by a prisoner who asked to be baptized. Perhaps he was an agent provocateur. Neururer suspected that the request could be a trap, but his sense of duty did not allow him to refuse. Two days later he was transferred to the much feared "bunker", which in concentration camps was the place of extreme punishment. There he was hanged upside down until he died on 30 May 1940.

Neururer was the first priest killed in a concentration camp and this explains why his mortal remains were brought to a private crematorium. The ashes, placed in an urn and sent to Gotzens by this crematorium, are authentic, as further painstaking investigations also show. The urn, in a gold mounting, will now be placed under the altar of the parish church of Gotzens.


BL. JAKOB GAPP, the seventh child in the working class family of Martin Gapp and Antonia Wach, was born on 26 July 1897 in Wattens, a small village in the Austrian Tirol. On the following day he was baptized in the parish church of St Laurence in Wattens.

After completing secondary school in his native village, he entered the Franciscan high school in Hall, a Tirolean town, in 1910.

Jakob was called to military service in May 1915 and served on the Italian front, where he was wounded in 1916. For this he received the silver medal of Courage Second Class. On 4 November 1918 he was interned as a prisoner of war in Riva del Garda and released on 18 August 1919.

Jakob entered the Marianist novitiate at Greisinghof, Upper Austria, where he made his first vows in 1921. The young religious was assigned to the Marian Institute in Graz, where he worked as a teacher and sacristan for four years. At the same time he was preparing himself through private study for the seminary. He made his profession of perpetual vows at Antony, France, on 27 August 1925. In September 1925 Jakob entered the International Marianist Seminary in Fribourg, Switzerland, and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Marius Besson at St Nicholas Cathedral, Fribourg, on 5 April 1930.

Returning to Austria, he worked until 1938 as a teacher, director of religious education, and chaplain in Marianist schools. During a time of severe unemployment, Fr Gapp's great concern for the poor appeared in many ways. He collected food and other necessities from his students, but also refused to heat his own room in the winter to be able to give fuel to the poor.

In this period, as National Socialism (Nazism) began to assert itself, first in Germany and them in Austria, Fr Gapp formed a clear judgement about the incompatibility of Nazism and the Christian faith by studying the German and Austrian Bishops' statements and the Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge of Pope Pius XI. In his teaching and preaching he continued this truth fearlessly.

When German troops arrived in Austria in March 1938, he was obliged to leave Graz. After a few months at Freistadt his superiors sent him to his home town in Tirol, since they saw in his anti-Nazi preaching a threat to the very existence of those institutions whose elimination had already been decided by the Nazis. In Tirol he enjoyed the last moment of peace in his life. He had been an assistant pastor in Breitenwang-Reutte for only two months when the Gestapo, at the end of October 1938, forbade him to teach religion. Fr Gapp had taught the uncompromising law of love for all men and women without reference to nationality or religion.

In a sermon on 11 December 1938 he defended Pope Pius XI against the attacks of the Nazis, and directed the faithful of the parish to read Catholic literature rather than Nazi propaganda. After this sermon Jakob Gapp was advised to leave the country.

With the help of his religious superiors Fr Gapp escaped to Bordeaux, France, where he worked at the cradle of the Society of Mary as a chaplain and librarian. In May 1939 he went to Spain, where he served in the Marianist communities at San Sebastian, Cadiz and Valencia. In Spain he stood alone and misunderstood because of his rejection of Nazism.

The Gestapo, having followed him since he left Austria, took advantage of his loneliness. Two individuals pretending to be Jews from Berlin told Fr Gapp about their fictitious experience of flight from Nazi persecution. In Valencia they asked him to instruct them in the Catholic faith. After gaining his confidence, they invited him on a trip, and then abducted him across the border into German-occupied France.

