'Fastest nun in the West' to gain sainthood

The Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, announced on June 26 that the cause for determining the sainthood of Sister Biandina Segale - an educator and social worker born in Italy in the 1800s - has commenced. Sister Blandina was known for challenging the infamous murderer Billy the Kid and calming angry mobs during the frontier days of New Mexico. She also worked in Ohio and Colorado.
 
Catholic Archbishop Michael Sheehan has received permission to begin the process. It is the first time in New Mexico's 400-year history with the Roman Catholic Church that a decree opening the cause of beatification and canonization has been declared. According to Allen Sanchez, the president and CEO of CHI St. Joseph's Children - a social service agency founded by Sister Blandina - "There are other holy people who have worked here,but this would be a saint (who) started institutions in New Mexico that are still in operation."
 
Segale, a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, came to Trinidad, Colorado, in 1877 to teach poor children and was later transferred to Santa Fe, where she co-founded public and Catholic schools. There she worked on behalf of the poor, infirm, and immigrants. She also advocated on behalf of Hispanic Americans and Native Americans who were losing their land to swindlers.
 
Sister Blandina's dealings with criminals such as Billy the Kid were depicted in the 1960s television series 'Death Valley Days' in the episode called 'The Fastest Nun in the West.' The television series recounted her campaign to save a man from a lynch mob. However, the nun's dealings with Billy the Kid remain among her most well-known Western frontier adventures. Some stories recount that Sister Biandina had received word The Kid - a.k.a. William Antrim, William Bonney, William McCarty - was coming to her town to scalp the four doctors who had refused to treat his friend's gunshot wound. Segale nursed the friend to health, and when the infamous murderer came to Trinidad, Colorado, to thank her, she asked him to abandon his plans. He agreed.
 
Another story said that when Billy and his confreres attempted to rob a covered wagon traveling on the frontier, they found Sister Blandina inside. When he discovered who he had waylaid, said Archbishop Sheehan, "He just tipped his hat and left."


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under religion, new mexico, us, catholic, sainthood, women, religion, Americas

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