Sainthood possible for New Mexico nun who faced down Billy the Kid

Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:13pm EDT
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By Joseph Kolb

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - The Catholic Church may consider for sainthood a nun who helped set up schools and hospitals across the American southwest in the 1800s and faced down the region's notorious outlaws, including Billy the Kid.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has received permission from the Vatican to open the cause of beatification and canonization for Sister Blandina Segale, church officials said on Thursday.

Segale, a member of the Sisters of Charity, died in 1941 aged 91. She was a staunch advocate for Hispanics and American Indians, and she was once portrayed on a 1960s television show as "the fastest nun in the West."

Allen Sanchez, president and chief executive of CHI St. Joseph's Children Hospital in Albuquerque, a facility Segale started, said her experiences as an immigrant working with the poor were more relevant than ever in today's New Mexico.

"Her impact on our secular world continues," he said.

The route to possible sainthood is expected to take many years and will include studies of her work and checks for any miracles attributed to her after her death. It is the first time New Mexico has opened such a case for beatification.

Segale's resolve to defend her mission, even against some of the most notorious outlaws in American history, was revealed in letters she wrote from the wild territory that were published as a book, "At the End of the Santa Fe Trail."

In one letter she told how Billy the Kid visited the small outpost of Trinidad, Colorado, where she was stationed at the time, threatening to scalp four local doctors who had refused to treat his friend after a gunfight.   Continued...