Fr Jakob Gapp was arrested on 9 November 1942 in Hendaye, France, and brought to Berlin. On 2 July 1943, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he was condemned to death. Any pardon and the transfer of his remains to his relatives for simple burial were denied because Fr Gapp had "defended his conduct on expressly religious grounds. For an explicitly religious people Fr Gapp would be considered a martyr for the faith, and his burial could be used by the Catholic population as an opportunity for a silent demonstration in support of an already judged traitor of his people who was pretending to die for his faith".

At 1:00 p.m. on 13 August 1943, Jakob Gapp was informed that his execution would take place at 7:00 p.m. The two farewell letters he wrote after this announcement are truly moving expressions of his faith. At 7:08 p.m. Fr Gapp was guillotined in the Plotzensee Prison, Berlin. His remains were sent for research to the Anatomical-Biological Institute of the University of Berlin.


6 October 1996

BL. WINCENTY LEWONIUK and 12 COMPANIONS were Byzantine-rite Catholics living in Podlasie, the eastern region of present-day Poland. After the 18th-century partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita), this area was governed by the Russian Empire.

It was the intention of successive Russian sovereigns to incorporate all Eastern-rite Catholics into the Orthodox Church: in 1784 Catherine II suppressed the Greek Catholic church in Ukraine; in 1839 Nicholas I did the same in Belarus and Lithuania; and in 1874 Alexander II pursued a similar policy in the only remaining Byzantine-rite Eparchy, that of Chelm. The Bishop and those priests who refused to join the Orthodox Church had already been deported to Siberia or imprisoned. The laity, deprived of their pastors, had to defend their Church, their liturgy and their union with the Pope.

On 24 January 1874 an extraordinary event took place in the village of Pratulin. Soldiers came to the village to transfer the local parish to the Orthodox Church. The faithful said "good-bye" to their families and friends and took new clothes for, as they said, they were going to fight for "the holy things".

At first the officer tried to disperse the people, but they refused. Then he promised some "favours of the tsar" for joining the Orthodox Church, but this they rejected as well. Then he started to threaten the people with many kinds of punishment but they remained in their places around the church. The officer understood that he was not having any success, so he ordered, his men to prepare their guns. The people knelt down, waiting for death and singing hymns. They said nothing offensive to the soldiers, but repeated among themselves: "It is sweet to die for the faith". The order was given and the soldiers fired, killing 13 of them. The martyrs were all laymen, most of them married and the fathers of families. They ranged in age from 19 to 50, with the majority in their 20's and 30's. They were ordinary people; we do not have much information about their lives. The general opinion was that they were persons of strong, deep faith.

The martyrs were buried by the Russian soldiers without any respect; their families were not allowed to take part in the burial. After their bodies were interred, the persecutors hoped that they would be forgotten. The tsar officially suppressed the Eparchy of Chelm in 1875.


BL. EDMUND IGNATIUS RICE was born at Westcourt, Ireland, on 1 June 1762, when Irish Catholics were oppressed by the weight of anti-Catholic legislation devised by the Protestant English to keep the Catholic majority in subjection. The fourth of seven sons, he grew up in a devout farming family. At the age of 17 he began work at Waterford in his uncle's commercial enterprise, which he later inherited.

Married at 25, he lost his wife two years later and was left with responsibility for an infant daughter in delicate health. Supported by his strong faith, he accepted his cross and grew in close union with God through meditation on the Scriptures and frequent attendance at Mass and the sacraments. He dedicated himself to works of charity, putting his riches at the service of the poor. He became a model Christian layman.

Between 1780 and 1841 the population in Ireland doubled, and there were many economic and political problems associated with the education of youth and the care of the aged and infirm. The rebellion of the American colonies in 1776 encouraged Irish Catholics to work for equality with the Protestant English. The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was one of the fruits of this struggle. It was in this atmosphere that Edmund Rice lived and worked.

Despite the attraction of the contemplative life, he could not forget the miserable condition of so many boys in danger of losing their faith. In 1802, encouraged by Pope Pius VI and with the blessing of Bishop Hussey, Edmund sold his business, arranged for his daughter's care and opened his first school in an abandoned stable, living on the upper floor.

Soon other teachers, attracted by his example and spirit, joined him and so a religious community was founded in Waterford. In 1808, in the chapel of the Sisters of the Presentation, Edmund and his companions made annual vows "according to the rule and Constitution of the Order of the Presentation approved by the Holy See". Edmund took the name in religion of Ignatius.

In 1820, the Congregation of the Christian Brothers, modeled on the Brothers of the Christian Schools of St John Baptist de La Salle, became an institute of pontifical right. Some other brothers, wishing to remain under their Bishops, maintained the existence of the earlier institute of the Brothers of the Presentation.

Edmund's work spread across Ireland, and then to England, Gibraltar and Australia. He resigned as Superior General in 1838 and died on 29 August 1844.


BL. MARCELINA DAROWSKA, nee Kotowicz, was born on 16 January 1827 in Szulaki, Ukraine, to a land-owning Polish family. As a child she showed a particular love of prayer and a desire to dedicate herself to God. Her father could not understand this and, before he died, he obtained the promise from her that she would marry and raise a family. In 1849 she married Karol Darowski, but she decided to sanctify her marriage "by living only in God and for God". Less than three happy years had passed when Karol died, leaving her with two children. Her son died a year later and she confessed: "The way of the world was not chosen for me by God's will; the way of the convent was, indeed, my destiny".

In 1854 she traveled to Rome for reasons of health and met Fr Hieronim Kajsiewicz, a Resurrectionist who became her spiritual director. Through him she met Josephine Karska, who was thinking of founding a religious community dedicated to the overall formation of women. Their mutual work - the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary united Marcelina and Josephine in sincere friendship. For years, however, Josephine was sick with typhus and died in 1860. Marcelina thus became the Superior of the new religious family, which numbered no more than four. In 1863 she moved the community to her homeland, and at Jazlowiec, in the Archdiocese of Lviv, she opened her first school for girls, which soon became an important spiritual and cultural centre.

Marcelina undertook the work of educating women in the conviction that on it depends the rebirth of the family, which is the foundation of a morally healthy society. Among her principles for the formation of her sisters and students, she stressed the following: the primacy of God over everything, truth, mutual trust and unselfishness. She also offered effective help to the poor, desiring that tuition-free elementary schools be established at every convent. During her 50 years of Superior of the congregation, she opened seven convents with formation institutes and schools for children.

In 1904, the Polish writer Henry Sienkiewicz wrote of her: "Praise for your wise work and honour to your merit and goodness". Marcelina answered, saying: "I don't look at the results of our work. They don't belong to us. If they exist, they belong to God for the good of our beloved country, which is torn apart". She died on 5 January 1911.


BL. MARIA ANA MOGAS FONTCUBERTA was born in Grenollers, Spain, on 13 January 1827, to a devout Christian family. At the age of seven she lost her father, and at 14 her mother. Cared for by an aunt in Barcelona, at the age of 21 she began to discern her vocation to follow Jesus.

In Barcelona she met two exclaustrated Capuchin nuns living in a rented room, who were seeking to organize a foundation for the education of children. Their spiritual guide was Fr Jose Tous Soler, an exclaustrated Capuchin. They recognized that Maria Ana had much to offer their project, and she in turn was deeply impressed by the Franciscan humility and simplicity of these nuns. They submitted their project to Bishop Luciano Casadevall of Vic, who joyfully accepted their proposal and gave them a school in Ripoll.

And so in 1850, despite the reluctance of her confessor to give his approval of her entry into a community without canonical status, Maria Ana went to Ripoll and was clothed in the habit of the Capuchins of the Divine Shepherdess. The young community faced opposition and many economic difficulties, but the nuns sought to live a rigorously monastic life. Three months later, they realized that one of them would have to be entrusted with the direction of the community, and the choice fell to Maria Ana. Shortly thereafter the two exclaustrated nuns returned to their order, and Maria Ana took over the reins of the institution, showing those characteristics proper to a new charism in the Church, one that was markedly Franciscan and deeply Marian in inspiration.

