Every morning, Sister M. Anita Holzmer likes to say a prayer written by her order’s founder, Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel.
It’s a prayer to Jesus asking Jesus to help me think mildly and judge charitably, to speak kindly to people and act prudently, she says. It’s a prayer that helps me focus on my relationships with people.
And it’s a prayer, Holzmer adds, that sums up the life of a 19th-century woman now a step further on the road to sainthood.
Holzmer, assistant vice president of mission integration for the University of Saint Francis and a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, is with other area sisters in Germany this week to see Bonzel beatified on Sunday.
Beatification means the Vatican has acknowledged a miracle attributed to the intercession of Bonzel, who established the order in Germany in 1863.
Typically, a second acknowledged miracle is required before canonization, or declaring a person a saint, although that requirement is sometimes waived.
Pope Benedict XVI declared Bonzel, who has strong ties to Indiana and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, venerable, or having lived a life of heroic virtue, in 2010. The acceptance of the miracle came March 27 under Pope Francis, and Bonzel can now be referred to by the title of blessed.
Holzmer, 62, says her order’s sisters have been in Indiana since 1875. Amid anti-religious fervor in Germany known as Kulturkampf that restricted the order’s ability to accept candidates, she says, then-Bishop Joseph Dwenger met Bonzel in Germany.
He invited her to send sisters to serve the growing needs of the region’s diocese, which then covered all of northern Indiana.
Six sisters established themselves in Lafayette, where a hospital, nursing school, high school and college were started. The order now has a motherhouse in Mishawaka and is the sponsoring order of the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.
Sisters are still involved in education in South Bend and Mishawaka and with the Franciscan Alliance health care system in Mishawaka, Holzmer says.
Members of the order used to work at St. Therese parish, Bishop Luers High School and the former Benoit Academy, all in Fort Wayne, and in Lagro, Goshen and Huntington.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Sister M. Elise Kriss, university president and a member of Bonzel’s order, also are traveling to Germany with about 45 other provincial sisters, Holzmer says.
The event will take place in a cathedral in Paderborn and comes during the order’s 150th anniversary jubilee.
In March, Bonzel was credited with a miracle involving a cure for a 4-year-old boy from Colorado Springs, now a young adult. An intestinal disorder causing persistent diarrhea disappeared after sisters prayed for intercession, according to records accepted by the Vatican.
Holzmer, who says the order has always combined service to others with prayer, says she was thrilled when she heard news of the beatification.
We’ve been praying for this a long time, she says, noting that beatification means that celebrations of Bonzel can take place in places affiliated with her. We really want other people to know what we know of Mother Theresia’s virtues and her life, so faith-filled, and how God multiplied her virtues because of her faith in Him, she says.
It’s not just a private devotion anymore.