Blessed Elizabeth Hesselblad, Swedish and a convert from Lutheranism, baptized into the Reform Church and converted to the Catholic faith. She was mother superior at the Motherhouse in Piazza Farnese during the Second World War and so she worked so hard to restore the order in Italy and Sweden, saved the lives of over 60 people by hiding the Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War.
Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession earlier this week, she will be canonized next year. St John Paul II beatified her in Rome in 2000.
Born in Sweden in 1870 , she immigrated to the US in 1886 to work and help support her family back home. She worked as a Nurse for sometime and then converted to Catholicism in 1902. Moving to Rome, she dedicated her life and her religious order to prayer and work for the attainment of Christian unity.
In 1931,she received control of the House of St Bridget in Rome and established a new congregation in England,she refounded the Order of the Most Holy Savior of St Bridget, better known as the Bridgettines.
The hiding of dozens of people at the motherhouse was recounted by an Italian Jew, Piero Piperno, as part of his testimony on behalf of another Bridgettine, Brighton-born Mother Mary Richard Beauchamp Hambrough, whose Cause was opened five years ago.
“We were three families, 13 in all. We stayed in three rooms, all the men in one, except an uncle who slept in a dark, small room with no windows, and another two for the women. In the beginning we all ate in one room by ourselves.” Mr Piperno told the Times newspaper. The nuns did not discriminate between the people they helped, he said, and took in Fascist refugees as well as Jews.
“Something which bothered me back then, but which I now understand, was that the nuns that helped us also helped Fascist families. There was great solidarity because everybody was suffering and everybody finally realized we were all in the same boat. “ he added.
Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad was succeeded by Mother Riccarda as Mother Superior at the order’s Rome Motherhouse
The Pope has also signed decrees recognizing the miracles needed for the beatifications of several other men and women whose faith stood the test of time.