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Women who gave their lives. Saints

Women who gave their lives

Irene McCormack


Irene McCormack was born on 21 August 1938 in Western Australia. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph in 1956 and taught for most of her religious life. In 1986 Irene was sent to Peru. Irene served in Huasahuasi, in the Andes Mountains about 200 km from Lima.

“It seems to me, that the preoccupation of our Church leaders with power and control over who can celebrate the Eucharist, who can and who can’t receive the Eucharist, is right up the creek.”

“When we in our little Christian communities, high up in the Andes, gather in memory of Jesus, there is no power or authority on earth that can convince me that Jesus is not personally present. ”

On 17 July 1990 she wrote in a letter: “A few weeks ago I celebrated with an extended family a ‘Mass’ for their grandfather, dead many years. Note I’ve given up trying to use the terms ‘paraliturgy’ or ‘liturgy of the word’ or any of the other ‘excuses’ the official Church uses to deny collaborative ministry it’s rightful place to women. I no longer try to do the ‘right’ thing and correct the people when they come asking us to celebrate a ‘mass’ for them. I’ve become convinced that the people are closer to the truth and are ‘freeing’ me to exercise ministry amongst them.”

Three years later the priests of Huasahuasi were warned that they were in danger so they and the Sisters left the village for Lima. Irene, however, felt that the church should not abandon the villagers at this time so returned on 14 January 1990 with a companion. For 12 months Huasahuasi was without a resident priest. During this time the two sisters served the people, led the eucharistic services and provided leadership for the people of the area.

On 21 May 1991 the Shining Path rebels attacked the village. They killed four men and Sister Irene (her companion was in hospital).

in Peru


Agatha lived in Catania on the island of Sicily. During the persecution of Decius (250 - 253), she was arrested and dragged before the Roman magistrate Quinctianus. Resisting all efforts to make her renounce her Christian faith, she was tortured, her breasts were cut off and she was paraded through public streets before being put to death. martyr

Agnes of Rome

As a young girl, some say only 12 years old, Agnes was accused of being a Christian around 250 AD. Agnes confessed her faith. She steadfastly refused to be sent to a house of prostitution. Stripped of her clothes she was tortured with fire in a public square full of curious spectators. Finally she was put to the sword. martyr

Anastasia of Sirmium

After Anastasia was widowed, she spent her time consoling Christians in prisons in Rome and supporting them with food and clothes. She protested about their torture and was then imprisoned herself where she was starved for months on small rations. Because she would not relinquish her faith she was exiled to the island of Palmaria where she was burnt to death. martyr

Anne Line

Anne, daughter of William Heigham of Dunmow, Essex, became a Catholic when it was a criminal offence. She fearlessly helped others to survive the persecutions and her home became a rallying point for Catholics. Fully aware of the possible cost to her life she hid a priest and held Mass in her home but was arrested and hanged for it in 1601. martyr


Her abusive father Dioscoros kept her locked up in the upper storey of his house. In her solitude, she found God. She prayed a lot and studied the Christian faith, and she cleverly found a way to secretly receive instruction and Baptism from a priest. When her father found out he took her to the authories to be put to death (3rd century). martyr

Catherine of Alexandria

She was a woman well versed in science and oratory. During the persecution of Maximus, though only 18 years old, she challenged the pagan philosophers to a debate on religion. Legend has it that many were converted by her arguments, and put to death. Maximus had her scourged and imprisoned. He ordered her broken on the wheel. Afterwards she was beheaded, around 305 AD. martyr


This young woman belonging to the senatorial family of the Cecilias, is said to have converted her family to Christianity. Her husband was arrested and martyred for his faith. She herself was ordered to sacrifice to false gods. When she refused, she was beheaded in her turn. A tomb with her name lies in the Catacomb of Callistus. martyr


Felicity was pregnant when she was accused. They waited for her to give birth. Then, to induce her to her renounce her faith, they made her watch her seven sons being martyred by various means before her eyes. One was whipped, two were beaten with clubs, three beheaded and another drowned. St. Felicity was beheaded, around 202 AD. martyr

Florence Caerols Martinez

During the communist revolution in Spain in the 1930’s, a determined effort was made to destroy the Catholic Church and eradicate faith. Many Catholic leaders were shot. Florence was one of them. A textile worker, she was a model of goodness to her fellow workers. She taught catechism in her parish and often visited the sick. Executed in 1936. martyr

