As we celebrate women’s history month, in a special way we turn to saintly women who paved the way to illustrate the role of women within the Church and who answered God’s call perfectly in discovering their vocations as women.
Saint John Paul the Great, in his “Letter to Women”, wrote, “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood, you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”
Looking at the lives of these women, may we express gratitude to all the women who have beautifully shared glimpses of the Father’s love in our lives.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Born in Poland to a large Jewish family in 1891, Edith Stein was a philosopher who studied phenomenology. After struggling with her faith in God, Edith became an atheist before converting to Catholicism in 1922. Just one decade later, she entered a Carmel in Cologne, taking the name Teresa Benedicta. In the wake of World War II, she was sent to a Carmel in Holland, but was then captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chambers in 1942. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is known for her writings on the role of women in the Catholic Church, specifically laid out in her Essays on Women. She particularly emphasizes the “intrinsic feminine value” which women add to every aspect of daily life. In a unique way, she saw a woman’s vocation as all-encompassing. She wrote, “Every profession in which a woman’s soul comes into its own and which can be formed by a woman’s soul is an authentic woman’s profession.” St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is one of the patron saints of Europe, of converted Jews, and of World Youth Day; her feast is Aug. 9.
St. Josephine Bakhita
A native of Sudan and born in 1869, Josephine lived a happy life as her uncle was the tribe chief of her village. But at a young age, she was captured by slave traders and sold into slavery and resold more than 12 times. Many times she suffered abuse at the hands of her owners. Eventually, she was given to a family in Italy as a gift. During a period when the family left the country, they kept her in the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. It was with the religious women that she learned about God, ultimately discerning a call to enter religious life. She entered the Canossian Daughters of Charity in 1893. Her life represents the healing that is found in Christ's love. St. Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and human-trafficking survivors, and her feast day is Feb. 8.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Born in the time of the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in a prominent family in New York and was devoted to her Bible. At the age of 20, she fell in love and married William Seton. However, circumstances changed quickly as her family suffered greatly at the loss of family members and as her husband’s health declined. In attempt to save her husband’s life, she moved her family to Italy. However, her husband died of tuberculosis. Eventually, Elizabeth became Catholic in 1805. Back in America, Elizabeth worked with other women to establish a religious sisterhood which then opened the first free all-girls Catholic school. Her order became the Sisters of Charity, and her school paved the way for Catholic education for women. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is the patron saint of those who have lost their children and spouses, and her feast day is Jan. 4.
All you holy women, pray for us!