Blessed Caroline Gerhardinger

Bl. Caroline Gerhardinger (1797-1879), also known as Mother Maria Theresa of Jesus, was born into a working class family in Bavaria. Her giftedness as an educator was apparent early in her life, and she became a certified teacher at the age of 15. Although she was drawn to a quiet, contemplative life, her desire was to teach young girls to aspire to their full potential. For this she was greatly loved by her students. Responding to the needs of the time, and with the guidance of her bishop, she began a new religious order dedicated to education called the Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame. This was during a period when all religious orders were closed by decree of the Bavarian government. She sent her Sisters in groups of twos and threes into the local villages to teach the poor young girls who would otherwise have no opportunity for education, a novelty in her day which grew into a new form of apostolic religious life. In this way she sought to remedy social ills through education, which she believed was just as necessary for a child as love, food, and shelter. When the Vatican negotiated the reopening of Bavaria's religious communities in 1828, the Sisters moved into a convent. Caroline took the religious name Mary Theresa of Jesus for her devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. At the time of her death her order had grown to 2,500 sisters. She was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1985. Her feast day is May 9th.
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