5 Bosnian Martyr-Nuns Beatified

Sisters of Divine Charity Gave Witness to Charity, Chastity

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By Carmen Elena Villa

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, SEPT. 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Known as the martyrs of Dirna, five religious of the Sisters of Divine Charity were beatified last Saturday in Sarajevo.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, represented the Pope at the ceremony.

The five women, ranging in age from 29 to 76, served in the town of Pale, southwest of Sarajevo, a community today of some 30,000 people. They are Croatian Sister Jula Ivanišević, the superior, Sisters Krizina Bojanc and Antonija Fabjan from Slovenia, Sister Berchmana Leidenix from Austria, the oldest of the group, and Hungarian Sister Bernadeta Banja, the youngest.

«To love God and others and to remain faithful to him through the sacrifice of our lives, especially in the living of our vows exactly as we promised — our martyrs of Dirna showed this through their lives, and we can still learn it,» Mother Lucyna Mroczek, superior-general, wrote last December in response to the news that the sisters would be beatified.

The nuns were serving in Pale in 1941, when the political situation became unsafe. Though advised to flee, they responded that they had always served the people, without regard for creed or nationality. «We must stay here with them, and support them in this difficult time,» the sisters insisted.

On Dec. 11 of that year, the nuns were taken and forced to a four-day march to Gorade. The eldest was left after a time; she would later be killed. Upon arrival Dec. 15, 1941, the soldiers attempted to rape the nuns, but the women jumped out the windows. They were then stabbed to death and dumped in a river.

«This year, the joy of Christ’s birth is mixed with anxiety about the news of our missing sisters,» wrote the superior-general of the Sisters of Divine Charity, Lujza Reif, before learning of their death.

On Feb. 13, 1942, a military report arrived from the command post of Vojna Krajina, confirming the murders.

«The sisters were affected by a profound grief for their ‘best sisters,'» reads the official statement on their beatification. «But at the same time, they gave the example of perseverance and fidelity. With their death, the Catholic Church is enriched with five virgin martyrs, and the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Charity is enriched by five intercessors in heaven.»

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