Sister Blandina

What kind of person would have the courage to argue with Billy the Kid not to scalp four doctors’ heads, threaten to drop the dead on a County Commissioners doorstep if not paid the full $30 a coffin, intercept human trafficking, delve to comment on the looseness of Catholic morals and piety in 1885, and argue about the ineffective use of government funds to “civilize the Red Man”?

A minute Italian nun, Sister Blandina (Maria Rosa, 1850-1941) did all of this as she blazed the Santa Fe Trail (Trail of the Holy Faith).

2019 certainly marks the time to acknowledge the public rise of the inherent dignity of women….we see it in politics, college campuses, and in the heads of homes. Historically, there was a tacit understanding of the power women held in societies but little was ever annotated. I revel when I find first-hand accounts of women’s journeys in faith.

My intention is to share them with you and hopefully inspire or fortify you.

“At the End of the Santa Fe Trail” chronicles the daily life of this Sister of Charity, from her charge from Stuebenville, Ohio to her journey to Trinidad, Colorado in 1872. Along the way, she was doubted by fellow religious, threatened because she was a woman, and came face to face with Chief Geronimo.

While her efforts to evangelize, to serve the homeless, build schools, build hospitals were all noted, it is probably the best historical document on what life was really like on the frontier.

“Do what presents itself and never omit anything because of hardship or repugnance.”

This was her personal motto and what probably strengthened her in times when she was begging for money at railroad and mining camps. Much of her fundraising was to care for indigent patients in a St. Vincent Hospital and St. Vincent Children’s in Albuquerque.

What most don’t realize is that most of the Catholic healthcare system stands on the shoulders of sisters of various orders, sometimes just a handful at a time, who opened modest buildings as hospitals. As late as 1900, Sister Blandina was still raising money for St. Joseph’s Hospital in NM as well.

‘Do what presents itself’ is a lot like saying be aware of what God puts at your feet….His will will be done.

My modest journey living across the country has been marred with hardships, not necessarily negotiating with Apaches, per se, but with today’s trivial entrapments. Call on those gifts that lie buried beneath our garbs of success, for today we are equipped to answer God’s will.

May we emulate the fortitude of Sister Blandina as she ministered to the saloons of the wild west. Perhaps our days do not feel much different.

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Liz Banko

Liz Banko

Liz is a native New Yorker has found herself living in a number of states with husband, Peter, of 25 years for their commitment to Catholic healthcare.

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