Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen has decided that there are sufficient grounds to open the cause for beatification and canonization of Maria Esperanza de Bianchini, a Venezuelan mother of numerous children and alleged mystic, who lived 1928-2004.
Bishop Bootkoski will conduct the opening of the cause in the context of a Mass to be celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen, on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, at 3 p.m. The Betania Choir of Venezuela, composed of the family members and spiritual followers of the Maria Esperanza, will provide the music for this liturgical celebration.
Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, Roman postulator of Maria Esperanza’s cause, explained, “A beatification cause involves a years-long process of examination of the candidate’s life, virtues, writings, reputation for holiness and reputation for intercession.”
When a candidate’s cause is opened, that person is called a Servant of God. After the Servant of God’s heroic virtue has been proven, he or she is declared “venerable.” Then, to be beatified, one miracle must be attributed to the Venerable’s intercession. Finally, a second miracle is needed for canonization.
Dr. Ambrosi said, “The church’s criteria for accepting a miracle are very rigorous.”
Maria Esperanza was born in Monagas State, Venezuela on Nov. 22, 1928. From an early age, she exhibited a life of virtue and devotion to God and was endowed with special charisms like supernatural knowledge, healings, visions and the ability to read the hearts of others. Her gifts and virtues attracted many followers.
In 1954, she married Geo Bianchini and they had six daughters and one son. She and her husband raised their children in an exemplary manner, and she continued to use her spiritual gifts to assist souls and to form the consciences of all who sought her counsel.
On March 25, 1984, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Maria Esperanza and 150 of her associates at a tropical farm named Betania, 50 miles south of Caracas. Our Lady manifested herself in Betania under the title, “Mary, Virgin and Mother, Reconciler of all Peoples and Nations.”
These apparitions were approved in 1987 by the local bishop, Msgr. Pio Bello, in consultation with then- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005.)
This supernatural event in Betania thrust Maria Esperanza into the international limelight and she was then required to make many trips abroad to announce Our Lady’s message of family reconciliation and fraternal unity. Throughout her life, Maria Esperanza was an extraordinary example of humility, hope, and unconditional love.
During her travels, she visited the United States often, particularly New Jersey, where she spent the last eight months of her life.
After a protracted illness, Maria Esperanza died in Long Beach Island, N.J., on Aug. 7, 2004, at the age of 75. A beatification process is usually conducted from the place where a candidate resided or died; hence, the cause of Maria Esperanza is being initiated in New Jersey.
Father Timothy Byerley, Vice Postulator of Maria Esperanza’s cause and a priest of the Diocese Camden, New Jersey, said, “Mr. Geo Bianchini and the family of Maria Esperanza have extended an open invitation to the Mass at the Metuchen Cathedral on January 31, 2010. Priests and deacons are especially invited.”
Clergy intending to vest are asked to bring white vesture and preregister at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than January 22, 2010.