About a month ago, a lady from Ireland was travelling in Italy. She wanted to visit Cortona, but when she got there, she was unable to find the Church. She spotted a woman in the Franciscan habit and asked for directions. When I heard her story, I asked her to put it in writing. It is now attached. The point I want to make in circulating the story is this: I believe there is a “Jozefa” in every local fraternity in the country, their story untold. It is people like that who are keeping the SFO alive … it is they who guarantee its future with the help of God. Think of Donal Kelly, Andy O’Connell and others like them. I can think of one or two in Carlow, where I was stationed up to two years ago.
Peace to one and all,
The Pilgrim’s Story
I was lost in a side street in Cortona when I spied a Franciscan sister, she stopped when she saw me looking at her so I approached and asked her the way to the Church where the body of St. Margaret of Cortona was on view. She spoke rapidly in Italian and I sussed out she was offering me a lift a bit of the way, so I hopped in the car.As she was driving away she asked if I spoke English, and then told me she was Polish! She was also a Secular Franciscan and we got talking. We reached the monastery of the Poor Clares and stopped there. I was going to walk the rest of the way but she again offered to take me to the Church of St. Margaret. It was a long way! On the journey there she told me she had worked as an obstetrician but helped out another Doctor one day and it turned out to be an abortion. She was very upset after it, (the baby was only 10 weeks old) she tracked down the mother only to discover that she was traumatised – she had two children but didn’t want a third hence the abortion- anyhow the hermit, Jozefa, decided to train there and then as a psychiatrist to help these women. After some years she trained in psychology, did a Masters and a Ph.D., and started writing books on Pro Life and the effects of abortion. (she showed me these books).When she was 38 she was consecrated by a Bishop and a Franciscan friar gave her a habit as a present; she didn’t wear it as she was “out in the world”. But sometime later she started studying theology, did a Masters, (she told me it had to do with Saints who were born to very big families)! Anyhow it had to do with pro life in some way) and she was halfway through a Doctorate in theology when the Archbishop asked her to do Pro Life work full time. Her spiritual director told her the Doctorate would only end up in a library and this work was more important, so she began to travel all over Poland, she also went to Russia, speaking on Pro life issues, she led pilgrimages to Fatima and Medjugorje etc. She spoke to Parliament, went on rallies, the lot. She did a lot of work in schools and was able to speak as an obstetrician, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and now as consecrated S.F.O lay woman. She started wearing the habit around this time. Then after many years of doing this, she realised it was all “getting out of control”, that with IVF and surrogacy et cetera she felt that all her talk was going nowhere and she started to pray more and more. She said she got a “call to the desert” to offer her life in prayer for pro life work and in reparation for abortion. And after many searches she ended up 17 km outside Cortona, high up in the mountains as a hermit (Her sister also lives in Italy now, and is married there with a family.) She has the Blessed Sacrament in her little Eremo and prays and prays! She doesn’t have the internet or a mobile phone. She doesn’t eat meat, drink coffee, no sugar. She is very healthy… did I mention she is now 78 years old! God called her to the desert only a few years ago!
I had a fabulous day with Jozefa, she cooked me dinner, left me alone for almost two hours in her chapel at Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.The silence was the closest to heaven that I’ve ever experienced.
I’ll probably never meet her again, but I’ll never ever forget the day.