Maria Gabriella Sagheddu
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|Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu|
Maria Gabriella in Dorgalese dress
|Died||23 April 1939
Trappistine Monastery, Grottaferrata
|Beatified||25 January 1983, Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, Rome, Italy by John Paul II|
|Major shrine||Chapel of Unity, Monastery of O. L. of St. Joseph, Vitorchiano|
Blessed Sister Maria Gabriella Sagheddu was a Trappist nun. She was born in Sardinia 1914 and died of tuberculosis in the Trappist monastery of Grottaferrata in 1939. Because of her spiritual devotion to Christian unity, she was beatified by pope John Paul II in 1983.
Sagghedu was born into a family of Sardinian shepherds on March 17, 1914, in the eastern coastal town of Dorgali, the fifth in a family of eight children. In 1919, Maria lost her father.  She was said to be obstinate as a child, but was also known to be loyal and obedient. "She would say no but she would go at once", is said of her. At the end of her primary studies, she had to leave school to help out at home where she showed herself serious and endowed with a great sense of duty.
Motivated to deepen her piety after the death of her younger sister, she enrolled in a Catholic youth group called "Azione Cattolica" when she was eighteen. She began to catechise the local youth, help the aged, and intensify her prayer life. At first, she taught catechism with a stick in hand. But one day the priest took away the stick and replaced it with a note that said, "Arm yourself with patience, not a stick." Maria accepted the criticism and changed her methods.
At the age of twenty, she entered the Trappistine Monastery of Grottaferrata, near Rome, on the Italian mainland. The abbess of the monastery during Sagheddu's time there was Mother M. Pia Gullini, whose enthusiasm for ecumenism (a fruit of the efforts of Father Paul Couturier) was passed on to the community. Devoted to this cause, she offered herself as a spiritual sacrifice for the unity of the Christian church during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity of 1938. She then immediately fell ill with tuberculosis, and after suffering for fifteen months, died on April 23, 1939. Significantly, the Gospel reading for that Sunday included the words, "There will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)"
She was moved by a profound feeling of thanks to God for imparting his grace to her, and for calling her to unity with him. Like many other Catholic figures known for holiness, she found rest from anxiety through a complete and trusting abandonment of herself to the will of God.
John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, says this:
Praying for unity is not a matter reserved only to those who actually experience the lack of unity among Christians. In the deep personal dialogue which each of us must carry on with the Lord in prayer, concern for unity cannot be absent. ...It was in order to reaffirm this duty that I set before the faithful of the Catholic Church a model which I consider exemplary, the model of a Trappistine Sister, Blessed Maria Gabriella of Unity, whom I beatified on 25 January 1983. Sister Maria Gabriella, called by her vocation to be apart from the world, devoted her life to meditation and prayer centered on chapter seventeen of Saint John's Gospel, and offered her life for Christian unity. ...The example of Sister Maria Gabriella is instructive; it helps us to understand that there are no special times, situations or places of prayer for unity. Christ's prayer to the Father is offered as a model for everyone, always and everywhere.
Sr. Maria Gabriella was beatified on January 25th, 1983 in the Basilica of St. Paul's outside the Walls, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the same observance which motivated Sagheddu's decision to offer her life to God. By doing so, the Pope both affirmed the holiness of her actions and set her up as a role model for Christians to follow, especially as relates to ecumenism.
After her death, it was noted that in her Bible, Chapter 17 of St. John's Gospel had become yellowed and worn from being often read. In this chapter, Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of his disciples. Of particular significance are verses 11 and 21, in which Jesus prays "that they may be one, as we also are (John 17:11)," and "that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:21)." These verses are commonly used for a motto of the ecumenical movement. She offered her life to God as a sacrifice for the unity of the Church.
- "Maria Gabriella Sagheddu",Vitorchiano Trappists
- Dom Antoine Marie of the Abbey of St. Joseph of Clairval, "Bl. Maria Gabriella of Unity"
- Weddell, Sherry Anne, "Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu of Unity ", Catherine of Siena Institute
- John Paul II, "Ut Unim Sint", May 25, 1995, Catholic News Agency
- Santachiara, Maria Paola, "Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu", Becoming a Trappist
The information in this article was derived mainly from the following sources: