On this day: Sr. Blandina Segale, S.C.

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day, 70 years ago, Sr. Blandina Segale died at the Sisters of Charity motherhouse in Cincinnati.

Rosa Maria Segale was born in Cicagna, Italy, in 1850, to Giovanna Malatesta Segale and Francesco Segale. In 1854, they left the Ligurian hills and sailed for America. They settled in Cincinnati. In 1866, Rosa and her sister, Maria Maddelena, entered the Sisters of Charity, becoming Sr. Blandina and Sr. Justina.

Click here to read Blandina Segale's book, At the End of the Santa Fe Trail.

Sr. Blandina tells her story in the form of letters to Sr. Justina. She also recounts stories about other Sisters of Charity, including the two who accompanied Bishop Lamy to Santa Fe in 1867, when the wagon train was surrounded by Kiowa, bent on destruction.

Blandina tells how the men on the wagon train were prepared to shoot the nuns to prevent their capture. One of the leaders gave these orders: "If the Indians continue the attack for twenty-four hours we are doomed. Make no mistakes in the directions I now give you, but let no man act until I give the order. When I see death is inevitable for us I will give the signal. Then you, Mr. ____ shoot Sister Louise, you, Mr. ____ shoot the elder of the Loretto Sisters, and you, Mr. ____ shoot the younger Sister of Loretto. I will shoot Sister Augustine."

It did not come to that, but nineteen-year-old Sr. Alphonsa Thompson, S.L., died, perhaps of cholera, perhaps of fright, and was buried on the trail.

A few years later, Sr. Blandina herself was instructed to go west. She traveled alone by train to Kansas City in Dec., 1872, arriving at night at one of the little depots that served the various railroads in the days before Union Depot in the West Bottoms opened. She asked the omnibus driver to take her to a convent. Sr. Blandina does not mention the religious order that reluctantly gave her shelter, but it would have been the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet; St. Teresa's Academy was still on Quality Hill then, at 12th and Washington.

They were surprised to see a sister traveling alone, and they suspected that Sr. Blandina was a fake. She understood their qualms and mentioned in her book that she had been hoodwinked just a few weeks before by fake Franciscans in Steubenville. Still, the nuns in Kansas City allowed her to spend the night on a couch in a room they locked and guarded.

A day later, she continued her journey on a train "carrying construction material and a crowd of Irish workmen to the end of the line. . . . The instant the Irishmen saw a Sister their hats came off and pipes were taken out of their mouths. When seated, I said to the two men in front of me: 'Please say to these good men that I am very fond of smoke from a pipe.' The men replaced their hats and resumed their smoking. I doubt which side was more pleased -- they, to have me, or I to be with them. We reached the end of the line shortly after midnight."

In 1960, Treasure Chest ran a two-part series on Sr. Blandina, "Leave the Rest to God", illustrated by Lloyd Ostendorf. Click here for Part 1, about Sr. Blandina's mission to Trinidad, Colorado. Page 4 shows her encountering Bishop Machebeuf while carrying hod. On page 5, the bishop and Father Pinto are carrying hod, too. Notice their hats. Page 7 shows Sr. Blandina's first encounter with Billy the Kid. Click here for Part 2, about Sr. Blandina's mission to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Click here for a Wiki article in Italian about Rosa Maria Segale.

Click here for information about a rare tintype of Billy the Kid to be auctioned in Denver in June.

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