Blandina’s Continuing Legacy
By S. Georgia Kitt
I recently had the opportunity to ask Allen Sanchez, initiator of the cause for canonization of Servant of God S. Blandina Segale some questions about what prompted him to take this major step forward. Allen serves as CEO of CHI St. Joseph’s Children in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He assured me it was not by chance. When he became president of the organization he found people still harboring anger over the sale of the hospital. There was no strategic plan in place and projects were trying, but missing the mark. He saw S. Blandina as friend and advisor, calling him to continue her good work. The work of the institution was begun by S. Blandina and other Sisters of Charity. He stated: “Like many employees have done for decades I once again read At the End of the Santa Fe Trail. I prayed to the Servant of God for guidance in transforming the organization from one strategy to another with a fidelity to the same mission of CHI. We transitioned from a strategy of a hospital to a strategy of prevention in management of population health. We were all inspired by S. Blandina.” They now operate the largest home visiting program in the U.S. for prenatal to 3-year-old children.
Allen remembered participating in a school play in second grade at St Mary’s, Albuquerque when S. Marie Virginia Lovato introduced him to S. Blandina; he was the bronco riding gang member of Billy the Kid chasing down S. Blandina’s stage coach. Now he found the Servant of God was chasing him down to help her save this entity for the sake of the health of New Mexicans. After a long two-year strategic planning process, a goal emerged that would take CHI St. Joseph’s Children into young first-time parents’ homes to journey with them. It was as if S. Blandina had once again built something out of the chaotic Wild West. If the reader knows anything about the Servant of God you know that her second act in Cincinnati was Santa Maria Institute, a service to women and their children with innovative home visiting and early childhood education. She knew well that if you change the first five years of a child’s life you change everything. The Board of Directors passed a resolution to petition the beatification and canonization of S. Blandina; they were convinced of her influence even today.
“When I am asked what I have learned about S. Blandina as the petitioner of the cause my eyes tear up,” Allen said. “Her tender loving hands would work endlessly for the one she loved the most, Gesu. Her life is a lesson in mercy, always recognizing the dignity of the human being. She was always ready to welcome the outlaw, the outcast and the despairing. She would give them hope and meaning by motivating them to help her build spaces for ministries like orphanages, hospitals and schools but most of all space in one’s heart for Jesus.” Allen believes she has taught him the real meaning of reverence, it is not earned but God-given. She has journeyed with him throughout his ministry offering counsel from her journal. He knows that her courage to change the status quo has inspired CHI St. Joseph’s Children to work for change and bring their ministry into the 21st century.
In December when Allen and representative Board members were in Rome with the Inquiry board presenting the Acts of her cause he saw that the Lord continues to work bringing this little one’s story to the world as a testimony of God’s love for us. She faced down the lynch mob and he believes that we too can have the courage to face down the hate in this violent world today by disarming it with love and perfect reverence. Allen believes that prayer was Blandina’s mortar with her spirituality holding charity and justice in her heart. He sees that spirituality was a deliberate discernment of her ethical and religious values which she solidified into attitudes that governed her actions.
In her journal we see that she never forgets the source of her mission. She said many times: “The genuine charity of the mission makes me forget the hardships attached to it.” The Servant of God’s story is so relevant to the world today because love is always in fashion. The CEO believes, “Blandina’s legacy lives on every time one of the CHI St. Joseph’s Children’s home visitors knocks on the door of a young family.”