One step closer to God Bayonne native on path to possible sainthood
by Al Sullivan Reporter senior staff writer
Aug 28, 2004 | 1121 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In what has been called a historic ceremony held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark on July 8, Archbishop John J. Myers signed documentation papers for the beatification cause of Bayonne native Sister Miriam Teresa.

Beatification is final step prior to a person being named a saint, and the declaration is made by the pope based on a person's living of a saintly life as a confessor or heroic death as a martyr.

If the Archbishop's petition is granted by Pope John Paul II, this would elevate Sister Teresa to the next step on the road to sainthood and gives her the distinction of being called "Blessed."

Since 1945 when her followers have established a Sister Miriam Teresa League in New Jersey, to have her made a saint, the Roman Catholic Church has examined Sister Teresa's life studying "her virtures, writings and reputation for holiness."

This is usually an investigation conducted locally by the bishop in the area in which the proposed saint lived.

The second process, known as the Apostolic process, is instituted by the Pope to more closely scrutinize the person's past and to determine if he or she should be elevated to sainthood.

There are currently about 30 people in the US whose cause has been introduced into Rome. Pope John Paul II has canonized about 280 people worldwide during the last 25 years.

In petitioning for Sister Teresa in July, Archbishop Myers conducted a ceremony that included sealing the documentation that will be present Sister Teresa's beatification cause to Vatican authorities, the first step towards canonization as a saint. The paperwork was officially transported to Rome in late July.

"It is now up to the congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome," said a spokesperson for the Archbishop last week. "If she is beatified, it was be the first time someone New Jersey has been."

She felt a religious calling from childhood

Sister Teresa - whose birth name was Teresa Demjanovich -- was born in Bayonne, on March 26, 1901, the youngest of seven children. Although she did not make up her mind as to becoming a Sister of Charity until she was in college, she apparently dedicated herself to God at a very early age.

Born in a house on East 22nd Street in Bayonne, she was the daughter of a shoemaker and attended near by St. John's Byzantine Church, following Eastern Orthodox rites. Baptized five days after her birth, Teresa later wrote that the moment was the start of her "real life." She always viewed her life as a series of internal transitions or states of grace. In her autobiography, she remembered sitting in the window of her father's store on January 19, 1904 when a fire gutted St. John's, and recalled how she calmly watched the firefighters vividly outlined against the background of flames. She also recalled neighbors bringing the vestments from the church into the store for safe keeping. She was apparently very conscious at that age, forming opinions of the women she saw and their reactions.

She grew up in what is called the Hook Section of Bayonne in one of a few houses that stood amidst the oil refineries. Her father eventually took up work at Tide Water Oil, one of the local companies.

She attended Lincoln School which she graduated at age of eleven. She received her high school diploma in January, 1917 from the Bayonne High School, where was graduated as Salutorian. She did not go off to college immediately, but remained home to take care of her mother. At this time she wished very much to become a Carmelite nun, but the lingering illness of her mother kept her at home as nurse and housekeeper.

Struggled with which order to attend

After her mother's death in November, 1918, a victim of the influenza epidemic, Teresa was strongly encouraged by her family to attend the College of Saint Elizabeth at Convent Station, New Jersey from which she graduated summa cum laud in 1923 after which she returned to Bayonne.

While at college she said she had a vision of Christ's mother, Mary.

"I was saying my Rosary here at the window seat when suddenly the grounds outside appeared bathed in a dazzling light and the Blessed Mother was clearly seen by me," she told a fellow student. Teresa later said the "beauty and sweetness" of the moment remained in her mind continually.

Teresa taught English and Latin for a while at Saint Aloysius School in Jersey City, but apparently found teaching difficult, and claimed grading papers gave her eye strain. She debated whether or not to join the Carmelite Order of Sisters, but eventually joined the sisters of Charity which is devoted to the teaching of children. But she waited to enter until after her father's death in early 1925.

Theresa's spiritual director in religion, Father Benedict Bradley was immediately aware of Sister Teresa's gifts and directed some of her efforts at writing. Sister Teresa authored a series of lectures which - with Sister Teresa's consent - he presented as his own in talks to other nuns. After Sister Teresa's death in 1927, Father Bradley disclosed her as the author and a volume of her works called Greater Perfection was published posthumously. This was later translated into a number of languages including Chinese.

Then the miracles started to happen

Reports began to surface from around the world attributing a variety of miraculous "favors and cures" done at her intercession.

In 1945, Rome authorized the local bishop to begin investigations as to whether or not Sister Teresa met the standards for sainthood.

Becoming a saint is a rigorous process that involves four steps. The church appoints someone to scrutinize claims of miracles the intent to disprove them. The second stage, a person's heroic virtues are recognized and the pope declares the individual a "servant of God" This happened in 1955 entitling Sister Teresa to be called venerable.

Next the Vatican closely examines a candidate's writings. Finally to become as saint, a person must have miracles associated with him or her.

In 2003, a tribunal met in Convent Station concerning alleged miracles at the intercession of Sister Teresa that took places in the 1960s. She was credited with helping to heal people.

The Vatican standard for miracles is extremely high: A board of doctors, notoriously exacting, must conclude that no reasonable medical explanation exists for a healing. If there are living witnesses, they are brought to testify.

If the pope grants Sister Teresa the newly elevated "Blessed" status, he will do so at a mass held in Rome, at which time he will also set a feast date to be celebrated related to her life.

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