Back in 2013, Pope Francis formally recognized the heroic virtues of the U.S.-born woman, Celestine Bottego (thus officially making her a candidate for canonization). Known as Mother Celestine, she founded the order known as the Missionaries of Mary when she was 48 years old, rejecting the advice of her confessor that she was just too old for that sort of thing. This month marks the 35th anniversary of her death.
OSV has just published an article I’ve written on her. You can find that here. Here’s a snippet:
From the beginning, the Missionaries of Mary did not wear a religious habit, for the sake of simplicity and convenience in view of the difficult mission work that lay ahead. This was a significant innovation at the time, two decades before it became common in the wake of the reforms in religious life that followed the Second Vatican Council. In a 1954 letter to Father Spagnolo, Mother Celestine wrote, “I spoke with Bishop Fulton Sheen. He encouraged me and said that he was enthusiastic about the idea of our having a lay habit. He said we are the only congregation of this kind until now. He added, it was about time to change.”
Sister Rosetta recalls an early meeting that the Missionaries of Mary attended in the United States with members of other women’s religious orders. She said their absence of a habit drew curious looks from others sisters until finally one person said, “Do you know that this is a meeting of nuns?” “Yes, we are nuns, too,” came the reply, and it made for interesting conversation among those present.
Now recognized as “Venerable” by the Vatican, that puts her one step away from beatification.