Morristown, N.J. (August 1, 2013) – More than 50 faithful gathered at the College of Saint Elizabeth for the concluding retreat at this year's Summer Institute to reflect on the life of Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a 1923 graduate of the College and a Sister of Charity. The retreat entitled, "From Student to Sainthood: The Spiritual Journey of Sister Miriam Teresa," was co-directed by Sister Kathleen Flanagan, S.C., CSE professor of theology, and Rev. Richard Fragomeni, chair of the Department of Word and Worship at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
Summer Institute, sponsored by the Center for Ministry and Spirituality from July 8-20, draws hundreds to campus annually for spiritual courses, workshops, retreats, daily liturgy and prayer.
"Sister Miriam Teresa understood the role and importance of the Holy Spirit," said Sister Kathleen, who gave a synopsis of Sister Miriam Teresa's life starting with her birth in Bayonne in 1901.
Sister Miriam Teresa came from a religious family that stressed daily prayer and reflection, said Sister Kathleen, adding that she was baptized, confirmed and received Holy Communion in the Byzantine Ruthenian Church. That theological philosophy combined with her Roman Catholic faith were foundational throughout her life.
Soon after graduating from CSE, she entered the Sisters of Charity where she was directed by the Spiritual Director of Novices Father Benedict Bradley, O.S.B. to write meditations for fellow novices. He presented these writings to novices while keeping Sister Miriam Teresa's authorship a secret. It was only after her death in 1927 that the meditations were published as a volume, "Greater Perfection," in her name.
"There was something different about her understanding of God," said Sister Kathleen. Father Fragomeni concurred, saying, "Sister Miriam Teresa’s writings stress that through baptism we are all called to holiness ... the core of her life was this great mystical sense that the human and divine are interwoven through baptism."
The cause for beatification of Sister Miriam Teresa began in 1946, roughly 20 years after her death at age 26. Two criteria must be met for beatification: the candidate led a life of heroic sanctity and that a physical cure was obtained through her intercession. A second cure after beatification is required for canonization.
Most recently, a panel of theologians agreed that due to the prayer of Sister Miriam Teresa a blind boy's eyesight was restored, according to Sister Mary Canavan, vice postulator of the Sisters of Charity. That finding will now be reviewed by a panel of cardinals and bishops who are expected to rule by the end of this summer. It is hoped that Pope Francis will rule on the beatification by the end of 2013.
"We have the opportunity to bring forth a young woman and raise up a heroine who can point to the values of the church and present these in a time of contradictory ways of being," said Father Fragomeni. "It is our gift to be able to translate her piety into 21st century language."