Maria Ana had to be certified in order to take over the school and she passed her exams brilliantly. The Lord enriched the institute with new members, who were given their initial formation by Mother Maria Ana herself, and new houses were established.

In 1865 she was asked by Bishop Benito Serra to found an institution for the rehabilitation of young prostitutes in Ciempozuelos. However, after facing many difficulties, she had to abandon the project and accepted instead the direction of a school in Madrid. The distance between Barcelona and Madrid, and the lack of regular communication eventually led to a division between the Barcelona and Madrid communities, with Mother Maria Ana remaining in Madrid. The institute continued to grow and their work was greatly appreciated by many Spanish Bishops. Mother Maria Ana died on 3 July 1886.


23 June 1996

BL. BERNHARD LICHTENBERG was born on 3 December 1875 in Ohlau, Germany, and ordained a priest in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1899. A year later he began his pastoral mission in Berlin, where he worked in various parishes until being appointed parish priest in the district of Charlottenburg.

In 1931 the Bishop called him to the Chapter of St Hedwig's Cathedral, where he was named parish priest the following year and provost in 1938. Very active politically in the Centre Party, he went to Goring in 1935 to protest the cruelties of the concentration camps. From 1938 he became known for his evening prayers in the cathedral (which was only a kilometre from Hitler's Reichskanzlei) for the wounded, prisoners, soldiers fallen in battle (on both sides), Jews and the persecuted. Bishop Konrad von Preysing later entrusted him with the pastoral care of baptized Jews. He said prayers in public for the Jews in November 1939 on the evening of the mass destruction of Jewish property which came to be known as Krystallnacht. After watching his every step and making numerous threats, the Gestapo finally arrested him on 22 May 1942. He was given a two-year prison sentence for treason and "misuse of his official position". Already seriously ill, the Gestapo considered his presence in the city a threat and ordered him to be transferred to Dachau, but he never arrived. Because of his extremely poor health he died in a cattle car on 5 November 1943 as the transport train passed Hof.


BL KARL LEISNER was born on 28 February 1915 in Rees, Germany. He studied theology in the Diocese of Munster and tried to establish Catholic youth groups, but since the Nazis sought to control all youth work, he had to take teen-agers on "camping" excursions to Belgium and the Netherlands, where they could freely discuss the Church's teaching.

His studies were interrupted by six months of compulsory work service in agriculture, but despite Nazi opposition, he organized Sunday Mass attendance for his fellow workers. The Gestapo raided his home and took his diaries and papers. These documents, carefully preserved in Nazi archives tell how the spiritual young man became a heroic religious leader.

Ordained a deacon by Bishop von Galen in 1939, he was interned first in Freiburg and later in Mannheim and Sachsenhausen for having criticized Hitler. On 14 December 1941 he was transferred to the concentration camp of Dachau, where, on Gaudete Sunday, 17 December 1944, he was secretly ordained a priest by French Bishop Gabriel Piquet, who ha been admitted to the camp with the help of local religious authorities. He was so ill that he had to postpone his first Mass for over a week.

At the time of his liberation on 4 May 1945, his extremely poor health required that he be admitted to the sanitarium of Planegg, near Munich, where he died of tuberculosis on 12 August 1945.


12 May 1996

BL. GENNARO MARIA SARNELLI was born into a noble family in Naples on 12 September 1702. At 14 he wanted to become a Jesuit, but was dissuaded by his father, who considered him too young. He studied jurisprudence and earned a doctorate in canon and civil law. He then joined the Congregation of Knights of the Legal and Medical Professions, directed by the Pious Workers of St Nicholas, and started work with the sick in the Hospital of the Incurables, where he met St Alphonsus Liguori. They became lifelong friends.

