Pope Francis’s announcement this week that he will canonize Mother Teresa this September made global headlines, but mostly overlooked in the hoopla over the late nun from Calcutta was the news that the Holy See will also bestow sainthood upon another other woman that day. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad will be canonized that day, making her the first person from Sweden in 600 years to achieve sainthood. Hesselblad was one of 13 children, born in 1870 to a Lutheran family in the village of Fåglavik. It wasn’t until moving to the United States as an adult to study nursing that she discovered her Catholic faith and officially converted. She later traveled to Rome and was confirmed at the Vatican. Hesselblad was granted special permission by Pope Saint Pius X in 1906 to take the habit of Saint Bridget, also from Sweden, and profess vows as a spiritual daughter of the saint. She returned to Sweden where she worked as a nurse for the poor and eventually came to be known as “the second Bridget.” Hesselblad died in 1957, was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II and in December 2015, Pope Francis acknowledged a second miracle credited to her, clearing the way for her canonization.
Mother Teresa and Hesselblad are two of more than a dozen woman whom Francis has canonized, or will canonize, since he’s been pope.
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