Every saint starts somewhere. All where just regular people at some point who lived the faith in extraordinary ways and when they died, their holiness and dedication to Christ just couldn’t be denied! Here are five Catholic women (who’ve entered eternal reward) that you’ll want to know.
1. Servant of God Sr. Blandina Segale
She was born in Italy and then immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio with her family when she was young. After that, she joined the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati at age sixteen. She taught in schools in Steubenville and Dayton before being sent as a missionary to Trinidad, Colorado in the 1870s. Colorado and the West was a rough place back then! She was later transferred to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
She founded public and Catholic schools, worked with the poor and immigrants, and advocated on behalf of Hispanics and Native Americans. While in Colorado, she also encountered Billy the Kid, treating a wound he had suffered and saved his life. There are a couple other stories about her and Billy the Kid, too! She also knew or worked with the leaders of the Apache and Comanche Native American tribes. Her cause for canonization was opened by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and she is the first person in New Mexico’s history with the Holy See to be considered for sainthood.
2. Phyllis Bowman
Bowman was the founder of the United Kingdom’s Right to Life (RTL) organization in 1998 and dedicated almost a half century to fighting against the injustices of abortion, embryonic experimentation (including cloning), and euthanasia. Before founding RTL, she formed the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. This was a miraculous turn for her, as she had started out as a journalist in favor of abortion. Learning more about the procedures of abortion and impact on the mother, though, helped her change her mind and heart.
After this change of heart, she founded SPUC and the idea (revolutionary at the time and still today, in some circles) that providing emergency funds of financial support to mothers so they can afford to keep their babies saves both the child and the mother and changes society for the better. She truly embodies what it really means to be pro-life, protecting the dignity of every person at every stage of life.
3. Irena Sendler
Sendler was a Polish social worker during World War II who helped to smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto by placing them in various Catholic convents. The children were given Christian names and taught Christian prayers so that they wouldn’t be discovered, but Sendler kept meticulous notes on each child including his or her Christian name, given name, and hiding location. Her goal was to reunite the children with their families once the war was over.
Sadly, almost all of the children’s parents were discovered to have been executed at the Treblinka extermination camp. Irena hid the documents on the children in glass jars buried in her backyard. She was arrested and brutally beaten by the Gestapo but refused to give up the names of her comrades nor information on the whereabouts of the children. Sendler was eventually released by bribing the guards and she returned to work as a nurse under a pseudonym. During the war, she would wear a Star of David on her clothing when working in the ghetto as a show of support for and solidarity with the Jews. It is estimated that through Sendler’s work, she saved 2500 Jewish children.
4. Bl. Rosalie Rendu
Rendu was born near Geneva in 1786 and was just three years old when the Revolution broke out. At the age of 17, she joined the Daughters of Charity, eventually becoming their Sister Servant (Superior). She was sent to Mouffetard District of Paris, a slum, and remained there for fifty-four years. There she worked with the Napoleonic governments Department of Welfare and obtained vouchers for coal and food for the poor. She would also send her Sisters out to bring supplies, clothing, care, and “a comforting word” to the poor in their district.
To assist all the suffering, Rendu opened a free clinic, a pharmacy, a school, a child and maternal care center, a youth club for young workers and a home for the elderly without resources. For young girls and needy mothers, Rosalie soon organized courses in sewing and embroidering, and soon this expanded into a whole network of charitable services. She was noted as saying of the poor and needy, “The poor will insult you. The ruder they are; the more dignified you must be. Remember, Our Lord hides behind those rags.” Bl. Rosalie also had a way with the rich and former royalty and donation flooded in from many people for her to continue her charitable work.
5. Mother Antonia Brenner
Brenner was born in 1926 to Irish American Catholic parents. She had married and divorced twice and had seven children, and lived in Beverly Hills, California. In the late 60s, she had a dream of Jesus and in the 70s, decided to devote her life to the Church. Because she was an older and divorced woman, though, she was barred from entering any religious order, so she continued her work on her own. She founded an order for women in her situation called the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour, which was formally recognized in 2003 by the Bishop of Tijuana, Mexico.
It was in Tijuana where she found her most desperate work. She ministered to the imprisoned at the maximum security La Mesa Prison located there. She once negotiated an end to a riot there and also persuaded jail administers to stop sending prisoners to the substandard cells known as the “tombs”. In 2007, the road outside of the jail was renamed to Madre Antonia in her honor. She died near her home in Tijuana in 2013 at the age of 86.