Mary Bernard Bütler
Feast Day: May 19
Canonized: October 12, 2008
Beatified: October 29, 1995
Verena Bütler had a very happy childhood in Switzerland. She loved nature and learning. When she made her First Communion in 1860 at the age of 11, her family was pleased by her strong commitment to her faith and spirituality.
She finished her formal schooling at the age of 14 and while working on her family farm, fell in love with a young man. But the call to follow God was stronger; she called off her engagement and entered the convent at the age of 18.
However, that convent wasn’t the right place for her. Verena felt drawn to a different kind of religious life, and finally entered the Franciscan Monastery of Mary Help of Sinners. She took the name Sister Mary Bernard of the Heart of Mary.
The Bishop of Portoviejo in the far-off land of Ecuador invited her to serve as a missionary there. She and six other sisters arrived in Ecuador in 1888, where they eventually founded a new congregation, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Sinners. There were few priests, and the faith was practiced with poor education in Ecuador. Sister Mary Bernard and her sisters worked very hard to bring religious education to families.
Her congregation grew quickly, but her sisters suffered: they were incredibly poor and there were many risks to their health and safety. In 1895, they were forced to flee from Ecuador. Not knowing where to go, they traveled to Colombia and were invited to work in a hospital for women in the Diocese of Cartagena.
Sister Mary Bernard’s example led to growth of her congregation, with houses opening in Austria and Brazil. The order’s love for the poor was evident in all they did.
In 1924, Sister Mary Bernard died at the age of 74. She had spent 38 years as a missionary and had never returned to her beloved homeland. Because of her missionary zeal and devotion, she was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.