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Saints in the News: January 2021

News from Poland, Nigeria, Louisiana, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Left: Sr. Wanda Boniszewska (1907-2003). (Image: CNA/; right: Blessed Cyprain Micheal Iwene Tansi (Image: Jennifer Udoka Igboanugo/Wikipedia)

VILNIUS—The Church has opened the beatification cause of Sr. Wanda Boniszewska, a Polish nun who was a reputed stigmatist and was tortured by Stalin’s secret police. Being a stigmatist means someone either literally or mystically bore the wounds of Christ’s Passion.

Boniszewska began to have mystical experiences in 1921 that lasted over the next six decades. The Soviet secret police arrested her in 1950. News reports say she was seized in connection with the arrest of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Antoni Ząbek, who served her community and was accused of being “a Vatican spy seeking to undermine the Soviet Union.”

Beaten and tortured, the Soviets ultimately sentenced her to 10 years. She spent much of that time in hospital recuperating not only from her torture but from blood loss due to her stigmata.

A fellow religious claimed “Boniszewska inspired conversions among those who came into contact with her, including medical personnel and even her interrogators.”

Sister died in 2003.

LAGOS—Because Nigeria is the African nation with the highest number of Catholics and other Christians on the continent, believers there hope to have more saints created from amongst the faithful who have gone to their rewards.

So far, Bl. Cyprian Iwene Tansi is the only Nigerian close to canonization.

Another possibility is the late “14-year old Vivian Ogu, who was killed by armed robbers, who attempted to rape her.” The site of her martyrdom for chastity has become a place of pilgrimage. Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, has said “the process of Ogu’s sainthood is already in motion.”

There is also the Servant of God Bishop Gabriel Gonsum Ganaka, who died in 1999 at age 62, and whose cause the Diocese of Jos, Nigeria, opened in 2014.

Sources close to the cause say it is receiving help from the United States, mostly likely in the form of economic aid.

SHREVEPORT, La.—According to the Shreveport Times, the Diocese of Shreveport in northern Louisiana has opened the beatification cause of five priests who died during a yellow fever epidemic in the city in 1873.

The paper reports, “The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has reviewed their stories and has granted the Diocese of Shreveport permission to begin the process of gathering evidence of the sanctity of the lives and the cult of devotion to Father Jean Pierre, Father Isidore A. Quemerais, Father Jean-Marie Biler, Father Louis Gergaud and Father Francois LeVezouet.

It also notes, “There has never been any sainthood cause from northern Louisiana.” There are at least four sainthood causes in southern Louisiana, including that of Ven. Henriette Delille.

According to Fr. Peter Mangum, rector of the diocesan cathedral, “In 1873, [these five priests] very willingly went into a quarantined area knowing that they would die. They didn’t understand anything about the yellow fever at the time. They chose to make a free offering of their lives. They went into this quarantined area in order to help the citizens of Shreveport.”

ERBIL, Iraq—When Pope Francis visits Iraq later this year, local Catholics hope it will give a boost to the beatification causes of Father Ragheed Ganni and his three deacons, Bishop Faraj Rahho, Father Poulis Iskander, Pastor Mundhir al-Saqqa, Father Yousif Abboudi, Tha’ir Sa’ad Abdulahad Abdul, Father Wasim Sabih Yousif al-Qas. All were martyred in recent years by ISIS.

Archbishop Bashar M. Warda of the Chaldean Diocese in Erbil noted recently, “We are a martyr Church and ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.’”

YOUHANABAD, Pakistan—When a suicide bomber tried to enter a packed St. John Catholic Church in this Christian enclave inside northeast Pakistan’s city of Lahore, local youth Akash Bashir prevented him from doing so. He lost his life, however, in the process.

Since then his family has mounted a campaign of prayer and publicity to see the beatification cause start for this young man who had volunteered to join his parish’s security guards. Security details are something many Pakistani parishes have formed in the wake of the 2013 suicide bomb attack at the Anglican All Saints Church in Peshawar City.

Death threats had been coming for months to Bashir and his fellow students. These would come in the form of letters or burial shrouds in their mailboxes.

“I will die but I will not let you enter the church” were Bashir’s last words to the terrorist.

According to the youth’s mother, local churches of all denominations have become even more full since the attack that killed her son.

His mother notes, “I have mixed feelings passing Akash’s memorial in front of St. John Church. He was a part of my heart. But our happiness is greater than our grief. He did not die of a drug addiction or because of an accident. He was a simple boy who died in the path of the Lord and saved the priest and worshipers. People love him. Akash is already our saint.”

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About BK O'Neel 29 Articles
BK O’Neel writes from Pennsylvania.

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