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Great women of our own time

Great women of our own time

Thérèse of Lisieux

Doctor of the Universal Church


On October 19, 1997, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was officially declared a Doctor of the Church. This recognition of Thérèse’s soundness as a teacher has consequences for the ordination of women. For St. Thérèse had a profound longing to be a priest and so, implicitly, gave testimony to her deep ‘Catholic sense’ that women too can and should be ordained.

It is well known that Thérèse ardently desired to be a priest. In her Story of a Soul we hear her make this beautiful prayer to Jesus:

If I were a priest, how lovingly I would carry you in my hands when you came down from heaven at my call; how lovingly I would bestow you upon people’s souls. I want to enlighten people’s minds as the prophets and the doctors did. I feel the call of an Apostle. I would love to travel all over the world, making your name known and planting your cross on a heathen soil”.

Moreover, this was not just a passing wish. It was something that had become part of her inner spiritual life. Among the testimonies from the process of her beatification there is a long and detailed statement by her sister, Sr. Céline Martin, in which she declares that Thérèse never abandoned her conviction that she was called to be a priest.

* “Why must I be a nun, and not a priest?”

* “Oh! What wonders we shall see in heaven! Those who desired to be priests on earth will be able to share in the priesthood in heaven.”

Angela Selawa

She was born in Poland in 1891. When she was 16 she moved into a home in Cracow as a domestic servant. She became a Francisan tertiary. She was active in evangelising the family she lived with and her fellow servants in the area. During the war she served in a hospital, attending and comforting the injured soldiers. She died in 1922. domestic

Anna Inguscio

She was born from Swiss parents in Catania, Italy, in 1938. She married Marcello. Anna was a Protestant but through her husband became a Catholic. Together they looked after handicapped people. They opened their house to seriously ill people, the poor, the paralytic and the homeless, who received shelter in their home. She died in 1986. social carer

Carla Ronci

Born in 1936, in Torre Pedrena, she was 15 when she met a group of Ursuline nuns who looked after abandoned children. She became a seamstress and was involved in Catholic Action in her town. She tried her vocation as a religious, but fell ill. She returned home and spent her life teaching sewing and involved in Catholic Action. tailor

Carolina Palladini

She was born into a poor family in St Lorenzo, Italy, in 1895. She did not have a proper education. She married and desired children, but did not have any. She was inspired by the Spirit of St Francis. She discovered that some children were too poor to make their First Holy Communion, so she made it her life’s work to provide for them. catechist

Edel Quinn

She was born at Greenane, County Cork, Ireland in 1907. She had a very happy childhood. She took a job as a secretary at a tile works. She was going to enter the Poor Clares, but she developed tuberculosis. She knew she would not live long, but became a member of the Legion of Mary and went to work in Africa where she died in 1944. missionary

Elisabeth Tasca Serena

She was born in northern Italy in 1899 to poor farm labourers. She married and had twelve children. She had to work hard in the fields as well as bringing up her children. Whenever possible she found time for daily Mass and for prayers. She educated herself in her later years. She wrote hundreds of letters with spiritual advice. She died in 1978. mother

Fiorella Bianchi

Fiorella's life spanned the great depression and the Second World War (1930-1954). Earning her keep as a secretary, she studied theology privately. She touched many people's lives by the centres she set up for Christian Girls and for Christian Mothers. After the war she organised food distribution to the poor and relief for the evacuees. social

Gianna Molla

Born in 1922 at Magenta, Italy, Gianna was involved in Catholic Action. She became a medical doctor. She specialised in looking after mothers and children. She married and had four children. Her final delivery in 1962 produced a life-threatening situation. She chose not to have an abortion and died as a consequence. exemplary

Hildegard Burjan

Doctor in Philosophy & Economics, and married with one child, Hilde settled in Vienna (1883-1933). She converted to Catholicism and founded Caritas Socialis which revolutionised social apostolate. It provided shelter for the homeless, day clinics, employment agencies for the poor, convalescent homes and support for unmarried mothers. social

Josefa Girbes

She was born in Algemesi, in Spain in 1820. Well versed in the art of embroidery, she privately studied faith and spirituality. She started a project to teach young girls the art of embroidery, while also guiding them in their spiritual life. Her workshop grew out to provide both practical skills and spiritual formation for future mothers. She died at 71. spiritual

