Feast Day of Saint Benedict Menni 24th April

Benedict Menni (1841-1914) devoted his life to supporting the vulnerable and marginalised, in particular promoting more compassionate treatment for those with mental health problems.

From a wealthy Milanese family, he was the fifth of 15 children. In 1859, at the battle of Magenta, he volunteered to help transport the wounded from Milan railway station to the nearby hospital. This brought him into contact with the Hospitallers who inspired him so much that he entered their novitiate in1860. Four years later he made his solemn profession of vows, taking the name of Benedict. His reputation grew and after his ordination in 1866, he was commissioned by Pope Pius IX to re-found the Order in Spain where it had been banned since 1836 due to anti-clericism.

In 1867 Benedict succeeded in opening the first children’s hospital and refuge in Spain in the city of Barcelona and was appointed Superior of the Order in Spain in 1872. He moved to Marseille but soon returned to Spain to help victims of the Third Carlist War (1872-76) in the Basque provinces. Eventually Benedict managed to get funds for a building at Ciempozuelos, 20 miles outside Madrid where he founded a psychiatric hospital which would revolutionise the treatment of mentally ill patients in Spain.

Benedict insisted on a holistic approach and also recognised the importance of bringing women into his work. In 1881 he founded the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. With the help of the Sisters, Benedict founded 17 psychiatric hospitals in Spain. Today his Sisters are working in 24 countries. He was canonised in 1999. Saint John of God Menni Services in Dublin is named in his honour.

 

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