|Paul Joseph Nardini|
|Father of the Poor|
|Born||July 25, 1821, Germersheim, Germany|
|Died||January 27, 1862, Pirmasens, Germany|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||26 June 2006, Speyer, Germany by Pope Benedict XVI|
He was born at Germersheim, in Germany, to Margaret Lichtenberger, a single mother. She gave him the name Paul Joseph Lichtenberger at birth. Margaret was unemployed and thus not able to personally provide for herself and her son. She turned her son over to her paternal aunt, Maria Barbara, and her husband Anton Nardini. This couple adopted him, gave him their own surname, and raised him as they would their own son.
Nardini displayed extraordinary diligence in his studies, and made excellent grades. In so doing, he drew the attention of several adults. After he completed grammar school, it became clear that Paul was interested in the priesthood, and the local bishop Johannes von Geissel, had him admitted to the seminary at Speyer. There, Nardini studied philosophy from 1841 through 1843. Upon completing his philosophy studies, he was sent to the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich by bishop Nikolaus von Weis. There, Nardini obtained a degree in theology, and graduated summa cum laude.
On June 5, 1846, he received minor orders. The next day, he was ordained a subdeacon. He was sent back to Speyer on the completion of his studies, and was ordained a deacon on August 11. The following August, he was ordained to be a priest in the cathedral.
In his first years in the priesthood, Nardini served as the vicar of a parish in Frankenthal, regent of another parish in Geinsheim, and prefect of the diocesan boarding school of Speyer. In February 1851, Nardini was made the parish priest of the diffuclt and financially poor Pirmasens parish. Nardini requested that his mother relocate to his new assignment with him, and she accepted. Nardini was noted for his remarkable character during this period. His example of sacrifice, determination, self-abnegation, and apostolic zeal was very important in evangelizing and drawing people to the church in the largely Protestant area. His effectiveness as a priest, combined with his preaching and cathecizing skills and his love of the Eucharist, earned him a reputation for sanctity and led to his being called the "Father of the Poor" in the community.
Nardini became very concerned about the conditions in which the poor children and older adults in the Pirmasens area were forced to live. In 1853, he requested that the Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer of Niederborn come into Pirmasens to help in the education of the poor children of the area. He also asked them to help in the care of the sick and those who suffered from material or spiritual misery, regardless of their race or religion. After two years, it became clear that the amount of work to be done was more than the nuns could handle, and they were recalled.
Nardini then brought in four young women from the Franciscan third order. On March 2, 1855, these sisters founded with Nardini the Congregation of Poor Franciscans of Pirmasens. They would eventually change their name to the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family, and still later to the Sisters of Mallersdorf. Nardini personally took on the work of the care and formation of the sisters of the new order. He also ensured that their food and lodging in the economically challenged area was regularly secured, often at the cost of depriving him of his own meals. While performing a work of mercy, delivering the Viaticum to a dying parishioner on a cold night in the winter of 1861-1862, Nardini contracted pulmonary typhus. He died as a result of the disease on January 27, 1862.
Nardini was considered a saint by the members of his community, and by all the sisters of the order which he had founded, who at the time of his death numbered 220 in 35 locations. His mortal remains were entombed in the Chapel of the Congregation of the order he founded in Pirmasens. The cause for his beatification was begun in June, 1997, in the Diocese of Speyer. On December 19, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI officially recognized the heroic virtues of Nardini, thus formally making him eligible for beatification. Six months later, on June 26, 2006, the Pope officially recognized the miracle required for Nardini's beatification, the miraculous healing of one of the nuns of the order he founded, Stephana Beyer, from late-stage cancer, which happened after the sisters of her order prayed at Nardini's tomb for her. Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate his cause.
He was formally beatified in the Speyer Cathedral by Friedrich Cardinal Wetter, who read an Apostolic Letter from the pope officially recognizing Nardini as beatified. There were some 2,000 people present for the ceremony, including some 600 nuns of the order he founded, with thousands of others watching the ceremony on closed circuit television in the square of the cathedral. It was the first beatification in Germany in 10 years, and the first one in which the pope himself was not present. The current bishop of Speyer, Anton Schlembach, called Nardini a "highly gifted minister" who "opened people's eyes to the necessity and beauty of the priesthood".