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  • Apr
  • 12

Sisters overjoyed at approved miracle that paves way for beatification

Posted By April 12, 2013 | 11:17 am | Featured Article #2
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) -- Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, will be beatified Nov. 10 in Paderborn, Germany, according to the order's Colorado Springs motherhouse.

By Veronica Ambuul
Catholic News Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) — Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, will be beatified Nov. 10 in Paderborn, Germany, according to the order’s Colorado Springs motherhouse.
The announcement follows the Vatican’s recognition of a miracle attributed to her intercession that occurred in Colorado Springs nearly 15 years ago.
“We are so excited and a bit shocked and overwhelmed,” said Sister Nadine Heimann, head of the order’s Western province, which is based at Mount St. Francis in Colorado Springs. “We’ve been eagerly awaiting this news.”
In 1999, two members of the order living at Mount St. Francis, Sister Margaret Mary Preister and the late Sister Evangeline Spenner, prayed a novena to Mother Maria Theresia asking her intercession in the healing of 4-year-old Luke Burgie.
The boy had been suffering from severe gastrointestinal symptoms for weeks and was in so much pain that all he remembers is rolling around on the floor, his mother, Jan Burgie told The Colorado Catholic Herald in 2010 when the foundress was declared “venerable.”
Luke’s illness stopped suddenly Feb. 22, 1999 — a phenomenon that doctors could not explain. They told his mother that, if his return to health had been from purely natural causes, it would have been more gradual.
The healing was reported to the Vatican in 2001, prompting an investigation that included interviewing Luke’s doctors. Luke has remained healthy since then, Jan Burgie said.
She added that the fact that her son’s healing was miraculous would seem to be confirmed by the fact that Sister Evangeline died Oct. 18, 2005 — the feast of St. Luke. Sister Margaret Mary is still living at Mount St. Francis.
“I share the joy of our Franciscan sisters that their foundress, Mother Bonzel, will be beatified. It’s wonderful to know that she has been so close to us in her intercessory prayer,” Colorado Springs Bishop Michael J. Sheridan told the Herald April 1.
In general, before sainthood is declared, the church must confirm two miracles attributed to the intercession of the candidate. The first miracle is needed for beatification and the second for canonization.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration currently have four provinces in the U.S., a mission in Brazil and the generalate in Olpe.
In Colorado, the nuns founded St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, which later merged with Penrose Hospital to form Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.
Mother Maria Theresia was born Sept. 17, 1830, in Olpe, Germany. She founded the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Olpe in 1863. She sought to combine the contemplative and active religious life through an unfailing commitment to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the works of mercy in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Mother Maria Theresia died Feb.6, 1905.
In 1875, Mother Maria Theresia sent six members of the order to the United States, where they established hospitals, schools and other institutions. The nuns landed in New York Dec. 12, 1875, and continued on to Lafayette, Ind., where they established a hospital.
Today, the sisters operate 14 hospitals across the Midwest. Two are in Indiana — Franciscan St. Francis Health facilities in Indianapolis and Mooresville.
The motherhouse of the sisters who minister in central and southern Indiana is now in Mishawaka, Ind., in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
Like their counterparts in Colorado, the sisters in Indiana were overjoyed with the news their foundress will be beatified later this year.
For various reasons, Franciscan Sister M. Angela Mellady was pleased at the timing of the decree of a miracle in Mother Maria Theresia’s cause. She also was happy it was the first miracle recognized by Pope Francis, who took the name of the order’s ultimate spiritual father, St. Francis of Assisi.
“The sisters have prayed for this special gift for 52 years,” she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. “As we approached 2013, our jubilee celebration of 150 years as a congregation, we thought, ‘What a special joy it would be to have Mother Maria Theresia beatified during this jubilee year which has also been declared the Year of Faith by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. And for this we are most grateful.”
Franciscan Sister M. Marlene Shapley entered the community in 1965, just four years after they started promoting the cause of their foundress.
The regional vice president of mission integration for Franciscan St. Francis Health in Indianapolis, Mooresville and Carmel, Ind., Sister Marlene said she has prayed for the beatification of her community’s foundress every day over the course of her 48 years in the community.
When she had been a sister for 25 years, she visited her community’s motherhouse in Germany and prayed at the tomb of Mother Maria Theresia.
“We have a medal with Mother’s picture on it,” Sister Marlene said. “I put my medal on her grave, and I wear that medal every day, hoping that she will keep me faithful to the church and our rule and constitution, faithful to what she intended for us. I truly believe that my vocation is a gift from God and have the responsibility to nurture that vocation every day.”
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Ambuul is assistant editor of The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese. Contributing to this story was Sean Gallagher, a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.