“The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine ‘genius’ which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope, and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness.” (St. Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem)
March 8 marks International Women's Day, and we celebrate the gifts that women bring to our world. Specifically in the Church, women have impacted and enriched our faith in countless ways. Here are some female saints with incredible stories to celebrate today and always.
Adapted from mnnews.today
Revered as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina first felt a religious calling at the age of seven when she attended the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In 1924, she experienced her first vision of Jesus in which Jesus instructed her to leave for Warsaw immediately and join a convent.
Her diary, which has been read all over the world by countless devotees, reveals details of locations and visions she received from Jesus about the message and image of Divine Mercy.
St. Joan of Arc
A legendary French saint who led her people to victory during the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc controversially claimed to receive visions from St. Michael the Archangel, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine of Alexandria. These visions led her to approach King Charles VII with the idea of leading the French Army into battle with the English.
Speaking of these visions saw her tried as a sorceress and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Becoming known as the ‘Maid of Orleans’, she was told to apostatize to be freed from her sentence but she refused, showing true courage and fortitude.
St. Katharine Drexel
Though she grew up in wealth, St Katharine always saw her stepmother opening up their home to the poor and distributing food, clothing and rent assistance to those in need. They would also seek out and visit women you were too afraid to visit their home in order to give them charity.
After becoming a sister, a suggestion which came directly from the Pope, St Katharine gave everything to God, including her entire inheritance, and spent her life educating and caring for Native and African Americans.
Upon her death, Katharine and her religious sisters had established about 50 Native American missions in the United States to help their cause.
St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa)
St. Theresa did amazing works through her order, The Missionaries of Charity, for over 45 years.
Recently canonized, St Teresa’s order consists of nearly 5,000 sisters from all over the world who oversee homes for people who are dying of various diseases, as well as soup kitchens, mobile clinics, counseling programs, orphanages, and schools.
As a young Loreto nun, St Theresa received ‘a call within a call’ to found the Missionaries of Charity to serve ‘the poorest of the poor’. Having obtained Indian citizenship, she underwent basic medical training to prepare her for working in the slums.
Meeting Hillary Clinton in 1994, the pair set up a centre in Washington, DC where orphaned babies could be cared for and, in 1995, they founded the Mother Teresa Home for Infant Children.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St Elizabeth Ann Seton is known for establishing the first free Catholic girls’ school and founding the religious order of ‘Sisters of Charity’.
Overcoming many obstacles in her life including the death of children, her spouse and rejection and persecution from her family and friends when she chose to convert to Catholicism from the Anglican faith, she continued to preserve to become known for her patronage of schools.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Born to an Algonquin-Mohawk tribe, St Kateri was the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Developing smallpox as a child, her face was left pock-marked and disfigured. Choosing to become Catholic at just nineteen, St. Kateri chose not to marry and instead made a vow of perpetual virginity. Though she died young, at the age of 24, it is claimed that once she passed the pock marks instantly vanished from her face.
St. Catherine of Siena
As a mystic and Doctor of the Church, St Catherine used her gifts of philosophy and theology to encourage peace among the Italian territories of her time.
She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the Pope and was instrumental in restoring the Papacy to Rome. She also established a monastery for women in 1377 outside of Siena.
During her time St Catherine also composed over 400 letters which became so influential that she was later declared a Doctor of the Church.
Though she was poor and uneducated, St Bernadette talked of seeing visions of the Holy Virgin. While some in the town believed her, others felt Bernadette was mentally ill and should be put in a mental asylum.
After being interviewed by the French government and Church authorities, it was determined that her visions were true. Bernadette is also well known for the miracle she performed in producing clean water in the town’s spring which reportedly cured around 69 people.
While the water was tested by the Church through ‘extremely rigorous scientific and medical examinations’ no explanation was able to be given about why people were cured. The Lourdes Commission also ran an analysis on the water but were only able to determine it contained a high mineral content.
Bernadette asked the local priest to build a chapel at the site where she received her visions and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is now one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, with many other chapels and churches built around it since.
St. Clare of Assisi
St. Clare’s riches-to-rags story is an inspiring and motivating piece for those of us living in today's consumerist society.
As one of the first followers of St Francis Assisi, St Clare was the daughter of a wealthy Italian count. Despite being born into wealth and privilege, St Clare decided to give up her high class lifestyle when she met St Francis and chose to join him in his mission.
Cutting her hair and wearing plain robes, she founded the Order of Poor Ladies, also known as the Poor Clares, who were a group of monastic religious sisters and wrote their Rule of Life, which was the first of monastic guidelines to ever be written by a woman.
St. Maria Goretti
St Maria is called a martyr for her forgiveness and the miracles it produced.
When she was eleven, St Maria almost fell victim to the sexual advances of a teenage boy named Alessandro. When she refused him, he stabbed her fourteen times, eventually killing her. Before she died, she freely and wholeheartedly forgave Alessandro, who then experienced a true conversion of heart while he was imprisoned and ultimately became a lay brother in a monastery.
St. Edith Stein
After leaving her Jewish faith and becoming an atheist, St Edith eventually converted to Catholicism through her discovery of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and joined the Discalced Carmelites.
When the Nazis conquered Holland, St Edith and her sister were arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where she died in the gas chambers. St Edith is remembered for a life of dedication, consecration, prayer, fasting and penance.
St. Gianna Molla
Receiving degrees in both medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia, St Gianna opened a medical office in Mesero near her hometown of Magenta.
St Gianna felt the field of medicine was her mission and she generously gave her service to Catholic Action, a movement of Catholics dedicated to living and spreading the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church in the broader culture, which still continues this work today.
During her pregnancy with her fourth child, Gianna developed a fibroma in her uterus. Gianna chose to have the fibroma removed which meant a high risk of complications for her but could save the life of her baby. While the baby was born without complications, Gianna passed away a few weeks later from septic peritonitis.
When Gianna was officially canonized by Pope John Paul II, her husband and their children attended the ceremony, making it the first time a husband had witnessed his wife's canonization.