Saint Edith Stein: philosopher, convert and martyr

Saint Edith Stein: philosopher, convert and martyr


Photo by Alan M. Dumoff
Joe Sosnowsky, an educator from Ocean City, shares the life of Edith Stein with visitors to the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture in Haddon Heights on Feb. 24.

HADDON HEIGHTS — Saint Edith Stein — saint, Carmelite, philosopher, mystic and martyr — was the topic of discussion at the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture’s here last weekend.

Joe Sosnowsky, an educator from Ocean City, shared with guests the life and faith of Saint Stein, born to Jewish parents on Oct. 12, 1891 in Breslau, Germany.

An atheist who studied under Edmund Husserl, the founder of the branch of philosophy known as phenomenology, she became a well known professor and lecturer in her own right. After years of unbelief, she was baptized into the Catholic Church on New Year’s Day 1922, after reading a biography of Saint Teresa of Avila.

In 1933, she entered the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Germany, and took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross upon receiving her habit a year later. The Nazi threat necessitated her order’s transfer of her to Holland, but in August 1942, she and her sister were arrested by the Nazis and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were killed in the gas chambers.

Pope (now Saint) John Paul II beatified Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross on May 1, 1987, and canonized her on Oct. 11, 1998.

The church considers her a martyr for the faith. Over the years, some Jews have protested her sainthood cause, saying that she was arrested and killed because of her Jewish heritage. But when the pope beatified her, he declared her a “daughter of Israel” and a “daughter of Carmel.”

Calling Saint Edith Stein “a great role model for many young people who are seeking the truth,” Brenda Quinn, director of operations for the Collegium Center, said that what stood out for her in Sosnowsky’s presentation was the saint’s “conversion to Christianity when she witnessed the strength of the Cross, and conversion further into Catholicism, when she read Saint Teresa of Avila and recognized truth. As she would say, ‘Seeking truth is seeking God.’”

The Collegium Center for Faith and Culture aims to provide a place for lively interaction and conversation, focused on evangelization in the Catholic faith.

Located at 301 White Horse Pike, it will host its next evening this Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Father John Picinic, Pastor of Sewell’s Church of the Holy Family, will speak on Christology.

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