A New Jersey nun credited with curing a boy's eye disease is moving a step closer to sainthood with her beatification.
A beatification Mass for Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, who died in 1927 at age 26, was being led Saturday by Cardinal Angelo Amato at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. It is the third in a four-step process toward sainthood.
Demjanovich is credited with curing a boy's macular degeneration in the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Newark says. The boy, Michael Mencer, was given a lock of the nun's hair and prayed to her. The effects of the eye disease soon began to fade, Roman Catholic Church officials say.
"Within a period of six weeks, it was totally reversed," said Sister Mary Canavan of the Sisters of Charity, the order to which Demjanovich belonged.
The archdiocese expected more than 1,500 people to attend the beatification Mass. Among those attending were Mencer and members of the Demjanovich family.
Mencer's younger brother, Mark, said he was thrilled to attend the Mass.
"I'm very excited! This is something that's been in the making for decades," Mark Mencer said. "My mother has been in contact with Rome for a long time. I'm glad to see such great success come from this."
Mark Mencer, who now lives in Las Vegas, said he was about 4 years old when his brother's vision began to improve.
"I heard the stories including the one of him walking into a tree because he couldn't see so well," he said. "It's amazing because he had no medical intervention. It's a true miracle of God."
The beatification comes less than a year after Pope Francis certified Mencer's improved eyesight as a miracle, though church officials started the process in 1945 when the bishop of Paterson began studying Demjanovich's life and virtues, according to the Sisters of Charity.
Demjanovich was born in Bayonne, southeast of Newark, and was a Sister of Charity for only two years before succumbing to complications of appendicitis. During her short time in the order, she was best known for her virtue and her mature writings. At the time, students also noted that whatever was said in confidence to her was not spoken to anyone else, Sister Diane Collesano said.
"The sisters saw in her that a person who had insights far beyond the average 20-some-year-old person," Collesano said.
Beatification requires evidence of one miracle that happened after the candidate has died and as a result of a specific plea to the candidate. Sainthood requires a second miracle, though candidates deemed martyrs need only one for canonization.