History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyr: Sr. Odette Prévost

Sr. Odette Prévost of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart lost her life for Christ on November 10, 1995. She was the last female of the modern Algerian martyrs to lose their lives.

She was born on July 17, 1932, in Oger, France. After graduation from school, she worked as a school teacher for three years before entering the Little Sisters of the Sacred heart in 1953, taking her final vows in 1959.

First sent to Morocco and then back to France, her order finally stationed her in Algiers in 1968. There, too, she taught students, typically the poorest of the poor.

Sr. Odette spent her nights helping young children with their homework.

Sister would make homemade yogurt so the local children would have “enough protein to grow.” In addition to her free tutoring, she played games with them. Because of this, there “was always a gang of them in the kitchen.”

Days before she died, she asked an Algerian Christian friend for a kiss goodbye. The friend, laughing, said, “‘No, I’ll come back tomorrow.’ She said, ‘Tomorrow might be too late.’”

Encouraged to leave Algeria, she refused “so as ‘to resist through solidarity’ the enveloping violence and chaos to show through their presence that ‘one can live fraternally with difference.’”

Benedictine Father Martin McGee writes, “Odette purposely decided to remain in Algeria in order ‘to be Christ’s own presence.’ She understood her decision to stay in light of the Eucharist–Jesus’ self-offering on our behalf.” In this light, her death on a Friday while on her way to the holy sacrifice of the Mass is fitting.

 

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History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyr: Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond

Along with Marist Brother Henri Verges, Sr. Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond became the first person in the modern era to undergo martyrdom in Algeria on May 8, 1994.

Sister was born in Paris on January 24, 1927, the eighth of ten children. She did scientific studies in Sorbonne but found her religious vocation, joining the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1952, so she could serve the poor. Subsequently she studied to be a nurse and made her final vows in 1960.

For roughly four years, Sr. Paul-Hélène worked amongst the poor in Rouen, before transferring to Algeria, where she was head nurse at an Algiers health center. She was a whirlwind of activity so that she would exhaust her fellow sisters and had to be told to go easy on them. She became so skilled she could perform minor surgery.

Archbishop Teissier says she was someone who “chose what she wanted to do and she did it.”

Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond was born in Paris on January 24, 1927, the eighth of ten children. She did scientific studies in Sorbonne but found her religious vocation, joining the Little Sisters of the Assumption in 1952, so she could serve the poor. Subsequently she studied to be a nurse and made her final vows in 1960.

For roughly four years, Sr. Paul-Hélène worked amongs the poor in Rouen, before transferring to Algeria, where she was head nurse at an Algiers health center. She was a whirlwind of activity so that she would exhaust her fellow sisters and had to be told to go easy on them. She became so skilled she could perform minor surgery.

Reflecting on the violence that then reigned, she wrote that “one must start oneself to fight against one’s own violence.” To Msgr. Teissier who warned her of the danger all were facing, she replied, “Father, our lives are already given anyway.”

Sister, an engineer by training, had lived 30 years in the Maghreb (i.e., northern Africa from Morocco to Libya’s western border) serving the people there. Upon her retirement, rather than returning to France, she moved to the capital to assist Brother Henri Vergès in running the library, which served 1,200 young people from neighboring schools.

The French Wikipedia article on her says, “She was very helpful, unfailingly generosity, of a very logical mind, of a lively intelligence, and possessed of a great memory. However, her frankness, her outspokenness, and her lack of tact caused her relational difficulties, and her determined character sometimes made her difficult to live for the other nuns, but her humility, her fraternal spirit and capacity for dialogue promoted reconciliation. Her vast culture and knowledge also makes her known as ‘Madame Encyclopédie.’ The depth of her faith helped her to overcome her inner struggles. She remained very attached to prayer, individual and community.

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History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyrs: Sister Caridad Alvarez Martín and Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso

On October 23, 1994, Sisters Esther Paniagua Alonso and Caridad “Cari” Alvarez Martín were each shot in the head as they walked to Mass.

