Kafka, Maria Restituta, Bl.

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Baptized Helena, nurse, martyr of the Franciscan Sisters of christian charity ("Hartmannschwestern"); b. May 10, 1894, Hussowitz-Brunn, Moravia (now Brno, Czech Republic); d. March 30, 1943, Vienna, Austria. Helena Kafka was the sixth daughter of a cobbler who moved the family to Vienna while she was still a child. During her teens she began working as a sales clerk, then as a nurse, which put her into contact with the nursing Hartmannschwestern. She took the name "Restituta" upon entering the congregation (1914). Sr. Restituta was a skilled surgical nurse (191939), but also gained a reputation for championing the cause of those in need: the poor, the oppressed, and the unjustly accusedeven a Nazi doctor.

Following the Anschluss (March 1938), she was an outspoken opponent of Adolf Hilter. She was arrested on Ash Wednesday 1942 for replacing the pictures of Hitler in each room of a new hospital wing with crucifixes and refusing to remove them. On Oct. 28, 1942, she received the death sentence for treason. Upon being offered her freedom in exchange for leaving the order, she refused. For the next five months, until the order of decapitation was executed, Sr. Restituta nursed other prisoners without regard to political affiliation.

On April 6, 1998, her martyrdom was declared. In the Plaza of Heroes in Vienna in front of the balcony where Hilter announced the Anschluss of Austria, Pope John Paul II beatified Kafka on June 21, 1998.

Feast: Oct. 29 (Franciscans).

Bibliography: p. ronai, Schwester Maria Restituta Kafka (Innsbruck 1998).

[k. i. rabenstein]