Born: June 4th, 1870
Died: Apr. 24th, 1957
FEast: June 4th
The Bridgettines, Nursing, oppressed people
St. Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad
Mary Elizabeth was born in Sweden as the fifth of thirteen children. She and her family moved around a lot when she was young, as they were trying to make ends meet.
In 1888, Mary gave up trying to find work in Sweden and immigrated to the United States where she studied nursing at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, New York City. Many of the sick patients she cared for on her home visits were Catholic, and it was from then that she learned about the faith. She was very interested in it, and was baptized in 1902. She headed back to Europe not long after, and was Confirmed while on a pilgrimage to Rome. She also visited St. Bridget of Sweden’s house, and was extremely moved when hearing her story.
She tried to return to the United Stated but had very poor health by then, so she went back to Rome. She was welcomed by the Carmelite sisters of St. Bridget, but fell seriously ill and took a long time recovering. When she did, she was received fully into the Bridgettine Order, which had not really existed since the Protestant Reformation, and so she needed permission from the Pope to revive it.
Mary did not have an easy time of reviving this Order in either Sweden, or Rome, however. She tried many times and visited many other monasteries, hoping to establish her own. Finally, in 1911, she received three women interested in the Order. She was also then able to establish a community in Sweden, where she cared for the sick. She then established a congregation in England, Rome, and then India, receiving official approval in 1940.
During World War II, Mary Elizabeth performed some of her most important work. She was dedicated to improving communications between Christians and non-Christians - having a great respect for religious freedom - and she worked tirelessly on behalf of impoverished communities as well as groups that suffered from the prevalent racial laws. She saved around 60 Jewish families from Nazi persecution by hiding them in her own home.
She passed away after her health began to decline in 1957, and was canonized in 2016.
wHAT wOULD sHE CARE ABOUT TODAY?
Your curiosity led you on a much different journey than you may have expected for your life. It also made you more open, more loving, and more deeply inspired. It convinced you that anything is possible. Help us to be curious as you were, and always hopeful. Amen.
Mary is portrayed here with her nurse's stethoscope and nametag. In addition, the crest of Her Bridgettine Order is on her sweatshirt. the color scheme of blue and yellow is symbolic of the colors in the flag of her beloved Sweden. Her bangs represent the distinctive shape of the crown that the order wears, and She has messy hair since a story is told that her curls were always slipping out from under her habit! Her earrings are also stars of David to represent the Jewish families she rescued.