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St. Mary Bertilla Boscardin took care of the sick

Feast: Oct. 20

Born: Oct. 6, 1888

Died: 1922

Claim to fame: Bertilla was born to a family of poor farmers in Brendola, Italy.  Her father was an alcoholic who sometimes became so violent while drunk that his family had to flee.  Despite the hardships of her childhood, Bertilla discovered she had a vocation.  She entered the convent of the Dorothean Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Vicenza when she was 16.  She went to work as a nurse in the hospital at Treviso, originally working in the children's diphtheria ward. When war broke out, she cared for wounded soldiers.

What made her a saint: During World War I, she cared for military patients, volunteering to do the most humble and menial tasks of nursing, such as  cleaning and taking the arduous night shift.

As the bombs fell and air raid sirens sounded, some of the patients were too ill to be evacuated and had to stay in the ward.  Bertilla volunteered to remain with them, even though she too was terrified.  She prayed with the injured men throughout the attacks and comforted them.

Lowest moment: Her service earned her the respect and love of the soldiers, and the jealousy of a superior, who removed Bertilla from nursing duty and put her to work in the laundry. The mother-general of the congregation, hearing of Bertilla's demotion, put her back into nursing, and when the war ended, made her head of the children's ward.

Best quote: Bertilla was nicknamed the 'Goose', because of her apparently limited intellectual capacity.  No one thought much of her brain-power.  But she was devout and holy, telling her superior, "Teach me...I want to become a saint."

How she died: Sr. Mary Bertilla suffered from a painful tumor, and surgery was unsuccessful to remove it.  She kept taking care of the sick, though, even when she was in agony.  She died at the age of 34.

Prayer: St. Mary Bertilla Boscardin, you are truly an example of simplicity and purity. Pray for us that we may also be given the gift of 'becoming like little children' in the sight of our Lord. We ask this through Jesus' name. Amen.