|Blessed Elizabeth Hesselblad
4 June 1870|
Fåglavik, Västra Götaland County, Sweden
|Died||24 April 1957
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||9 April 2000, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II|
Blessed Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, O.Ss.S. (4 June 1870 – 24 April 1957), was a Swedish nurse who was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church and founded a new form of life of the Bridgettines known as the Bridgettine Sisters.
Pope John Paul II beatified her on 9 April 2000 and Pope Francis approved her canonization in late 2015; the canonization date is still to be determined and is likely to be celebrated some time in 2016.
Early life and conversion
By 1886, she had to work to help them make ends meet. At first she looked for work in Sweden, but eventually emigrated to the United States of America in 1888, where she studied nursing at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. While there, she did home nursing, which brought her into contact with the Catholic faith of many of the poor for whom she cared. She developed an interest in that faith, and on 15 August 1902 she received conditional baptism from a Jesuit priest, Giovanni Hagen, in the chapel of the Convent of the Visitation in Washington, D.C.
As a religious
Hesselblad then made a pilgrimage to Rome, where she received the sacrament of Confirmation. She also visited the House of St. Bridget of Sweden there, where the medieval saint had spent the last half of her life, which made a deep impression upon her. At that point she felt called to dedicate her life to the work of Christian unity. She returned to New York briefly, only to go back to Rome, where, on 25 March 1904, she was welcomed as a guest by the nuns of the Carmelite monastery housed there. She petitioned the Holy See to be able to make religious vows under the Rule of the Order which Brigid had founded, and had been a prominent presence in the Church in Sweden before the Protestant Reformation had taken hold there. She received special permission for this from Pope Pius X in 1906, at which time she assumed the Bridgettine religious habit, including its distinctive element of a silver crown.
Hesselblad attempted to revive interest in the Order and its founder in both Sweden and Rome. Her proposal to establish a monastery of the Order on the site where Bridget had lived received no volunteers from the few monasteries of the Order still in existence. Giving up on the intention of following the established way of life in the Order, she proposed one which included the care of the sick. To this end she was joined by three young women from England, whom she received on 9 November 1911, with which the new congregation was established. Their particular mission was to pray and work, especially for the unity of Scandinavian Christians with the Catholic Church.
Hesselblad returned to her homeland of Sweden in 1923, where she was able to establish a community in Djursholm, while she worked nursing the sick poor. The new congregation was established in England in 1931. That same year, Hesselblad obtained the House of St. Bridget in Rome for her new congregation. A foundation was made in India in 1937 which drew many new members.
Hesselblad also worked at efforts at inter-religious dialogue and against racism, and became known as "the second Bridget".
She died in Rome on 24 April 1957.
Process and beatification
The sainthood process commenced in Rome in 1987 and concluded its work in 1990. During this period the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the cause and her being granted the title of Servant of God on 4 February 1988.
The diocesan process was ratified on 21 June 1991 which allowed for the submission of the Positio to Rome for further investigation. Pope John Paul II proclaimed her to be Venerable on 26 March 1999 after he recognized that she had lived a model Christian life of heroic virtue.
The miracle requested for her beatification was investigated in 1996 and received ratification on 17 October 1998. The pope approved it in 2000 allowing for her beatification on the following 9 April 2000.
On 14 December 2015, Pope Francis approved the second miracle attributed to her which would allow for her future canonization set for 2016; it must be decided at an ordinary consistory of cardinals.
- Agneta af Jochnick Östborn: For Sweden, I have given God my life! Elisabeth Hesselblads calling and Birgittine mission in Sweden, Artos, Skellefteå 1999.
- Called to Holiness: Blessed Elizabeth Hasselblad, Catholica, Vejbystrand 2000.
- Lars Cavallin: "Mother Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad OSsS from Fåglavik – pioneer of modern monastic life in Sweden" in Johnny Hagberg (editor): Monasteries and Monastic Life in the Medieval Diocese of Skara, Skara County Historical Society 2007.
- Marguerite Tjäder: Mutter Elisabeth – Die neue Blüte des Ordens saints Birgitta . EOS-Verlag, Sankt Ottilien 2002, ISBN 3-8306-7116-4.
- J. Berdonces, Hesselblad, Maria Elisabeth, in Dictionary of the institutes of perfection, vol. IV, Pauline Editions, Milan, 1977, coll. From 1530 to 1531.
- Mark Greaves, Swedish Sister who hid Jews from the Nazis is to be canonised, Catholic Herald, 18 December 2015. Accessed 19 December 2015.
- "Homily by Pope John Paul II at the beatification of Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad". Vatican News Service.
- "Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad". Saints.SPQN.com.
- The Bridgettine Order – UK History. Accessed 19 December 2015.
- "Righteous Among the Nations Honored by Yad Vashem" (PDF). Yad Vashem.
- Bridgettine Sisters, Maryvale Institute. Accessed 19 December 2015.
- Elizabeth Hesselblad – her activity to save Jews' lives during the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem website