The cult of Saint Margaret of Citta di Castello in the United States

Devotion to Saint Margaret in the United States was greatly encouraged by the publication of a book about her life by Fr. William R. Bonniwell, O.P. in 1952. While this biography was the result of extensive historical research of the extant manuscripts and several visits by Fr. Bonniwell to Citta di Castello and the surrounding region to consult with local Italian sources, it is written in an engaging narrative style that brings Margaret to life for the reader.

In 1975, the cloistered Dominican nuns of Summit, New Jersey suggested that Margaret would make an ideal “patroness for the unwanted”, including unborn children in danger of abortion. Margaret’s subsequent enthusiastic adoption by the pro-life movement led to a reprinting of Fr. Bonniwell’s book in 1979, with thousands of copies distributed in the United States, Canada, Ireland, England, and Australia. The book remains in print today.

Saint Margaret continues to be a patron for those dedicated to respect for all human life. The Sisters of Life, a religious community founded in 1991 in New York to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life, consider Saint Margaret of Castello one of the special patrons of their community because of her association with the pro-life movement and as a beautiful icon of the dignity of every human life, no matter what its challenges. They have seen her intercession particularly for parents who receive an adverse prenatal diagnosis and are being pressured to choose abortion rather than allow a child to be born who may have special needs as Margaret did. Her life of holiness is an inspiration and her reputation for miraculous intercession is a source of hope especially in those cases where the doctors offer little chance for survival. There is also a maternity home called “Blessed Margaret of Castello Home” in Bensalem, Pennsylvania offering free resources for women with crisis pregnancies.

The Sisters of Life have also found Margaret to be a special source of grace for women struggling toward healing after the experience of abortion. One of the hardest things for a mother after an abortion, even if she comes to believe in God’s mercy and forgiveness, is to believe that her lost child could ever forgive her for the choice she has made. Saint Margaret’s love and forgiveness toward her parents who rejected and abandoned her can bring a special grace for women struggling to restore a relationship of love with their lost children who are now entrusted to God’s mercy.

At the other end of the spectrum of human life, the Sisters of Life see Margaret’s canonization as very timely as the dangers of assisted suicide and euthanasia increase in the United States and throughout the world for those whose lives are declared “too burdensome” because of physical disabilities or illness.

Saint Margaret has become a patron for every branch of the Dominican family in the United States. In addition to Dominican cloistered nuns and Dominican friars, Dominican sisters and laity have also befriended her. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee have a stained-glass window, statue, and relic of her in their Motherhouse chapel, and in their education apostolate to the young they present Saint Margaret as a great example of the dignity of the human person: our worth is not founded in a perfect physical appearance, but as children of our Heavenly Father who loves us. The sisters also present Saint Margaret as an example for students with troubled families, teaching them that adverse family situations do not prevent the action of God’s grace. Saint Margaret reveals that suffering in family relationships does not have to lead to bitterness but can in fact lead to greater love. Several chapters of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic have a devotion to Saint Margaret, including the Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter in Boise, Idaho, founded under her patronage in 1997. There are also Dominican laity chapters named for Margaret in Maine and in Florida.

At present, two Dominican parishes in the United States have shrines to Saint Margaret of Castello: St. Louis Bertrand Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and St. Patrick Church in Columbus, Ohio.

The shrine at St. Louis Bertrand Church was established in 1981 through the dedication of Fr. Anthony Ignatius Cataudo, O.P., who with the blessing of Archbishop Thomas J. McDonough of Louisville and of Fr. Edward Raymond Daley, O.P., the Provincial of the St. Joseph Province, also began “The Crusade for the Canonization of Blessed Margaret of Castello” that same year, distributing prayers to Blessed Margaret and making her widely known, building a mailing list of over 5,000 patrons around the world by 1984.

St. Patrick Church in Columbus, Ohio has a shrine chapel dedicated to Saint Margaret with a relic of her heart, and is also home to the office Saint Margaret of Castello Guild, which has over 1,200 members across the United States at present. Daily prayers for the intentions of the Guild members through the intercession of Saint Margaret are offered by the Dominican friars of St. Patrick Priory, and on Wednesdays in St. Patrick Church, prayers for the intercession of Saint Margaret are offered and her relic is venerated. Pilgrims sometimes come to visit the shrine, especially to light a candle and pray for Saint Margaret’s intercession. The postulants of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have made a visit to the shrine annually in recent years. A Novena of Masses is offered there annually for the intentions of the Saint Margaret Guild, concluding with her feast day on April 13.

The Saint Margaret of Castello Guild offers books, prayer cards, and devotional items through its website, At the request of one of the members of the Saint Margaret of Castello Guild, the Xavier Society for the Blind has transcribed Fr. Bonniwell’s book on Saint Margaret and also a set of Novena prayers into braille and provides them free of charge.

The canonization of Saint Margaret on April 24 by Pope Francis was welcomed with great joy by many people in the United States who have been praying for this day for many years. This news has been shared by many Catholic media outlets, and we can hope that little Margaret will become ever more widely known and loved, and that she who was considered one of the least on earth will prove to be one of the greatest of friends in Heaven.

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