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Biography of sr. Zdenky

Sister Zdenka, from the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, was born around midnight on December 24, 1916 in Krivá in Orava, the mountainous region of northeastern Slovakia. Her family name was Cecília Schelingová. Cecilia attended the local elementary school in the village for 8 years from 1922 to 1930. On July 6, 1931,she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross in Podunajské Biskupice as a candidate. After years of formation, she made first vows on January 30, 1937. She began working in Bratislava in the Government Hospital in the radiology department. In 1941 – 1942, she worked as a nurse in the Regional Hospital in Humenné. From 1942 until February 29, 1952, she worked in the Government Hospital in Bratislava on Miczkiewiczova Street as a laboratory assistant. On January28, 1943,  she made her final vows.

After the political change in 1948, the Communist Party in the former Czechoslovakia began open persecution of the Church. Many believers were discriminated against for their faith. Bishops and  priests were arrested and persecuted. Religious congregations were dissolved and their members were sent to do forced labour. Sister Zdenka realized the need to protect the Church. She performed courageous deeds, and in accordance with  her knowledge, strength and possibilities she expressed her protest against unjust violence. Her attitudes expressed her inner readiness to bring big sacrifices for the suffering Church. Twice she was involved in preparing escapes for imprisoned priests.

On the morning of February 29, 1952, the state police arrested Sister Zdenka. She was kept in pre-trial custody in the Palace of Justice in Bratislava. There she was interrogated, suffered many humiliations and was tortured. On June 17, 1952, she received a fabricated sentence for treason.  She lost her freedom for 12 years and civil rights for 10 years.

She was imprisoned in Rimavská Sobota, Pardubice, Brno, and in the prison hospital in Pankrác – Prague, where she met with Mrs. Helena Wilde – Kordová. She was the only person to whom Sr. Zdenka confided important details, especially suffering in pre-trial custody. After 40 years, testimony of Mrs. Helena Wilde– Kordová became known after her arrival in Slovakia on September 27, 1994.

Sister Zdenka was released from the Prague prison  on April 16, 1955, because she was terminally ill and she was admitted into the hospital in Trnava.

Sister Zdenka died on July 31, 1955, at 7:45 a.m. in the oncology department in the Trnava hospital after receiving the Sacraments. She was almost 39 years old. On August 2, 1955, her mortal remains were buried in the old cemetery in Trnava. On April 6, 1970, Július Matečný, JUDr of the Regional Court of Bratislava declared that  Sister Zdenka – Cecília Schelingová -  was innocent. She had received a “false accusation... issued with a sentence of high betrayal... based on facts manipulated by the state police themselves.“  On November 18, 1970, the High Court SSR annulled the judgement in its entirety, and so granted Sister Zdenka her full civil rights again.

In 1979, the old cemetery in Trnava where Sr. Zdenka was buried was liquidated. On October 15, 1979, Sister Zdenka´s remains were exhumed together with ten other Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. On October 16, they were transferred to the cemetery in Podunajské Biskupice.

Archbishop Ján Sokol opened the diocesan process of beatification of Sister Zdenka in Trnava on September 18, 2000.  The second exhumation of her remains was on June16, 2003. On July  7, 2003,the Roman phase of the process of beatification was finished and  the Holy Father John Paul II  granted beatification to Sister Zdenka Schelingová. On September 14,2003, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Slovakia got its first beatified religious sister from the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross – Sister Zdenka.

In Rome, on March 11, 2014, the documents for the Roman phase of the canonization of Sister Zdenka were accepted. She was  a representative of all martyrs during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

Bl. Zdenka, pray for us!

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