Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu
Born 1914, Dorgali, Sardinia
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
Feast April 22
Patronage Ecumenism

Blessed Sister Maria Gabriella Sagheddu was a Trappist nun. She was born in Sardinia in 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.

Early life

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Sagghedu was born into a family of Sardinian shepherds in 1914, in the eastern costal town of Dorgali. She was said to be obstinate as a child, but was also known to be loyal and obedient.

Motivated to deepen her piety after the death of her 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. By this time, she had overcome her childhood stubbornness and become known for being gentle and thoughtful.

Later life

At about twenty or twenty-one, she decided to consecrate her life to God as a nun. She departed Sardinia for the Trappist monastery in Grottaferrata, near Rome, on the Italian mainland. The abbess of the monastery throughout Sagheddu's time there was Mother Pia Gullini, whose enthusiasm for ecumenism (a fruit of the efforts of Father Paul Couturier) was transmitted to Sagghedu. 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)"

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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. These sentiments caused her to attempt a full and complete response to God because of these gifts, finding peace in this complete response. Like most other Catholic figures known for holiness, she found rest from anxiety through a complete and trusting abandonment of herself to the will of God.

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, given the pan-Christian appeal of the Bible, the direct expression of Jesus' will for the unity of his disciples, the connection between Christian unity and successful evangelisation, and the affirmation by Jesus himself of his own divinity and unity with God the Father.

Sister Maria Gabriella saw Christian disunity as wounds to the body of Christ, an image often used to demonstrate the negative effects of sectarianism. Most likely resulting from her understanding of the Catholic theology relating to Jesus' crucifixion, she offered her life to God as a sacrifice for the unity of the Church. John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, says this:

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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. Only in this way, in fact, will that concern fully become part of the reality of our life and of the commitments we have taken on in the Church. 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. This is truly the cornerstone of all prayer: the total and unconditional offering of one's life to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. 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.


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Sagheddu was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on Sunday, January 25, 1983, 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.

Her body is located in the "Chapel of Unity" at the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of St. Joseph at Vitorchiano, near Viterbo. This is the current home of same monastery in which she had lived.

See also

External links

The information in this article was derived mainly from the following sources:

sv:Maria Gabriella Sagheddu

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