Sister Esther was a nurse who worked with sick and disabled children and had painstakingly learned fluent Arabic. In the discernment meeting with Msgr. Teissier about whether to stay or go, she said to her sisters, “At this moment, for me, the perfect model is Jesus: He suffered, he had to overcome difficulties and led to the failure of the cross from which springs the source of life…. Nobody can take our life because we have already given it … Nothing will happen to us since we are in the hands of God … and if something happens to us, we are still in His hands.”

At the same meeting, Sister Caridad, who worked with the elderly and poor and had a deep devotion to Our Lady, noted, “I am open to God’s and my superiors’ will for me. Mary remained open to the will of God. Probably that cost her. In the present moments, I want to remain in this attitude before God.”

Again, their murders happened while on their way to Mass. They had set out with two other sisters, but before leaving, their Mother Superior, worried about the violence, said to not walk together so that if something happened it would be only to two and not to all four.

Sisters Esther and Caridad had turned a corner ahead of their companions when shots rang out. People ran past their two companions with fear on their faces, which impelled the women forward to see what had happened. Several young people held them back, however, and told the Sisters their friends had been shot.

The doctor who received them screamed in agony, “When will the killing end?! We no longer know where to put the corpses!”

Esther died first, a little over an hour after being shot, while Cari, transported to a military hospital, at first seemed she might pull through, even though the bullet had lodged in her head. However Sister Cari, too, died the next morning.

The Algerian journalist Saïd Mekbel wrote, “They were two women on their way to God to ask forgiveness. They were undoubtedly offering their little prayers for us, unfortunate Algerians, oppressed by the scourge [of violence]. Perhaps we will be lacking for a long time the final prayers of these two religious who wished to tip the scales in favor of peace and mercy. Towards what world of darkness will we now plunge, we who only dream of light.”

Less than two months later, terrorists also assassinated him.

During the aforementioned discernment retreat, which had lasted two days, Algiers Archbishop Teissier encouraged them to move to a less working class and dangerous neighborhood.

Their response: “This is the district where we are known, this is the district where we must remain.”

 

 

 

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History, Saints Stories

Algerian Martyrs: Sisters Angèle-Marie Littlejohn and Bibiane Leclercq

Sisters Angèle-Marie Littlejohn and Bibiane Leclercq were returning from Mass on September 3, 1995, when assassins cut them down.

For 35 years they had lived in Algeria training hundreds of working class girl dropouts in dress making, embroidery, and sewing. Continue reading

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Church News, History, News About Saints, Saints Stories

Algerian Bishops on the Announcement of the Beatification of Their Nation’s Martyrs

Announcement of the beatification of our nineteen brothers and sisters

Statement of the Bishops of Algeria

Our Church is full of Joy.  Pope Francis has just authorized the signature of the decree of beatification of “Monsignor Pierre Claverie and his 18 men and women companions”.  Continue reading

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News About Saints, Saints Stories

Heroic Layman Killed by Nazis Declared a Martyr

From Catholic News Agency:

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2016 / 01:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis moved eight martyrs a step further on the path to sainthood, one of whom is Josef Mayr-Nusser, an Italian layman killed for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler during the Second World War.

The Pope’s recognition of Mayr-Nusser as a martyr was announced July 8 following an audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Born Dec. 27, 1910 in the northern Italian city of Bolzano, Mayr-Nusser grew up on a farm and was instilled with Christian values by his parents from a young age.

Since his family was poor and his older brother Jakob was in seminary studying for the priesthood, Mayr-Nusser didn’t study himself, but worked on the farm and later as the clerk for the Eccel company in Bolzano.

He dedicated much of his free time to reading, including many religious works. Among his favorites were the works of Frederic Ozanam, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, and the life of St. Vincent de Paul.

At the age of 22 he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an international Catholic volunteer organization dedicated to serving the poor and disadvantaged, in an effort to imitate the charity of the saint.

Mayr-Nusser was also involved in Catholic Action, and became head its division in the Diocese of Trent in 1934. In 1937 he became president of the Bolzano branch of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, spending a large amount of his time visiting the poor and providing them with both material and spiritual support.