Joan of Arc

Born in Domremy from poor parents in 1412, Joan grew up a pious woman. She became convinced God was calling her to fight for her country. And so, spurred on by this conviction, she led the army of France to victory against the English and the Dauphin was crowned King. However, Joan was captured by the English, tried by a Church court and found guilty of witchcraft She was burnt to death in 1431 at Orléans when not even 20 years old. martyr
for her

Irene the Great Martyr

Irene, daughter of Licinius, was reputedly born in Magedon in present-day Turkey. Some ancient sources put her martyrdom in apostolic times, other ones during the 4th century. She seems to have been put to death with other members of her family. Constant veneration from the earliest times makes her one of the most popular saints in the East. martyr


She was a married laywomen in Andalucia, the area controlled by the Moors. She initially lived as a closet Christian, but the examples of active Christians gave her the courage to do the same and to openly live her faith. She was put to death in 852. martyr


Born of a Roman father and Greek mother, she became a convinced Christian. During the persecution of Diocletian, she was denounced to Paschasius, the Governor of Sicily. He condemned her to death. After torture that included having her eyes torn out, she was executed by being stabbed with a dagger. She died in 304 AD. martyr

Marie Amandine

Born in Belgium, she became a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. She was sent to Taiyuan in Shanxi Province (China) to work in the mission hospital there. When Yu Xian came into power as governor, he was determined to eradicate the presence of the Catholic Church. He used the anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion in 1900 to execute Marie and her companions. martyr

Margaret Clitherow

She converted to Catholicism around 1574. She was imprisoned several times for sheltering priests and for permitting clandestine masses to be celebrated in her house. During her trial, she refused to answer any of the charges for fear of incriminating her servants and children. She was crushed to death with heavy weights in 1586 at York. martyr

Margaret Pole

Margaret was Countess of Salisbury. She held posts at Henry VIII’s court. With her son, the later Cardinal Reginald Pole, she opposed Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the secession from Rome. Margaret was arrested soon after, falsely charged with plotting revolution; in 1539 she was sent to the Tower of London where she was executed 2 years later in 1541. blessed

Maria de la Luz Camacho

Maria was in charge of the Catholic Action group in her home town Coyoacán during the communist persecution of the Church in México in the 1930’s. She worked tirelessly collecting clothes and funds for the poor, teaching catechism and literacy. She died at the hands of a communist mob in 1934 while she was guarding her parish church with children inside who were attending mass. martyr


Native of Antioch in Pisidia, she tended flocks. She was accused of being a Christian before the Roman prefect Olybrius during the persecution of Diocletian (301 - 305). Tradition says that she was tortured in fire, and then in boiling water, but she did not renounce her faith. Finally she was beheaded. martyr

Natalia Tulasiewicz

She was always deeply religious and involved in the apostolate of the laity. She was a teacher of the faith. When the war came she voluntarily went with other women who were put into forced labour, so that she could teach them. When the Gestapo found out they tortured her and then put her into the gas chambers at Ravensbruck in 1945. martyr


Perpetua was a catechumen (i.e. a convert not yet baptized), well educated and from a prosperous family, about 22 years old, married and apparently recently widowed. Arraigned before the Roman magistrate in Carthage, she confessed the Christian faith. First she was mauled by animals in an arena and then killed with the sword. martyr


She was the wife of Aquila. The Apostle Paul met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth around 51 AD and baptised both of them. They went to Ephesus where they established a Christian community with the help of St. Paul’s disciple Timothy. Priscilla worked as a teacher and an evangelist. Together with her husband she was martyred for Christ at the hands of a pagan mob. martyr

Susanna of Rome

Susanna, daughter of Gabinius, was a Christian who refused to marry Maximian, Diocletian’s son-in-law. Moreover, she is said to have converted her relatives Claudius and Maximus, who had been sent to bring her to Maximian. In revenge, Diocletian ordered soldiers to behead her in her father’s home about the year 295. martyr

Ursula of Cologne

Though her life is difficult to disentangle from legends, there is evidence to believe that she was a fourth-century Roman woman who was put to death for her faith. The mention of “XI M” other women who died with her, probably meaning “11 Martyrs”, was mis-read as “11,000” [M=1000] - the origin of the legend of her 11000 virgin companions. martyr

Victoria de Molina

She was born in Spain in 1903. She was an intelligent and talented child, especially at painting. She decided to become a teacher. She joined the Teresian Association and put her Catholic faith into action as a teacher. She set up a Catholic Action group. During the Spanish Civil War she was taken away by the communists who wanted to stamp out Catholic action and executed by shooting in 1936. martyr
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