The Sisters of the Divine Redeemer are looking ahead with joy to the beatification of their foundress, Mother Alphonse Marie Eppinger, on Sept. 9 in Strasbourg, northeastern France.
The sisters have maintained a presence in the Diocese of Pittsburgh since coming from Sopron, Hungary, in 1912 to care for Hungarian immigrants in McKeesport and surrounding areas. In 1926, land was purchased in Elizabeth that would become the Divine Redeemer motherhouse.
“It is with great joy and gratitude that we celebrate the beatification of our foundress, Mother Alphonse Marie,” said Sister M. Monica Kosztolnyik, a current resident of the motherhouse. “Her great love of the Redeemer and simplicity shown in her love of the poor has encouraged us to spread her charism of redemptive love.”
Elizabeth Eppinger was born Sept. 9, 1814, in Niederbronn, France, in the Alsace region near the German border, according to her congregation’s biography. She began school at age 9 and received first Communion and confirmation in May 1828 at 14.
Starting when she was 18, Elizabeth endured serious illnesses, and a priest advised her to pray and sacrifice for the church. That’s when he noticed certain “mystical graces,” such as her perceptiveness and ability to predict the future.
Elizabeth desired to enter a religious community, but was told to wait by the local bishop. Then, on Aug. 28, 1849, with the consent of the bishop, Elizabeth and some friends moved to a house bought by benefactors, and the Congregation of “the Daughters of the Divine Redeemer” was formed.
Under the protection of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, the congregation was devoted to the material and spiritual needs of the sick and poor and abandoned children. Elizabeth received the religious name Sister Alphonse Marie, in honor of their patron, and on Jan. 2, 1850, she made her profession of vows and was named superior general.
While the congregation spread to other nations in Europe, Mother Alphonse Marie’s goal was to make known and enable others to experience the depth of God’s love and his desire for their true happiness and salvation, the biography said.
Her congregation says their foundress shined forth as an example of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, in love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, silence, faith, modesty, restraint and chastity.
“All of us admire her humility. She struggled with stubbornness her whole life, but she never tried to promote herself or her opinions. She repeated to her sisters: ‘Fear the vain human praise as a fire,’” said the congregation’s biography.
Mother Alphonse Marie died on July 31, 1867, at age 53. Her cause for canonization was begun in 1951, 84 years after her death. Following an investigation into her reputation for holiness, the Congregation for Saints’ Causes in 2011 decreed that she demonstrated heroic virtues, calling her “venerable.”
The miraculous healing of a 66-year-old woman with an intestinal obstruction was attributed to the intercession of Mother Alphonse Marie. In January this year, Pope Francis cleared the way for her beatification, after which she will be called Blessed Alphonse Marie.
Divine Redeemer Sister M. Alojziana Spišáková, regional superior, echoed the excitement of the local sisters.
“Our foundress, Mother Alphonse Marie, desired to spread the love of the Divine Redeemer to the poor, neglected, the troubled in body and spirit,” she said. “With simplicity and goodness, she touched many lives. With thankful hearts and love, we celebrate her beatification.”
Divine Redeemer Sister M. Viannea Mareková added that Mother Alphonse Marie “wanted to be hidden in Jesus and unknown before the world. In looking for God’s will, she prayed and accepted all kinds of suffering with one goal — to draw all souls to the Redeemer of the world.
“No one was indifferent to her, she served all people with love and she made reparation for the sinners. She became an instrument of God’s mercy.”