Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France. Her parents were very poor and she herself was in poor health. One Thursday, February 11, 1858, when she was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, a very beautiful Lady appeared to her above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle. The beautiful Lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary. She appeared to Bernadette seventeen other times and spoke with her. She told Bernadette that she should pray for sinners, do penance and have a chapel built there in her honour. Many people did not believe Bernadette when she spoke of her vision. She had to suffer much. But one day Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud.
As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The next day it continued to grow larger and larger. Many miracles happened when people began to use this water. When Bernadette was older, she became a nun. She was always very humble. More than anything else, she desired not to be praised. Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favoured by the Blessed Mother. "How can I?" she answered quickly. "The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant." Bernadette died on 16th April 1879
"I shall spend every moment loving. One who loves does not notice her trials; or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them."
He was a Polish priest who died as prisoner 1670 in Auschwitz, on August 14, 1941. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected ten others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape.
One of the ten selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry: "My wife! My children! I will never see them again!" On hearing this, Father Kolbe stepped forward and asked to die in his place - his request was granted.
As the ten condemned men were led off to the death block of Building 13, Father Kolbe supported a fellow prisoner who could hardly walk. No one would emerge alive - Father Kolbe was the last to die.
"God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar."
St Maximiliam Kolbe
St Therese of Lisieux
Therese Martin was the last of nine children born to Louis and Zelie Martin on January 2, 1873, in Alencon, France. However, only five of these children lived to reach adulthood. Precocious and sensitive, Therese needed much attention. Her mother died when she was 4 years old. As a result, her father and sisters babied young Therese. She had a spirit that wanted everything.
At the age of 14, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, she was gifted with great intimacy with God. Through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in his merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: "My God, I love you.”
"Jesus needs neither books nor Doctors of Divinity in order to instruct souls; He, the Doctor of Doctors, He teaches without noise of words."
St Therese of Lisieux
St John Bosco
St John Bosco is remembered as a man who dedicated his life to the service of abandoned young people. Over 150 years ago he challenged the way young people were treated in the desperate poverty that existed at that time in the city of Turin, Italy. He was driven by first-hand experience of the effects of dreadful poverty and hunger on the young people he came across and was determined to change their condition. Others were inspired to follow him in responding to the needs of the young. John Bosco created an order in the Catholic Church, called the Salesians.
"When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: he trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel."
St. John Bosco
Oscar Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, a town in the mountainous east of El Salvador, on 15 August 1917. He was the second of seven children. When he was thirteen he declared a vocation to the priesthood. In February 1977, Oscar Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador.
As Archbishop of San Salvador, Father Romero was a source of strength and hope for the poor and for the oppressed of his country, working with and for them, taking their struggles as his own. Romero wrote and spoke passionately and publicly of the need for Christians to work for justice and was frequently faced with threat and danger from those who opposed his ideas. On March 24, 1980, while celebrating the Eucharist, Archbishop Romero was shot and killed at the altar by a death squad assassin, paying the highest price for the commitment about which he spoke so often and so eloquently. Because of his courageous stand for justice, he became a martyr not only for poor Salvadorians but for all struggling to overcome oppression and poverty.
Today, his sermons are read as powerful reminders of Christians' obligation to fight for a just society. Shortly before he was murdered, Romero said: "It is my hope that my blood will be the seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality" The example of Romero's courageous life and ultimately death continue to inspire those who struggle for human dignity and justice.
"It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work"
St Vincent de Paul
Vincent was born on 24th April 1581 into a poor peasant family near Ranquine, Gascony near Dax, southwest France. Vincent was a very intelligent young man. He spent four years with the Franciscan Friars where he received his education. He began his divinity studies in 1596 at the University of Toulouse. He was ordained a priest at the age of twenty.
Captured by Turkish pirates, he was taken to Tunis and was sold into slavery. He was freed in 1607 after converting one of his owners to Christianity.
He returned to France and became parish priest near Paris where he started an organisation to help the poor. His work also included nursing the sick and helping find jobs for the unemployed. He spent the rest of his life taking care of the poor and abandoned. He died on 27th September 1660 in Paris.
"Compassionate God, open our hearts, unclench our hands, free our lips, unblock our ears, open our eyes, enable us to see your face in all who we meet today."
St Vincent de Paul
Cardinal Basil Hume
Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1923 to a Scottish father and French Catholic mother, Hume joined Ampleforth monastery in 1941, taking the name Basil, and made his solemn vows in 1945. He studied in Oxford and Frieburg and was ordained in 1950. Returning to Ampleforth, he became assistant priest in the village and a teacher in the school, eventually becoming head of modern languages and school rugby coach. He also taught dogmatic theology to the monks in training.
He formed friendships and connections with people from other denominations, always believing that the love of God was central to religion and to solving conflicts between individuals.
He was made a Cardinal in 1976. Throughout his life he remained a humble and approachable man, preferring to wear a monk's habit instead of his Cardinal's robes. So adept was he at keeping the peace that he promoted the position of Roman Catholics in Britain from one of slight suspicion to one of unthinking acceptance. The Queen rewarded his remarkable achievements shortly before his death in 1999 with the Order of Merit.
"Moral choices do not depend on personal preference and private decision but on right reason and, I would add, divine order."
Cardinal Basil Hume
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, on 26th August 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. She knew she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months of training in Dublin she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary's High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.
Although she had no funds, she started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work.
On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Pope to start her own order, "The Missionaries of Charity", whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after.
The Society of Missionaries has spread all over the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. They provide effective help to the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics and famine as well as supporting refugees. The order also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the 'shut-in', alcoholics, homeless, and AIDS sufferers.
Mother Teresa's work has been recognised and acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions. Mother Teresa died on 5th September 1997.
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody: I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."