Reflections on the Beatification of a “Bayonne Gal”
My first reaction on hearing the news of Sr. Miriam Teresa’s beatification was, “Well, there goes my hopes of being the first saint from Bayonne, New Jersey!” Even now, it seems incredible to me that this remarkable young woman, born and raised in my hometown, who had walked it streets, attended its public schools and worshiped at its parishes, has been recognized by the Church as a model of holiness and is now venerated and prayed to as a Blessed.
Yes, I have more than a few connections with Teresa Demanjovich, despite the nearly seven decades that separate our births. Like Teresa, I grew up in shadows of the oil refineries that so distinctively dot the landscape of our peninsula city. Once an exclusive resort town, in the late 19th century, Bayonne’s proximity to major waterways would transform it into an urban industrial center. Thousands of European immigrants, seeking a better life, came to its shores, including her parents (from Ruthenia) and my great-grandparents (from Poland). In fact, my parish (“the Polish parish”), Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is only a few blocks away from St. John the Baptist, the Ruthenian-rite church where Teresa was baptized.
The connections go even deeper. Like Teresa, my first attraction to the contemplative life was through St. Therese of Lisieux. And, I had also shared her desire to enter Carmel. Yet, the Lord had different plans for both of us. Teresa would embrace an apostolic vocation in joining the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, her college educators. My contemplative vocation would be lived out as a Dominican Nun, a Nun of the Order of Preachers, in Summit, NJ.
Before my vestition in the Dominican habit, I had to choose a religious name, always a momentous decision for all of us. I had already intended to keep my baptismal name “Judith” but was stumped as to what form of Our Lady’s name I would join to it. Mary? Marie? Maria? The title of a book in our novitiate library, Miryam of Judah by Ann Johnson, provided the answer, “Miryam!” I didn’t think this at the time but now I have to wonder if Bl. Miriam Teresa had something to do with it!
Two Bayonne gals, one nearly a canonized saint, and the other, like all of us are called to be, a saint-in-the-making! Blessed Miriam Teresa, pray for us!