July 6 – Nobility dedicated to the eradication of slavery

July 4, 2019

Blessed Maria Teresia Ledóchowska (29 April 1863 – 6 July 1922) was a Roman Catholic nun and African missionary.

Bl. Maria Teresia LedóchowskaShe was the eldest of seven children. Members of the Polish nobility, she and her siblings – including Wlodimir Ledóchowski, Ursula Ledóchowska and Ignacy Kazimierz Ledóchowski were born on the estate of their father, Count Antoni Halka-Ledóchowski. Their uncle was Mieczysław Cardinal Ledóchowski.

From 1885 to 1890, Maria Teresia was lady-in-waiting to the Grand Duchess Alice of Tuscany. Two Franciscan Missionaries of Mary came to Salzburg to seek financial help for their missionary work. The lady-in-waiting listened raptly as the two women religious shared their experiences of working with the lepers in Madagascar. Her interest in the missions increased when she read a pamphlet on Charles Lavigerie’s anti-slavery campaign. Pope Leo XIII had entrusted the evangelization of Africa to Lavigerie. She began to publicize his cause, which soon attracted donations.

As Mary Theresa’s involvement with the missions grew, she began a mission page in a Catholic periodical. These mission features, called “Echo From Africa”, were based on correspondence from African missionaries. The page of letters evolved into a monthly magazine, which made its debut in 1889, even though the nineteenth century was not ready for a woman publisher. The magazine soon became a full-time job, and Emperor Franz Joseph personally released Mary Theresa from her court duties in 1891 so that she could devote all of her time and energy to the missions.

Bl. María Teresa LedóchowskaShe left the court, and, in 1894, organized the Sodality of St. Peter Claver for the African Missions and the Liberation of Slaves an association of laywomen to publicize the missions and administer funds. Leo approved the society on April 29, 1894. In 1897, it became a full-fledged religious order. Maria Teresia became known as “the nursing mother of the African missions”.

She was beatified on 19 October 1975. Her feast day is 6 July.

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