December 23 – Servant of God Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus.

 

Maria Cecilia Autsch was born in Röllecken, a village in Department of Olpe (Westphalia), Germany, on March 26, 1900. Her was to a modest working-class family that regularly practised the faith. The terrible economic situation in the Weimar Republic meant that she had to go out to work in a clothing store, where she was popular amongst both fellow workers and customers.

Maria was trirty-three years old when she joined the Trinitarian Sisters of Valencia in Mötz. She began the novitiatte and was given the name Angela Maria of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The novitiate ended with the first profession of vows on August 16, 1934. Her final profession took place on September 28, 1938, the year Hitler annexed Austria.

On the morning of August 10, 1940, Sr Angela went to buy some milk. She happened to meet some women she knew and, conversing with them, she related that the Allies had sunk a German ship off Norway and many had died in that disaster. She ended sayind Hitler is a calamity for Europe.[1] One of the women, known as a Nazi sympathizer related to her son, also a Nazi sympathizer, what she had heard from Sr. Angela. He reported the fact to the chief of the Gestapo.

The Gestapo opened a file on Sr. Angela and on August 12, 1940. She was jailed for seventeen days in Innsbrück before becoming prisoner no. 4651 in the concentration camp of Ravensbrück (August 31, 1940), after saying in a dairy that “Hitler is a scourge for all Europe” arrested her, dragging her out of the convent and sending her to the women’s camp at Ravensbruck. There she was a light of hope and courage to her fellow inmates. Maria, stop your ears. Don’t let yourself be overcome. Think about abetter day and hold on to what is better! She was frequently beaten by her captors but her contagious good humor was “a ray of sunshine in deepest Hell”. Some prisoners who might have killed themselves were inspired by her, they said afterwards, even those who had no idea that she was a nun.[2]

The Nazis sent Sr. Angela to Auschwitz where she befriended a Jewish woman doctor from Slovakia, Margarita Schwalbova. Feeling depressed and less than human, she was deeply moved when the nun went up to her and gently stroked her hair. Although Schwalbova was an atheist, she and Sister Angela became friends, with the latter acting in a way that earned her the title Angel of Auschwitz.[3] When Schwalbova was sick, she told her stories about the lives and miracles of the saints, shared her meager rations with her and others even thought his was strictly forbidden.

In March 1943, Sister Angela was transferred to Birkenau another camp where she worked in the kitchen and infirmary, caring equally for inmates and persecutors. She died on December 23, 1944 during an Allied air raid whilst taking care of patients and her body was cremated just a month before the Allies liberated the camp.

Her cause for beatification was introduced by the Conference of Austrian Bishops on March 26, 1992.

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