With St Alphonsus he set up evening classes where workers were trained to become evangelizers. In 1728 he entered the Naples diocesan seminary and was assigned by Cardinal Pignatelli to the parish of St Anna di Palazzo, where he continued his pastoral work. He joined the Congregation of the Apostolic Missions and was ordained a priest on 8 July 1732.

He was then put in charge of religious instruction in the rough and crowded parish of Sts Francis and Matthew, where he became aware of prostitution, especially among children, and devoted himself to helping young girls ensnared in it.

In 1733 he joined St Alphonsus in Scala (Salerno), when the latter had been abandoned by his first companions after founding the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Fr Sarnelli came to appreciate the new foundation's charism and its aim, the evangelization of the poor who lacked spiritual assistance, and became a Redemptorist. With the help of his father and priest brother, the house at Ciorani was founded and he was also partly responsible for founding the house at Villa Liberi, Caserta. He worked strenuously in parish missions in Amalfi, Caiazza and Salerno until prevented by illness in April 1736. After his recovery, he was obliged to return to Naples to live at home, but remained in close contact with his congregation. He published most of his writings, tried to save prostitutes and fought against blasphemy, besides promoting mental prayer among the laity and youth.

In 1741 he planned and preached missions in villages and in the suburbs of Naples. When St Alphonsus had to abandon his work in 1742, Sarnelli yielded to Cardinal Spinelli's request to replace him. A year later he was exhausted but continued to preach, although he was extremely ill. He died in Naples on 30 June 1744, at the age of 42 His reputation for holiness spread outside Italy, and in 1861 his cause for canonization was introduced. Pope St Pius X declared him venerable in 1906.


BL. CANDIDA MARIA de JESUS CIPITRIA y BARRIOLA (in the world, Juana Josefa) was born and baptized on 31 May 1845, in Berrospe, Andoain, Guipuzcoa, Spain. Her father was a weaver.

"I am for God alone" was her answer to God's first call. On 8 December 1871, Mother Candida Maria de Jesus founded a new congregation for the Christian education of children and youth and the advancement of women in Salamanca. Her simple background and her lack of education and means at the beginning of the foundation, as well as throughout her life, emphasized her trustful response to God's call and made her an apt instrument to fulfil her mission.

She opened schools for children and adolescents from all social backgrounds, Sunday schools for girls employed as domestics, and involved the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus (Hijas de Jesus) in the Church's pastoral plan of her time. Indeed the universalism of her charism continues to be a commitment worth considering, a precursor of what we call "social justice" today.

She based her spirituality on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. With the collaboration of Fr Herranz, S.J. she wrote the Constitutions and they were approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1902.

Endowed with many gifts of the Holy Spirit, she was able calmly to achieve a great deal and to endure much suffering. Trust was a marked characteristic of her spirituality and she was never beset by doubt. Her expression, "I distrust myself and place all my hope in you, my dearest Mother", reveals how deeply she trusted in dearest Mother", reveals how deeply she trusted in Our Lady, "Star of our way".

Prayer was all important in her life and she did everything for the glory of God. She was a contemplative, a woman immersed in God who spent long hours before the tabernacle, serene even in trials and suffering. She tried to inculcate this spirit in her daughters and among the pupils at her schools.

She lived and loved poverty above all: "Where there is no room for my poor, neither is there room for me", she said, while working as a servant in Burgos. As foundress and Superior General, she was docile to the will of God and exercised her authority in a spirit of service to her brothers and sisters, governing her religious as daughters of God.

She died in Salamanca, Spain, on 9 August 1912 and the fame of her holiness has continued to increase.


BL. MARIA RAFFAELLA CIMATTI was born into a humble family on 6 June 1861, in Celle di Faenza, Ravenna, Italy. Of her five brothers, the two who survived became priests and also died in the odour of sanctity.

After her father's death in 1882, she took on the education of her brothers, and was also a parish catechist. When her parish priest became aware of her intelligence and sweet nature, he gave her the sacrament of Confirmation at the age of 7.

