By Teresa Bliss
[Editor’s Note: Welcome to Blessed Week on Newman’s blog! Ever day this week we’ll be highlighting one of the many Blesseds and Venerables of the Church, holy men and women who are on the path to Sainthood but just aren’t there yet. Questions about the blog? Email Chris Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Something that is constantly stressed in Catholic teaching and in Catholic communities everywhere is the Universal Call to Holiness; The idea that all people, not just a few elite, are called to sainthood and perfection. It is an idea that is central to our faith and has greatly shaped our Catholic culture. This idea was truly taken to heart by a young girl in Bayonne, New Jersey in the early 20th century. Teresa Demjanovich was born to Alexander and Johanna Demjanovich in 1901, as the last of their seven children. After she finished high school Teresa wanted to enter the Carmelite order, after her namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux. Unfortunately, her mother fell ill and Teresa stayed at home to care for her, which she considered her duty as the youngest child. After her mother passed, she decided to attend the College of St. Elizabeth at Convent Station in New Jersey. Literature held a special appeal for her, so she decided to make that her focus. Through hard work and dedication, she graduated summa cum laude. She used her degree and became a teacher at St Aloysius, also in her home state, all this while she was still discerning the Carmelite order. The Carmelites asked her not to join because of some medical concerns, forcing her to look in other places. Her family suggested that she look at the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, which was a more active order, where she could use the skills that she learned while teaching. In 1925, She entered their order and took the name Sister Miriam Teresa. Not long after joining, she began to fall ill. Her condition worsened until she was no longer able to teach with them. Concerned for her life, he siblings petitioned for to be allowed to receive her final vows before she passed. She made her final vows on April 2, 1927, and passed away a month later, on May 8, 1927, at the age of 26. After her death, many miracles were attributed to her intercession, including the healing of a boy with macular degeneration after receiving a prayer card with a hair from Sr. Miriam Teresa. After this miracle was authenticated by Pope Francis, she was beatified in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark on October 4, 2014. She was a living example of the Universal Call to Holiness, saying yes to the Lord even in the smallest things. Her spiritual director could feel the light of Christ radiating from her soul, and he truly believed that one day she would be part of the Church Triumphant in Heaven. Before her death, he asked her to write down her reflections, which resulted in Greater Perfection: Being the Spiritual Conferences of Sr. Miriam Teresa, where she speaks much about the Universal Call to Holiness. She says:
“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.”
One of the most remarkable things about her life is how seemingly unremarkable it was. She went to college just like all of us and even worked for a little while. She is a beautiful example of truly surrendering her life to Christ, even in the midst of the world, doing all thing in true humility and faith. Blessed Miriam Teresa, Pray for us.
Teresa is a sophomore studying Graphic Design. She leads a freshman Small Group, sings in the Schola, and loves babies.