Newark, N.J., Oct 8, 2014 / 09:46 am .- Michael Mencer should have been blind for 50 years by now.
As a third grader, Mencer was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration and was given six months before he would completely lose his sight. Shortly after receiving a holy card and relic of Sister Miriam Teresa from his teacher, a sister of her order, his sight was inexplicably cured.
This miracle was a key component in the cause for canonization of Sr. Miriam Teresa, who became the first person to be beatified on American soil on Oct. 4 at a Mass in Newark, N.J. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson presided over the Mass, and noted how God continues to raise up saints even in difficult times.
“The 20th century was a time of extremes. No year passed without conflict, turmoil and devastation,” Bishop Paterson said. “….(but) God was secretly at work.”
“He was raising up Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a young girl of the Ruthenian rite, to be a light along our Christian journey,” Bishop Serratelli said. “Sr. Miriam belongs to that circle of chosen souls whom God himself elects for special graces, not merely for themselves, but for all his people.”
Sr. Miriam was the last of seven children born to Slovakian immigrants Alexander and Johanna Demjanovich. A stellar student, Miriam Teresa delivered the salutatory address at her high school graduation and earned a Bachelor of Literature degree summa cum laude from College of Saint Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.
She waited to enter religious life in order to care for her ailing parents. After her father’s death, Miriam Teresa entered the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station in February 1925, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
During her time in the convent, she served as a teacher at the Academy of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station and wrote short plays, letters, poems and part of her autobiography. At the request of her spiritual director, Fr. Benedict Bradley, O.S.B., she wrote the conferences she gave to the novices.
“I believed that she enjoyed extraordinary lights, and I knew that she was living an exemplary life…I thought that one day she would be ranked among the saints of God, and I felt it was incumbent upon me to utilize whatever might contribute to an appreciation of her merits after her death,” Fr. Bradley once said, according to the sisters.
Bishop Serratelli noted that Sr. Miriam once said: “The saints did but one thing – the will of God. But they did it with all their might.”
Many noticed this saint-like quality in Sr. Miriam’s own life as well.
“Whether absorbed in prayer, teaching in the classroom, scrubbing floors or, in obedience to her confessor, writing the spiritual conferences now known as The Greater Perfection, she was careful never to offend God and to serve him by knowing and doing his will,” the bishop said. “Filled with the knowledge of Sacred Scripture, she anticipated Vatican II’s emphasis on the Word of God as the source of authentic spirituality.”
Both in the convent and throughout her life, Sr. Miriam received many mystical visions and insights, including visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a vision of St. Therese of Lisieux, to whom she had a special devotion, walking with her on her college campus.
Sr. Miriam also spoke about the universal call to holiness, even before it was emphasized by the Second Vatican Council. She was known for saying: “The imitation of Christ in the lives of saints is always possible and compatible with every state of life.”
Her time as a sister was to be quite short. After completing the novitiate and making final vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in the hospital, the young sister died a few weeks later of a burst appendix at the age of 26.
Her cause for canonization was officially opened in 1945, and began to pick up steam after a letter was recovered in 1998 from Barbara Mencer, whose son Michael was cured of his blindness through the intercession of Sr. Miriam Teresa.
This letter, along with recovered medical records, helped provide the necessary evidence for the Vatican to approve the first of two miracles needed to confirm her sainthood. Blessed Miriam Teresa is among just a small list of other American saints and blesseds, including St. Frances Cabrini, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann to name a few.
Sr. Miriam’s beatification recognizes her total commitment to Christ and is a gift for the whole Church today, Bishop Serratelli said.
“In our secularized age that shuns solicitude and silence, God is giving us, from among those who leave the world to be with Christ, a new Blessed who was, in the words spoken at her death, a living ‘monstrance that silently showed forth Our Lord to all that passed by.’”
“Blessed Miriam Teresa, pray for us!”