Blog Post

Cause Under Review for “Fastest Nun in the West”

Sr. Blandina Segale, S.C. Sr. Blandina Segale, S.C.

The cause for sainthood has taken another step forward for an Italian-born member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati who achieved notoriety for facing-down the infamous gunslinger, Billy the Kid, during her work among the native American and immigrant population of the West during the late nineteenth century.

Archbishop Emeritus Michael J. Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe conducted the “first inquiry” Session of the Cause of Servant of God Blandina Segale (1850-1941) on August 25 during which time historic evidence along with testimony to the holiness of Sr. Segale was presented and recorded.

Also introduced were documents confirming the events recorded in Sr. Segale’s book, At the End of the Santa Fe Trail.

The purpose of the inquiry was to determine if there was enough evidence to move her case further along the road to canonization.

The Italian born Segale, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, came to Trinidad, Colorado, in 1877 to teach poor children. After being transferred to Santa Fe, she co-founded public and Catholic schools, worked with the poor and sick, and advocated on behalf of Hispanics and Native Americans who were losing their land to swindlers. During her many years working in the West, she met with the leaders of the Apache and Comanche tribes.

Her most famous encounter, however, was said to have occurred between herself and the outlaw, Billy the Kid.

According to the Associated Press, she allegedly received a tip one day that the gunslinger was coming to town to scalp four doctors who had refused to treat a friend’s gunshot wound. Segale nursed the friend back to health and when Billy came to Trinidad to thank her, she convinced him to abandon his violent plans.

As the Sisters report on their website, “Stories abound of how she calmed mobs of armed men from taking the law into their own hands, helped criminals seek forgiveness from their victims, and even saved a man from a hanging party by facilitating reconciliation between him and the man he shot before he died. Her adventures were also the subject of have been featured in novels, television programs, histories, and a comic book. In 1966 her story of bravery was told in a CBS series Death Valley Days episode, The Fastest Nun in the West, where she faced down the barrels of guns to find justice.”

During the inquiry, witnesses testified to Segale’s extensive work in Ohio, Colorado and New Mexico where she was also for her work trying to stop the trafficking of women as sex slaves.

In addition, witnesses testified to the miraculous intercession they received from Segale after her death which helped cancer patients and poor immigrants who sought her aid.

“Sister Blandina as a canonized saint will lead and strengthen thousands of others to see that they, too, can fight injustice with compassion and untiring ingenuity,” said Victoria Marie Forde of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

After receiving permission to open her cause for sainthood last year by the Vatican, it became the first time in New Mexico’s 400-year history with the Church that a decree opening the cause for beatification and canonization had been declared.

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