She had felt attracted to the religious life for some time but was obliged to wait patiently and help her mother and brothers. After they had both joined Don Bosco's new congregation, and her mother had been taken in by the rectory, she was finally free to follow her vocation. In Faenza she had worked with youth; in Rome, where in 1889 she was officially admitted to the Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy, she dedicated herself to the sick.

She took the veil in 1890 with the name "Maria Raffaella" and made her first religious profession in 1891, taking in addition the vow of hospitallity. She was then sent to Alatri as a pharmacist's assistant, and later to Frosinone. She took her final vows in 1905. In 1921 she became superior of the house in Frosinone, and in 1928, of that in Alatri.

She was a mother, sister, friend and counsellor, always ready to help and a pattern of every virtue. In 1940, after 50 years of religious life she resigned her position as superior but asked to remain in the Alatri community as an ordinary religious, serving her sisters, the sick and the hospital staff, and devoting more time to prayer.

In 1944, while the Second World War was raging, there were many wounded to be nursed and, although she was 83, Sr Raffaella spread such comfort and love among them that they called her "mamma".

She successfully protested in person to General Kesserling at the German headquarters in Alatri when she heard a rumor that to halt the Allied Forces Alatri would have to be massively bombed. The general changed his plans and Alatri was spared.

Sr Raffaella died on 23 June 1945, leaving the memory of her saintly life and heroic virtues. The cause for her canonization was begun in 1962. In 1988-89 the last process attributed to her intercession Loreto Arduini's miraculous recovery from "viral encephalitis, convulsions and breathing failure". This led to the promulgation of the decree for her beatification by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1993.


BL. MARIA ANTONIA BANDRES y ELOSEGUI was born in Tolosa (Guipuzcoa), Spain, on 6 March 1898, the second of 15 children of the attorney Ramon Bandres and Teresa Elosegui. From her earliest years she went to the school of the Daughters of Jesus (Hijas de Jesus) in Tolosa, founded by Mother Candida Maria de Jesus. To her younger brothers and sisters she was an exemplary model of virtue. She belonged to a well-to-do family, but she reached out to the poor and needy in the suburbs of Tolosa. With women workers she carried out an apostolate of evangelization and social assistance, something rarely done in those times.

She entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus on 8 December 1915 in Salamanca, and on 31 May 1918 she made her religious vows. Never of robust health, she began to weaken and soon was taken very ill. During her sickness she was treated by Dr Filiberto Villalobos, who later testified that he was "deeply moved by her faith and serenity of spirit, which made her very happy in the last moments of her life". This doctor, a friend of Miguel de Unamuno and Indalecio Prieto, commenting to them about the attitude of Maria Antonia, exclaimed: "How mistaken we are about life! This, yes, this is what dying means...".

Maria Antonia's death profoundly touched the heart of these intellectual agnostics and stirred in them disquieting questions. Seeing the 21-year-old Maria Antonia Bandres die with the security of "knowing where she was going", according to Unamuno's expression, made a tremendous impact, and all of them have left oral or written testimonies about it.

God accepted the offering that this young Daughter of Jesus made of her life for the conversion and eternal salvation of her uncle and godfather, Antonio Bandres, who was I living contrary to Christian faith and morals. She died in Salamanca on 27 April 1919, the feast of Our Lady of Montserrat, while singing and calling upon Mary as "Mother of mercy".

Maria Antonia Bandres, a woman endowed with deep humanity, was sensitive to the love of her family and friends in the world and in religious life. Always open to the grace and love of God, she was able to suffer with a smile. Then God permeated the deepest core of her littleness and ushered her into the mystery of the Father's love.

The life of this young religious is a marvellous witness to divine grace, which seeks out the simple-hearted. In her shines forth the beauty of a life totally consecrated to God.


