Maria Bertilla Boscardin
nun. Born of a poor family at Brendola (Vicenza), she attended primary school intermittently largely because her father was jealous, violent, and not infrequently drunk. She was considered stupid (called a ‘goose’ by the local clergy); but she joined the sisters of St Dorothy at Vicenza. In 1904 she took the habit and worked in scullery, bakehouse, and laundry until her profession in 1907. Promoted to the children's diphtheria ward, she became a devoted nurse, but incurred an infection which ultimately proved fatal.
The most exciting years of her short life were during the First World War. After the disastrous battle of Caporetto, the hospital at Treviso was attacked in air raids. Although frightened, she used to bring coffee and marsala to the patients who were too ill to be moved to safety. Evacuated with others to a military hospital at Viggiù: (near Como), she proved an excellent nurse for soldiers and was admired by the chaplain on this account. The superior, however, banished her to the laundry. Four months later the Mother-General (who esteemed her highly) withdrew her from Viggiù: and restored her to Treviso, where she had the charge of the children's isolation ward.
Her health deteriorated in 1922 and a serious operation failed to save her. She died on 20 October. A memorial plaque described her as a ‘chosen soul of heroic goodness…an angelic alleviator of human suffering in this place’. Her tomb at Vicenza was the centre of pilgrimage and miracles. She was beatified in 1952 and canonized in 1961. She resembled Theresa of Lisieux, whose spiritual teaching she followed, in having good judgement, a strong will, and unobtrusive perseverance in humdrum duties. Feast: 20 October.
A.A.S., liii (1961), 278–95; P. G. di S. M. Maddalena, Diario spirituale della B. Bertilla Boscardin (1952); Lives by L. Caliaro (1952) and E. Federici (1961). See also B.L.S., x. 144–5.