An American woman will soon be beatified yet I would venture to say that most people have not heard of her. Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a Sister of Charity who died in 1927 at the age of 26, will be beatified on Saturday, October 4th at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ. It is the first beatification to take place in the U.S.
In another first, Sr. Miriam Teresa is considered a contemplative ala St. Therese of Lisieux. Like the Little Flower, she will not be known by what she accomplished in a measurable, worldly sense but in the shining example of her life. A glimpse of this can be seen in the words she left behind and which were compiled after her death by her brother, Msgr. Charles Demjanovich. The National Catholic Register has a beautiful article on her life and legacy.
Teresa was born in 1901 in Bayonne, N.J., to Slovakian parents and raised in the Ruthenian Catholic (Byzantine) Church. She earned a bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) in literature from the College of St. Elizabeth in New Jersey, in 1923 and then taught Latin and English. She entered the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton but she never professed final vows.
In 1926, her spiritual director asked her to write conferences on religious life for the novitiate, quite something for such a young sister. These 26 conferences were published in a book after her death called Greater Perfection. The book can be purchased from the Sister of Charity’s website.
In fact, Fr. Bradley, who gave the conferences, posted a note on the Motherhouse bulletin board after her death stating that the conference he had been giving the sisters were actually written by Sister Miriam Teresa. Father Bradley was inspired to make this unusual request of so young a sister because “I believed that she enjoyed extraordinary lights, and I knew that she was living an exemplary life. I thought that, one day, she would be ranked among the saints of God, and I felt it was incumbent upon me to utilize whatever might contribute to an appreciation of her merits after her death.”
She professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in articulo mortis (at the point of death) while in the hospital. She died of peritonitis resulting from appendicitis surgery though she was also very weak from other ailments as well.
Union with God, then, is the spiritual height God calls everyone to achieve – any one, not only religious but any one, who chooses, who wills to seek this pearl of great price, who specializes in the traffic of eternal good, who says ‘yes’ constantly to God…The imitation of Christ in the lives of saints is always possible and compatible with every state of life. The saints did but one thing – the will of God. But they did it with all their might. We have only to do the same thing; and according to the degree of intensity with which we labor shall our sanctification progress. (Greater Perfection, pp. 264-266)