Maria Restituta

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Blessed Maria Restituta
Born 1 May 1894
Husovice near Brno, Austria-Hungary
Died 30 March 1943 (aged 48)
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 21 June 1998 by John Paul II
Feast 29 October

Sister Maria Restituta (1 May 1894, Husovice, Austria-Hungary (now part of Brno, Czech Republic) – 30 March 1943, Vienna, Austria) was a nun, nurse, who was martyred at the hands of the then national-socialist regime. Her birthname was Helena Kafka.[1]


Born on 1 May 1894, the sixth daughter of a shoemaker in Husovice in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire,[2] she was baptised Helena.[3] When she was two years old, her family moved to Vienna, the capital, and home to a Czech migrant community, where she grew up. She worked as a salesclerk and then as a nurse[4] at the Lainz public hospital.

While working as a nurse, she met the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity and entered their community in 1914, at the age of 20. She took the name Restituta after a 4th-century Christian martyr.[2] After the First World War, she began working as a nurse at the Mödling hospital, eventually becoming the leading surgical nurse.

The Mödling hospital was not spared the effects of the 1938 Anschluss. When the Nazis took over Austria, Sister Restituta was very vocal in her opposition to the new regime. "A Viennese cannot keep her mouth shut", she said.[3] When a new hospital wing was constructed, Sister Restituta hung a crucifix in every room. The Nazis demanded the crosses be taken down and the sister refused.[4] The Nazis demanded that the crosses be removed, threatening Sr Restituta's dismissal. The crucifixes were not removed, nor was Sr Restituta, since her community said they could not replace her.[3]

She was denounced by a doctor who fanatically supported the Nazis. On Ash Wednesday 1942 (18 February of that year), after coming out of the operating theatre Sr. Mary Restituta was arrested by the Gestapo and accused not only of hanging the crosses but also of having written a poem mocking Hitler.[3] On 29 October 1942 she was sentenced to death by the guillotine by the Volksgerichtshof for "favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason". The Nazis offered her freedom if she would abandon the Franciscan sisters, but she refused.[2] When a request for clemency reached the desk of Martin Bormann, a high ranking Nazi official, he replied that her execution would provide “effective intimidation” for others who might want to resist the Nazis.[4] She spent the rest of her days in prison caring for other prisoners. She was beheaded on 30 March 1943.[2] She was 48 years old.


On 21 June 1998, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II's visit to Vienna, Sister Maria Restituta was beatified.

Blessed Maria Restituta, the only Sister to be condemned to death under the national-socialist regime, was commemorated on the evening of 4 March 2013, in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island, with a liturgy of the word at which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided. During the rite the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to the Basilica a small cross which Maria Restituta carried on the belt of her habit. The relic was placed in the chapel which remembers the martyrs of nationalist socialism.[5]

She was a lady who, with a renewing strength, was able to give an example of freedom of expression and of responsibility of the individual conscience – even in difficult circumstances, animated by a virtue that is at times inconvenient: courage.[5] "It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts", the religious wrote in a letter from prison.[5]

In her honour, the western half of Weyprechtgasse, a lane running before Mödling hospital, has been named Schwester-Maria-Restituta-Gasse. Also in her native Husovice (nowadays a NE suburb of Brno) there is a park named in her honour: Park Marie Restituty.


Birth name was Elena Kafka [6]

  1. ^ Birthname could also have been Helene Kafka or Helena Kafková
  2. ^ a b c d "Blessed Maria Restituta Kafka", Catholic News Agency
  3. ^ a b c d "Biographies of Blesseds, L'Osservatore Romano, June 24 1998
  4. ^ a b c "Heroes of the Holocaust:Austria", Catholic Heritage Curricula
  5. ^ a b c "The Cross of Christ versus the swastika of Hitler", L'Osservatore Romano, March 6, 2103
  6. ^

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