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Sister Blandina Meets "Billy the Kid"
Streets of Trinidad
Sister Rose Maria Segale
The story of Catholic Sister Rose Maria Segale begins on January 23, 1850, when she was born in Cicagna, Italy. She and her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio when she was 4 years old. Rose always knew from a young age she wanted to become a nun. This she did at age 16 becoming Sister Blandina. Her older sister, Maria Maddelena also decided to follow her example and became Sister Justina.
Sister Blandina taught in Steubenville and Dayton, Ohio for a short time. In 1872 she was assigned to Trinidad, Colorado for missionary work. She had imagined her next assignment would have been on an island off the coast of Venezuela or near Cuba somewhere. Instead, she was headed for the western frontier in Colorado and not a tropical island.
She traveled by train alone and arrived in Trinidad on December 9, 1872. She was only twenty-two years old and wasn’t quite prepared for what she found in Trinidad. It was a town often frequented by outlaws and ruled by mob justice, not the sheriff.
In one such instance, a man was fatally wounded. A mob patiently stood watch outside the wounded man’s house, waiting for the word he had died. The vigilantes were planning to storm the jailhouse where the man who shot him was being kept and lynch him.
Fortunately for the prisoner, one of Sister Blandina's students discovered what was being planned and told her. She immediately decided something had to be done about it. She went to the wounded man and asked if he would forgive the man who shot him and let the law, decide his fate. He agreed.
Sister Blandina informed the sheriff she would like to have the prisoner taken to the wounded mans’ bedside and ask for forgiveness. The sheriff knew by walking along the street the mob could seize the prisoner and hang him on the spot. She told him not to worry.
Naturally, the prisoner was very nervous sandwiched between the sheriff and the Sister. A mob of angry vigilantes glared hatefully as they proceeded to the wounded man's house. The three went in and the prisoner was forgiven. The return trip was without incident as the mob broke up and things resumed to business as usual.
Throughout Sister Blandina's years in the wild western town of Trinidad, she had heard of murders committed by well-known, ruthless outlaws. One such man was "Billy the Kid", whom she was soon to meet in person.
One day one of Sister Blandina's students came to her with a surprising story. One of Billy's gang members had been accidentally shot and left to die in an adobe hut near-by. The Sister immediately went and began nursing him back to health. Sister Blandina brought him food and drink as well as teaching him about God and religion.
One day he told Sister Blandina Billy and his gang would soon be arriving in town to scalp four doctors in retribution for refusing to treat him…because he was an outlaw. Sister Blandina decided no such thing could be allowed to happen.
On Saturday at 2 p.m., Sister Blandina stood waiting to face one of the most feared murderers in the West. He arrived on schedule, and to her surprise, he greeted her kindly. It seems he had been told of her kindness and help given his fellow gang member.
“Billy the Kid” said, "We are all glad to see you, Sister, and I want to say, it would give me pleasure to be able to do you any favor." Sister Blandina took advantage of the offer saying there was something he could do for her. He replied, "The favor is granted," before even knowing what it was she wanted. Taking his hand she said, "I understand you have come to scalp our Trinidad physicians, which act I ask you to cancel." Billy was taken aback by her request, not so much by what she had asked, but the fact she had known about the plan. In any case, Billy honored her request.
Sister Blandina continued her work out west for twenty-one years before returning to Cincinnati. There, she and her sister, Sister Justina, set up an Italian Welfare Center for the poor.
Sister Blandina learned, "Billy the Kid" had died at the hand Sheriff Patrick F. Garrett and often wondered something about William H. Bonney, as was his real name. She often pondered, had he been taught about Christianity earlier in life, would he have turned out different?
Sister Blandina Regale is an example of a Catholic in America, although seldom, if ever mentioned in history books, who lived her faith. Her letters about life in the West were published to popular acclaim in 1932.
Sister Blandina Regale passed away at the Sisters of Charity Infirmary near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1941.