BL. FILIPPO SMALDONE was born in Naples on 27 July 1848 at a time of political and social turmoil in Italy, as well as in the Church; feeling that the Church needed him, he decided to become a priest. While he was still a student, he became involved in helping the enormous number of deaf-mutes in Naples at the time. He barely passed the examination for Minor Orders, and after a period in the Archdiocese of Rossano Calabro, he was re-incardinated in the Archdiocese Of in 1876. He continued to study and to work with deaf-mutes, and was ordained a priest in 1871.

He held evening catechism classes and assiduously visited the sick, especially during a plague epidemic, when he succumbed to the disease. At death's door, he was miraculously cured by Our Lady of Pompei, for whom he cherished a special devotion all his life.

Seeing the frustration of his mutes despite his efforts, at one point he wanted to leave for the foreign missions, but his confessor convinced him that his true mission was in Naples among them. Thus he gave himself without reserve to this apostolate and went to live permanently with a group of priests and laity.

In March 1885 he went to Lecce, where he founded an institute for deaf-mutes with Fr Lorenzo Apicelia and sisters whom he had specially trained. This was the basis for the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, which rapidly took root and rapidly flourished.

After founding the Lecce institute, which became the mother-house, in 1897 Fr Smaldone founded another institute in Bari.

Fr Smaldone soon expanded his work to include in his institutes blind children, orphans and the abandoned. He overcame the trial of defending himself against the anti-Church municipal council and later, in the congregation, the departure of the first superior, and strove with fatherly affection to educate his deaf-mutes and to give the Salesian Sisters a complete religious formation.

He also served as confessor and spiritual director to priests, seminarians and various religious communities, founded the Eucharistic League of Priest Adorers and Women Adorers, and was superior of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales. He was appointed a canon of the Lecce cathedral and awarded a commendation by the civil authorities.

He died at the age of 75 of a serious diabetic condition with heart complications on 4 June 1923.


BL. ALFREDO ILDEFONSO SCHUSTER, O.S.B. was born in Rome on 18 January 1880 and baptized Alfredo Ludovico Luigi. He entered the Benedictine monastery of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls when he was 11, and in 1896 began his novitiate, taking the name of Ildefonso. He made his solemn profession in 1902. After studying philosophy at Sant' Anselmo and theology at St Paul's Abbey, he was ordained a priest in 1904. He served his own community in various offices until he was elected abbot in 1918.

He taught at several pontifical institutes and served as consultor to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the sections for the Liturgy and for the Causes of Saints, and in addition to being censor of the Academy of Sacred Liturgy, president of the Commission for Sacred Art and Apostolic Visitator for Italian seminaries.

He was singled out by Pope Pius XI, who appointed him Archbishop of Milan on 26 June 1929, created him a Cardinal on 15 July and consecrated him on 21 July.

Beginning his ministry, in his own words as "errand boy" of the Ambrosian Church, he gave priority to catechesis and promoted the role of the laity in the parish and in Catholic Action. He was the first Italian Bishop, following the Concordat, to swear allegiance to the King. He denounced Fascist interference in Catholic Action. Later, he refused to solemnly bless Milan Central Station, obliging both the King and Mussolini to be absent from its inauguration. He condemned the racial laws in 1938: "A kind of heresy has been born in foreign countries which is spreading everywhere ... it is called racism". He championed the cause of the poor during the Second World War and after it founded the Domus Ambrosiana, inexpensive housing for newly-married couples.

He closely followed the growth of the Catholic University, founded the Institute of Amrosian Chant and Sacred Music and the Ambrosianeum and Didascaleion cultural centres. He also blessed the Mary Immaculate Institute for priests, and contributed articles to the daily, L'Italia. Above all, he proposed holiness as a goal for all, and the only means to human happiness. A few days before he died, he withdrew to Venegono Seminary. His last, moving words were to the seminarians: "You want something to remember me by. All I can leave you is an invitation to holiness...". He died a few days later on 30 August 1954. His cause for canonization was introduced in 1957 by his successor, Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
Various dates and pages in 1996

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