Blessed Frances Siedliska
Sep 21, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long
Feast November 21
Birth: 1842 — Death: 1902
Beatified: 23 April 1989 by Pope John Paul II
Maria Franciszka Siedliska, also known by her religious name Maria of Jesus the Good Shepherd, was a Polish Roman Catholic professed religious and the founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Born on November 12, 1842, she was the eldest child of parents of Jewish descent. In childhood Siedliska was indifferent to the faith she was born into.
After meeting a local priest, a zealous Franciscan Capuchin priest, Leander Lendzian, she converted to Catholicism. She had met the priest in Warsaw at an event her grandfather was hosting when she was just twelve years of age. Siedliska wanted to pursue a religious vocation around 1860, but her parents strongly opposed the idea. Her father said he would rather see her dead than become a nun. In 1860 she moved with her parents to Switzerland, then went on to Prussia and to France. Her frail health led her parents to seek treatment for her in Murano and Cannes before the family returned to Poland in 1865.
Her father died when Maria Franceszka was 28 years old, giving her the freedom to pursue her dream of becoming a religious sister. She immediately joined the Third Order of Saint Francis in 1870 in Lublin. On April 12, 1873 with guidance from Father Lendzian she was encouraged to found an order inspired by the notion that "it was God's will that she should do so."
Siedliska was granted a private audience with Pope Pius IX on October 1, 1873 and "her idea" received his apostolic blessing; she founded her new congregation in Rome in December of 1875.
Maria made her solemn profession as a nun on May 1, 1884 and took the religious name of Maria of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The congregation spread at a rapid rate across Europe. Having established multiple congregations in the Old World, Sister Maria traveled across the Atlantic to conquer the New.
She arrived in New York Harbor on Independence Day, 1885, and was in Chicago to open schools just two days later. She then led eleven sisters to found a community in Des Plaines, Illinois. Seeming never to tire, Mother Maria remained actively involved in both America and Europe; in Rome she presided over religious exercises and held conferences and wrote letters of encouragement to more than 29 foundations. She travelled to Paris in 1892 and to London in 1895. Back in America, she opened a house in Pittsburgh in August 1895. She returned to Rome after extensive travels on October 16, 1902 and was never to leave again due to failing health.
Maria of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, died in Rome on November 21, 1902 from the acute peritonitis she had suffered for six days. On November 24, her remains were buried at Campo Verano, a cemetery in Rome, Italy, founded in the early nineteenth century. They were then relocated in July of 1953 to the order's motherhouse at 18 Via Machiavelli and again in September 1966 they were relocated to the new motherhouse of the order at 400, Via Nazareth.
Her order has numbered more than 1,500 religious and ranges from places like Israel to Australia. Her order received a papal decree of praise from Pope Leo XIII on September 1, 1896 and then definitive papal approval from Pope Pius XI on June 4, 1923.
Her beatification process opened in Rome on April 4, 1922 and later closed in January 1928; testimonies were collected from Paris, London and from Chicago on account of her extensive missions in these places.
Her writings received the approval of theologians in 1937 who determined that her spiritual writings did not go against any official doctrine. The formal introduction to the cause came under Pope Pius XII on February 5, 1941 and she received the title of Servant of God as a result. Pope John Paul II confirmed her life of heroic virtue and named her Venerable on April 29, 1980.
The miracle needed for beatification was investigated in Warsaw in a diocesan process February to June 1986. The C.C.S. validated this process in Rome on November 21, 1986 before a medical board approved it almost exactly a year later on November 18, 1987. Theologians also assented to this on April 15, 1988 as did the C.C.S. on July 5, 1988 before John Paul II gave the final approval needed for it on September 1, 1988. John Paul II beatified Siedliska on April 23, 1989.