When World War II flared up in Europe in 1939, Mayr-Nusser wasted no time in joining the anti-Nazi movement “Andreas Hofer Bund.”

However, a few years later civil war also broke out in Italy following the 1943 ousting of Benito Mussolini from power, which led to the German occupation of the northern half of the country.

The Nazi regime had established the “Schutzstaffel,” or “protective squadron.” The regime called not only on local men from Nazi Germany to join the squad, but they also took volunteers and conscripted men from both occupied and non-occupied territories.

Mayr-Nusser was among those conscripted from northern Italy, and so in 1944 was enrolled in an SS unit, forcing him to leave his wife and newborn son for training in Prussia.

However, when it came time for the SS members to swear an oath to Hitler, Mayr-Nusser refused.

According to a fellow comrade, he was “pensive and worried,” but told the general with a “strong voice” that “I cannot take an oath to Hitler in the name of God. I cannot do it because my faith and conscience do not allow it.”

Although his friends and tried to convince him to retract his statement and take the oath, Mayr-Nusser refused, believing that Nazi ideals could in no way be reconciled with Christian ethics and values.

As a result he was jailed while he awaited trial. In 1945 he was sentenced to death for treason, and was ordered to march to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was to be shot by firing squad.
However, he fell ill with dysentery along the way and died Feb. 24, 1945, before reaching the camp. When his body was discovered on the train, he had both a Bible and a rosary with him.

Mayr-Nusser’s cause for martyrdom was launched by the Diocese of Bolzano and was approved in 2005, allowing him to receive the title “Servant of God.” Now, Pope Francis’ recognition of his martyrdom has paved the way for his beatification.

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News About Saints

New Sainthood Causes Decrees for June 2016

VATICAN CITY – On June 14, Pope Francis received Cardinal Angelo Amato, sdb, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in a private audience. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate decrees regarding:

the martyrdom of the Servants of God JOSÉ ÁLVAREZ-BENAVIDES DE LA TORRE, priest of the diocese of Almería, and 114 COMPANIONS, priests. consecrated persons and laypersons killed in odium fidei between 1936 and 1939 in the religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War;

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God ANTONÍN CYRIL STOJAN, archbishop of Olomouc; born on 22 May 1851 in Beňov, Přerov (Czech Republic) and died on 29 September 1923 in Olomouc (Czech Republic);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God VICENTE GARRIDO PASTOR, priest of the archdiocese of Valencia and founder of the Secular Institute of the Workers of the Cross; born on 12 November 1896 in Valencia (Spain) and died there on 16 April 1975;

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God JOSÉ BARDOMIANO DE JESÚS GUZMÁN FIGUEROA (in religion: PABLO MARÍA), professed priest of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit and founder of the Eucharistic Missionaries of the Most Holy Trinity ; born on 25 September 1897 in Cuanamuco, Moroléon, Guanajuato (Mexico) and died on 17 February 1967 in Mexico City (Mexico);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God FILIPPO LO VERDE (in religion: LUIGI), professed cleric of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals; born on 20 December 1910 in Tebourba, Aryanah (Tunisia) and died on 12 February 1932 in Palermo (Italy);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God BERNARDO VAZ LOBO TEIXEIRA DE VASCONCELOS (in religion: BERNARDO OF THE ANNUNCIATION), professed cleric of the Order of Saint Benedict (Annunciation Congregation); born on 07 July 1902 in São Romão do Corgo, Braga (Portugal) and died on 04 July 1932 in Foz do Douro, Porto (Portugal);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God JOSEFA OLIVER MOLINA (in religion: MARÍA ELISEA), founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Virgin of Mount Carmel; born on 09 July 1869 in Benidoleig, Alicante (Spain) and died on 17 December 1931 in Orihuela, Alicante (Spain); and,

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God MARÍA DE JESÚS GUÍZAR BARRAGÁN (in religion: MARÍA OF THE MERCIFUL LOVE OF JESUS), founder of the Guadalupan Handmaids of Christ the Priest; born on 11 November 1899 in Cotija, Michoacan (Mexico) and died on 06 January 1973 in Tulpetlac, Estado de México (Mexico) .

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