Madeleine Delbrel

Born into a middle class atheist family in 1904, she found God at the age of twenty by reading and prayer. In Paris she became an active supporter of Mission de France, an attempt to evangelise men and women labourers. She won awards for her poetry and writing. She formed a Gospel community of laywomen dedicated to work among the poor. social

Maria Carolina Scampone

Maria was born near Naples in 1887. She married and had five children. Her husband died. As a widow living in utter poverty, she supported her family by doing menial and casual work. She suffered great hardship trying to help her children find their way. During World War II, the Germans put her in a concentration camp. She always thought of other people first. She died in 1951.

Marianna Biernacka

Marianna, born in Czokalo in 1888, was a farmer’s wife who had two children. When German soldiers in 1943 arrested her son Stanislaw and daughter-in-law Anna to execute them in retaliation for the death of German soldiers in a nearby village, she asked the soldiers to allow her to take Anna’s place since she was pregnant. They agreed. Marianna and her son were shot. loving

Marica Stankovik

She was born in 1900 in Zagreb. She came from a good family and throughout her youth she was involved in Catholic organisations. She became the President of the Union of Croatian Female Youth. She was also a great writer and encouraged others to deepen their understanding of their faith. For this she was imprisoned by the communists. writer,
social leader

Matilde Salem

She was born into a wealthy family at Aleppo in 1904 She married but had no children. Her husband died at an early age and she devoted herself and her wealth to the service of others. She gave her home away and became involved in every form of charity and social reform, ranging from the Red Cross to the support of young delinquents. social

Edith Stein

Edith had a brilliant mind She was awarded her PhD title Summa Cum Laude. Born of Jewish parents she became interested in Catholicism. After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching, lecturing, writing and translating. She joined the Carmelites in 1935. She was arrested by the Nazis and sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz in 1942. writer

Pauline Vanier

She was born to wealth in Montreal, in 1887. She was well educated and married her husband George in 1888. They had four children. They were a deeply spiritual couple. During the War she worked for the Red Cross. Her husband became Governor General of Canada, but she gave her whole life to helping others. social

Rosa Giovannetti

She was born in 1896. She was an exceptional cello player, giving concerts all over Italy. During the First World War she cared for migrants and fugitives. She established an organisation named the ‘Circle of the Female Youth of Catholic Action’. She also worked as a catechist. In her final years she suffered terribly through ill health till she died in 1929. social

Rose Prince

Rose (1915-1949) belonged to an Indian Tribe known as the Carrier Nation. Her father was a chief of the clan. Through a childhood accident her back was damaged and she was deformed. When she finished school she stayed on with the sisters working for them. She was taken ill and died of tuberculosis. Her body was exhumed and found to be perfectly preserved. inspiration
for her

Satoko Kitahara

Satoko was born in Tokyo (1929-1958). During the war she became a worker at the Nakajima aircraft factory. She became a Christian and dedicated herself to serving the poor in a shanty village called Ant Town. She would collect junk and other rubbish and then sell it to provide money and food for the poor. She died among her special people. social

Victoria Diez de Molina

She was born in Spain in 1903. From early youth she exhibited talents 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 and executed by shooting (1936). teacher
and martyr

Victorina Rivara-Perazzo

Born in Buenos Aires in 1867, she married Rafael Perazzo when she was 19 years old. They had three children. Victorina was a good wife, but when her husband died she embraced a more simple life style modelled on Don Bosco. She worked with the poor and especially with children. She used her wealth to establish schools for the poor children. She died in 1957.

Virginia Blanco

Virginia began life in Cochabamba in 1916. In spite of her family being rich and well established, she focused her energies on helping others. She was a gifted religious education teacher in a number of local highschools. She established soup kitchens in her own home, for the poor. She founded the Woman’s Youth Action and became president of the diocesan council. Died 1990.

Wilhelmina Ronconi

She was born in Pesaro in 1864. Her parents died when she was still a minor, but her guardian sent her to the best schools. She became a teacher. She was interested in the welfare of blind students. She was a poet and writer. All her life was devoted to helping others to grow in faith but also to bettering themselves through education. Died 1936.

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