Sister Blandina Segale, S.C, Sister of Charity who will soon bear the official Church title “Servant of God”, was a pioneer in the fight against human trafficking and a probate officer. She founded the first Catholic settlement house in the United States. The motion for her canonization was made by a Mormon and seconded by a Buddhist, a sampling of the range of Blandina’s fame. And, oh yes, she writes of her encounter with Billy the Kid. There was certainly nothing bland about Sr. Blanda!
Interested in learning more? You can thanks to a guest post by Sister Judith Metz, archivist, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. The full post Servant of God, Sister Blandina Segale, S.C. appeared in the blog of the Provincial Archives of the Daughters of Charity.
Sister Blandina Segale (1850-1941) was a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. She was born in Italy and accompanied her family to the United States when she was four years old. She entered the congregation in 1866. In 1872 she was missioned to Trinidad, Colorado, and for the next 20 years served on various missions in the Southwest. Her account of her years in Colorado and New Mexico have been published as At the End of the Santa Fe Trail. Sister Blandina returned to Cincinnati area where, in 1897, she and Sister Justina Segale, her blood sister, founded and managed Santa Maria Institute – the first Catholic settlement house in the United States until each of their retirements.
A group in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has begun the working toward her canonization. Sister Blandina Segale can now be called by her new title, Servant of God. This is the first step towards canonization led by the enthusiastic board of St. Joseph Community Health, Albuquerque, member of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI). Allen Sanchez, President and CEO of St. Joseph Community Health, told us that
Officially, the Faithful, the People of God, the Church, bring the cause to the Institutional Church. In this case the Petitioner is St. Joseph Community Health (DBA: CHI St. Joseph’s Children), which has taken on all moral and financial obligations. The Competent Bishop Archbishop Schnurr, Cincinnati, and the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati have supported the transfer of competency to the Archbishop of Santa Fe.
In this process Allen Sanchez is representing the Petitioner; Bishop Ramirez, retired bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is the Postulator; and Archbishop Sheehan of Santa Fe is the Judge. Allen Sanchez is well suited for this leadership role. He has degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University and St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University, both in Rome; he has been Director of Renew and other programs and Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops among other positions.
Recently, he and Bishop Ramirez have visited our archives, researching material among the extensive archival boxes on S. Blandina and the Santa Maria Educational and Industrial Institute, begun by S. Blandina and her sister S. Justina. Probably the first Catholic Settlement House in the country, it now thrives in several places in Cincinnati. Incidentally, they began this organization “with five dollars in carfare in their pockets and unbounded confidence in God in their hearts.”
At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, stories of her twenty-one years in the Southwest, makes fascinating reading through her letters to her sister Justina, especially her encounter with Billy the Kid. Her forty years in Cincinnati fill the pages of The Santa Maria Institute by Ann C. Minogue, her friend. The dedication reads: “This book . . . feebly records their noble work of saving the heritage of Faith for the Italians of Cincinnati, and of opening the new field of Catholic Social Service. . . .” Both had come from Italy to Cincinnati as small children with their family.
In light of the popular concern about human trafficking, S. Blandina ranks as a pioneer, both in the Southwest where she faced a gun to rescue a woman from a home and in Cincinnati where she was made a Probate Officer in her role of rescuing innocent farm women forced to work in brothels. Her remarkable life will become even more well known during this canonization process.
In days a decree opening the cause for the Servant of God S. Blandina will be declared, and all persons with information will be asked to come forward.
Sister Blandina Segale, S.C. (courtesy Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati)
Sister Blandina Segale, S.C. and her sibling, Sister Justina Segale, S.C. (courtesy Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati)