By Dr. Richard Watson

Past President

Catholic Medical Association (USA)

Blessed Benedetta Bianchi Porro

 – a medical student who heroically continued her studies while facing the challenge of a progressive, ultimately fatal neurological disease.  

Daughter of Guido Bianchi Porro and Elsa Giammarchi, the second of six children. Afflicted with poliomyelitis at an early age, leaving her with a crippled left leg and a need to wear a brace to prevent her spine from deforming. A clever and happy child, she began keeping a diary at age five; it became a lifelong record of her faith and the way she carried the cross of her disability.

Much of her primary education was provided by Ursulines. In her teens she began to lose her hearing, and her overall health continued to deterioate. At age 17 she enrolled in the University of MilanItaly with a plan to study physics, but later changed to medicine. Some teachers objected to having a pre-med student who was so deaf that had to have written questions during an oral examination, but Benedetta was an excellent student. In 1957 her studies had reached a point that she was able to diagnose herself; she had Recklinghausen Disease­-Neuro-Fibromatosis which leads to paralysis of the nervous system. She had surgery in 1958 to treat part of the condition, but it was of little benefit, and left the left side of her face paralysed. She continued her studies, but in 1959 she began losing the sense of touch, taste and smell, was completely deaf, and had to give up the idea of a medical career.

Benedetta had further surgery in August 1959; it left both legs paralyzed, and the young woman wheelchair bound. She then turned her sick room into a center of support and communication for others. Her friends from medical school were frequent visitors, and she began correspondences; in person or in print she was uniformly optimistic about life and the love of God. Benedetta and her family visited Lourdes in May 1962 in search of a cure; a paralyzed girl lying next to her was completely healed, but there was no change for Benedetta.

In Milan on 27 February 1963 Benedetta had another operation; it left her blind. She could barely speak, and could only move her right hand. However, the number of her visitors increased as word of her holiness and her gentle understanding of to love God even these circumstances. On 24 June 1963 she went again to Lourdes; as her family waited for her to be healed, she received her own miracle – the understanding that she would not change a thing about her condition.


8 August 1936 at Dovádola, ForliItaly


23 January 1964 at Sirmione, Italy of complications resulting from her Recklinghausen Disease-­Neuro-Fibromatosis

buried in the cemetery at Sirmione

body later transferred to a sarcophagus in the Benedictine Church of Saint Andrew, Dovadola, Italy


23 December 1993 by Pope John Paul II (decree of heroic virtues)


14 September 2019 by Pope Francis

Blessed Ramón Vicente Vargas González

Ramon was a medical student in Mexico who was captured by government forces during the Cristero uprising. He and his brother, sons of a very Catholic physician, both died as martyrs for our Faith.

Ramon and Jorge Vargas González were two sons of a physician – Ramon studied medicine. In jail, they knew they were going to be executed. But before being killed, they were interrogated and tortured, remaining silent throughout.

Taken out to be shot, they recited the Act of Contrition. Before the bullets were fired, Ramón made the sign of the cross and Jorge held a crucifix against his chest.

When the father of the two boys learned how his sons were killed, he said: “Now I know, it is not condolences that I need, but congratulations; I have the fortune to have two sons who are martyrs”.

Alessandra Sabattini

 Alessandra was full of life and wanted to serve the poor as a medical missionary. “Sandra” wasn’t content with living an ordinary life. From the time of her early childhood, she desired a life of holiness, a desire fostered by her parents Giuseppe and Agnese Sabattini.

Starting when she was 10 years old, Sandra kept a diary, in which she wrote,

“A life lived without God is just a way of passing time, whether it’s boring or fun, time to be filled in while waiting for death.”

Two years later in 1974 she met Servant of God Oreste Benzi, founder of the Pope John XXIII Community in Italy. That summer she spent time volunteering at the Madonna delle Vette home in Canazei, helping young people with disabilities. It left a profound mark upon her soul and she later said to her mother, “We worked till we dropped, but these are people I’ll never leave.”

As a teenager she would frequently use the “pocket money” from her parents to give to the poor, leaving almost nothing for herself. Sabattini’s heart was focused on the most vulnerable of society and wanted to help them in any way possible.

She graduated from high school in 1980 and then attended the University of Bologna to study medicine. It was her dream to be a medical missionary in Africa, tending the needs of those who didn’t have anyone to care for them.

While attending a meeting of the Pope John XXIII Community, she met a young man named Guido Rossi, and they fell in love, sharing the same ideals. They became engaged to be married and were joined together by their love of God and the poor.

Sabattini always made a point to pray on a daily basis, often getting up early in the morning to pray in the silence of a nearby church. She would kneel or sit on the floor in an act of humility, spending an intimate time with Jesus.

She wrote,

“Charity is the synthesis of contemplation and action, it is the point at which heaven joins earth, where human beings join with God.”

Then in April 1984 she was on her way to attend a meeting of the Pope John XXIII Community and after leaving her car, she was hit by another car and died in the hospital on May 2, 1984, at the age of 22.

She left a profound legacy of a youthful heart on fire with God’s love. Her life has inspired many, because of her apostolic zeal and love of the poor.

On October 2, 2019, Pope Francis approved a miracle through the intercession of Sandra, paving the way for her future beatification. One more miracle is required before she can be declared a saint.