Put Out into the Deep

A Saint from New Jersey

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

“A Saint in New Jersey?” is the title of one article written on Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, S.C., who will be beatified on Saturday, Oct. 4, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. Sister Miriam was a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J. Born as a Byzantine Ruthenian in Bayonne, N.J., she joined the Sisters of Charity in 1925 after a brief career in business. The brilliant young sister became the Mistress of Novices for her community, which was practically unheard of in those days. Sister Miriam died at only 26 years of age from untreated appendicitis.

I feel particularly close to Sister Miriam Teresa because as a young student through my eight years of grammar school taught by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, we prayed almost daily for her canonization. The step of beatification is the last step before canonization. Little did I know that in my own lifetime, I would see this come to fruition.

The progress of Sister Miriam from venerable to blessed is taking place because of a miracle attributed through her intercession. A young boy who was declared legally blind due to juvenile bi-lateral macular degeneration regained his sight through prayer to and the intercession of Sister Miriam Teresa.

The genius of Sister Miriam was her deep spirituality and the realization by her superiors at that time that this young sister had extraordinary insight in her writing into the mysteries of our faith, without an extensive theological education.

In fact, she wrote a book entitled, “Greater Perfection,” which betrayed a deep spiritual life that normally would be attributed to someone much older than she. It was only revealed after her death that Sister Miriam had a vision of the Blessed Mother, which she confided to one of her sister friends and swore her to secrecy. After Sister Miriam’s death, the sister revealed her secret to her superiors.

Recently, we have seen beatifications and canonizations of people who lived in the last century. In fact, Sister Miriam died in 1927. St. John Paul II made it a point to look for role models in saints to whom people in modern times could more easily relate. Obviously, there is more sanctity around us that we recognize. It is part of our own spiritual seeking out of greater perfection that we heed the words of the Lord, Himself, who told us, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

When we are confronted with the concept of perfection, we normally shy away. Who can be perfect? But the seeking of perfection is the secret. None of us is perfect, nor can we be perfect or perfected until we meet the Heavenly Father. In the meantime, we all strive to better follow God’s will in our lives. That is the path of sanctity and perfection, seeking and knowing God’s will and carrying it out in our lives.

Each one of us puts out into the deep in our daily life. However, the real depth that we seek is union with God. That is what sanctity and depth is all about, a union which begins in this world and which can only be completed in the world to come. We need to encourage one another as members of the one body of Christ and help one another to reach greater perfection in seeking only God as the object of our life. Only then will all other things fall into place.

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