Friday, June 4, 2010

Feast Day: Bl. Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad

Blessed Maria Elizabetta Hesselblad was the fifth of 13 children in a Lutheran family in Sweden.  In order to help support her family, Maria Elizabetta (18 years old) emigrated to New York, attended nursing school and began working as a nurse at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan as well as doing home care for the aged and home-bound.  Her work took her into heavily Catholic neighborhoods and she began to see the fulness of the truth in the Roman Catholic Church.  At the age of 22, Maria Elizabetta received conditional baptism in Manhattan and then went to Rome and received her confirmation.  Later, when reflecting on her conversion/baptism, she wrote:
In an instant the love of God was poured over me. I understood that I could respond to that love only through sacrifice and a love prepared to suffer for His glory and for the Church. Without hesitation I offered Him my life, and my will to follow Him on the Way of the Cross.
She returned to New York briefly, sailing back to Rome to begin life as a religious sister.  She was welcomed by the Carmelites, who had custody of the house where St. Bridget of Sweden lived and died in 1373.  In 1906, St. Pius X allowed her to take the habit of the Order of the Most Holy Savior of Saint Bridget and profess vows as a spiritual daughter of the Swedish saint. In 1911, Maria Elizabetta re-established the Order of the Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget (the Brigettines) in Rome and immediately began to receive vocations to her order, including the establishment of other convents throughout Europe -- Djursholm (Sweden, 1923), Lugano (Switzerland, 1924), Iver Heath (England, 1931), Piazza Farnese (Rome, 1931), and Vadstena (Sweden, 1935), to which the Brigittines returned after 350 years of suppression. In 1937, a mission of her daughters is sent to India.

WW2 found Maria Elizabetta assisting the persecuted (Jews and others the Third Reich deemed unnecessary) -- hiding them, feeding them, helping them at great risk to herself and her convent.

In 1957, at the age of 87, Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad died a natural death.  She was beatified by JP2 in 2000.  

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