Mary Teresa Bonzel


The Servant of God Mary Teresa Bonzel, Virgin, Third Order

A person who was acquainted with her in life writes that Mother Mary Teresa lived a holy life, practiced many heroic acts of virtues, and became a brilliant model for all the members of the congregation which she had founded, and which was so rightly blessed by God. The writer then expresses the assured hope that the day may not be far distant on which she will be honored and invoked as blessed.

Mary Teresa saw the light of day in the little town of Olpe, in southern Westphalia, as the eldest daughter of the merchant Bonzel. This was in 1830, on the feast of the Stigmata of our holy Father St. Francis. A singular coincidence, when we remember that she was called to present to the Franciscan family a flourishing new branch and to renew in her person the spirit of the Poor Man of Assisi.

Already at her first holy Communion she espoused herself with our Savior and prayed again and again: “O Lord, I am Your victim, accept me as Your victim, do not reject me.” She entered the Third Order when she was not quite twenty years of age. Her whole being impelled her toward convent life, but a heart ailment and the opposition of her mother interfered with her plans.

The Servant of God Mary Teresa Bonzel


Then it was that a devout woman made the unusual statement: “You are called to found a convent of perpetual adoration in your native town.” Providence guided her. Already on December 30, 1860, Mother Mary Teresa and eight young women who were similarly minded, received the holy habit in the parish church at Olpe. After many difficulties, the foundation was incorporated in the great family of the saint of Assisi under the name of the Poor Franciscans of Perpetual Adoration.

The members pledged themselves to acquire the spirit of the Poor Man of Assisi, to carry on perpetual adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, to engage in the education of youth and the care of the poor and the sick.

When death summoned the foundress to receive her well-earned reward on February 6, 1905, her sisters were active already in both the Old and the New World. The servant of God had no doubt earned this blessing from on high, particularly through her Franciscan spirit, the piety which permeated her whole being, her willing and resigned acceptance of bodily and spiritual afflictions coupled with complete trust in God, and last, but not least, through the charity which she never refused either to her sisters or to the poor, the sick, and poor sinners. “To become all to all” was the motto of her life, and it appears that even now she wishes to become all to all through her intercession at the throne of God.

Charity will always bring us blessings. It was not in vain that the Savior said: “As long as you did it to the least of My brethren you did it to Me.” From this, we can understand that the great and tender charity of the servant of God Mother Mary Teresa laid the foundation for her holiness and merited so many blessings for her community.

The love of God must be joined to the love of our neighbor. Thus, it was in the case of Mother Mary Teresa. That is the reason why she united the works of mercy with perpetual adoration of her dear Lord in the Tabernacle and with deep-seated piety. To do good from mere natural motives or even from selfish motives is no virtue. “Do not also the heathens and the publicans do this?”

It is an essential point of charity that we bear with the weaknesses and faults of our neighbor. “Bear one another’s burdens” That, too, Mother Mary Teresa did most faithfully. Such patience and self-denial are more pleasing to God than a long series of prayers and works of penance. “To forget injuries, and to forgive one’s enemies is the godliest act of penance.”

Prayer of the Church

Thou dost permit, O Lord, that to those who live Thee, all things tend to their good. Grant us the imperishable sentiments of charity, so that in those things which we feel impelled to do in charity through Thy inspiration, we may not be made to waver because of any adversity. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

*from the Franciscan Book of Saints by Marion A. Habig, OFM

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