Salzburg, June 23, 2022 (KAP) July 6 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Blessed Sr. Maria Theresia Ledochowska (1863-1922). Despite her impressive life’s work, the founder of the “Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver” is largely unknown. In Salzburg, this is about to change on the 100th anniversary of her death. Archbishop Franz Lackner, the missionary sisters and the Catholic Action invite you to a festive service on Sunday, July 3 at 10 a.m. in the Salzburg Cathedral. Furthermore, in the next three years, some initiatives and projects should make the blessed better known and clarify their topicality for the present.
The fight against slavery in Africa became Maria Theresia Ledochowska’s life’s work and also the motive for founding her order. The young countess worked as a lady-in-waiting for the Tuscan Habsburgs in the Salzburg residence. But Petrus Claver was so touched that she abruptly changed her life. The saint had helped African slaves taken to South America in the 17th century. After her “conversion experience” Ledochowska worked for the liberation of the people of Africa; she worked closely with, among others, the famous Algerian cardinal Charles-Martial Lavigerie.
Among other things, Ledochowska founded magazines such as “Echo aus Afrika” to provide information about the problems of the missions in Africa and to solicit support for the missionaries. She founded the lay association “St. Petrus Claver Sodality”, which received papal approval in 1894, and gave impetus to the founding of several printing works, ethnographic museums and religious support groups throughout Europe. In 1897 the Countess bought an estate in Lengfelden near Salzburg from the Liefering missionaries, where she built the Maria Sorg Mission House. In Maria Sorg near Bergheim there are currently six Missionaries from St. Petrus Claver, who still publish the magazine “Echo aus Afrika”.
After Ledochowska’s death, the congregation spread to all continents, to North and South America in 1928, to Australia in 1929, to Africa in 1955, and to India in 1972.
Modern slavery and human trafficking
As in Ledochowska’s time, millions of people live in inhumane conditions “and consciously or unconsciously cry out for liberation and redemption,” emphasized Sr. Ursula Lorek, superior in Maria Sorg, at a press conference in Salzburg on Thursday: “Back then it was the Africans Slaves, today there are other forms of enslavement and human trafficking.” Of course, Ledochowska did not work alone, “she created a network, she was a passionate journalist and media woman”.
The topicality of Maria Theresia Ledochowska does not have to be talked about, stressed Elisabeth Mayer, President of Catholic Action Salzburg. Ledochowska is “patron for awareness-raising, the use of new media, the development of networks and for artistic activities that inspire enthusiasm for their cause”. Ledochowska “put everything on one card and carried the ‘gospel of freedom’ from Salzburg out into the world: a message that many people are still waiting for today.”
There are also artistic accents at the festive mass on July 3 with Archbishop Lackner. A flag installation by Karl Hartwig Kaltner can be seen, for example, and a modern icon by Jutta Kiechl is on display in the cathedral. Kaltner designed several flags up to 14 meters long, Kiechl depicts the blessed together with a girl who is holding her in a loving embrace.
The City Archives of Salzburg are planning to hold a symposium on Maria Theresia Ledochowska in June 2023 in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Salzburg. Historical slides from Africa have been preserved, which Maria Theresia Ledochowka showed during her lectures and thus inspired people for her mission to free slaves.
Ledochowska also used her artistic talents, she wrote plays, composed and shook up with her writings. The Salzburg conductor Elisabeth Fuchs is working on a performance with the music and literature of the blessed. In addition, a documentary film, workshops on political topicality and artistic competitions in schools should lead to the fact that three years and thus 50 years after the beatification by Pope Paul VI . Ledochowska’s level of awareness has increased significantly.
A not insignificant family detail: Maria Theresa’s younger sister Ursula (Julia) (1865-1939) founded the congregation of the “Ursulines of the Heart of Jesus in Death Agony” in Poland in 1920, also known as the “grey Ursulines”. She was already canonized in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. (Information: www.ledochowska.at)