The title of this post, “The Saint and the Outlaw,” sounds like my topic will be an American West historical romance. That is partially correct. My tidbit for the day does deal with the American Southwest, and the two primary characters involved are correctly labeled. However, this is not about a romance but about a legend that actually happened between a notorious outlaw and a nun whose cause for canonization (sainthood) has been presented to the Vatican. The Vatican now waits for two proven miracles before designating her a Saint. The title is for human purposes only; God already knows.
Sister Blandina Segale was born in Italy in 1850, but her family immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio when she was four. She always meant to become a nun in the Sisters of Charity and eventually did so. Originally assigned to work in Ohio, she eventually was transferred to Trinidad, Colorado, which was part of the Wild West. Outlaws ran the town.
Several stories talk about how she determined to practice Catholic corporeal works of mercy in her life, including visiting (and caring for) the sick and teaching students. She founded several hospitals and schools throughout the Southwest, including St. Joseph’s Hospital that still operates today in Albuquerque. CBS even featured an episode from her life where she saved a man from a lynch mob as part of their Death Valley Days television show with the episode called “The Fastest Nun in the West.”
Of course, what she is most known for are her encounters with Billy the Kid. A member of Billy’s gang had been wounded and left in a nearby hut. None of the four doctors in town would treat him, but Sister Blandina would and did. When she learned that Billy was bringing his gang to town to kill the four doctors, she met the outlaw at the edge of town and asked him not to murder those men. Billy was upset, but he did as she asked and rode away.
Another time, she traveled with other passengers on a stage coach. Billy had robbed several coaches, and the other travelers were nervous. Sister prayed her rosary. When a man approached the coach, the others readied their guns. She told them to put the weapons away. She and the outlaw’s gazes met, and he again rode away, sparing the coach from an attack.
These tales are not necessarily why Sister Blandina is up for sainthood, except to show how her actions influenced others on the path of right. She always thought that Billy could have lived righteously, if someone would have taken him in hand earlier.
To me, it’s interesting how parts of her life intersect with mine. I grew up in Ohio and now live in New Mexico. My mother attended Mount Saint Joseph College in Cincinnati, which is home to the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse where Sister Blandina passed away in 1941.
Saints are an inspiration to the rest of us because they show us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things for God. Some day I’ll have to blog about the American who was awarded the Medal of Honor and also has his cause for sainthood under consideration by the Vatican.