The most influential Catholic women of all times

On March the 8th, the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, a day for honoring the countless women who struggled to fight inequality, discriminations, and gender prejudices. Since the date is approaching, we joyfully dedicate this article to remember 5 very influential Catholic women. 

Some of them are very famous female saints of the Church, some became spiritual leaders of entire countries. All of them offered inspiration to anyone wishing to make a change in their community. The stories we are about to tell, are stories of courage, love, faith and deep selflessness. We can learn an awful lot from them.

1. St Clare of Assisi (1194 – 1253)

St Clare was the daughter of a wealthy Italian aristocrat, who, as one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, decided to give up completely her high-class lifestyle. She cut her hair, and she deprived herself of everything: material goods as well as the emotional bonds. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies and wrote their Rule of Life, which was the first of monastic guidelines to ever be written by a woman. St Clare’s story is particularly inspiring and motivating for us living in a consumerist and selfish society.

St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi

2. St Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380)

St Catherine of Siena was a tertiary of the Dominican Order, a mystical, and a philosopher. She dedicated her life to theological studies and spiritual exercises. Yet, she was an extraordinary political activist too. She worked hard to reconcile the city of Florence and the Pope, and to
bring peace among the Italian territories of her time. Her writings were (and still are) so influential that she was later declared a Doctor of the Church (in 1970). Nonetheless, we admire and venerate St Catherine of Siena also because of her civil and political commitment, which was quite rare for a woman in the Middle Age.

3. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 1897)

Also known as the “Little Flower of Jesus”, St Thérèse of Lisieux was a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who died at the age of 24. Thérèse was a highly influential model of sanctity: she dedicated her short life to help others and to serve God. Together with St Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the Church. Her journal called Story of a Soul, as well as the collections of her letters, are very inspiring works and we highly recommend to read them.

4. Edith Stein (1891 – 1942)

Edith Stein was a Jewish intellectual who first became an atheist, and then converted to Catholicism joining the Discalced Carmelites. Her theories were influenced by masters like St Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger, and by the mysticism of St Teresa of Avila too. Edith Stein was persecuted by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz where she died in 1942. She was beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II and is still venerated as an example of dedication, prayer, fasting, and penance.

5. Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)

“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus". Mother Teresa was a nun, a missionary and a woman who devoted her whole life to the poor, sick and marginalized. Her humanitarianism, as well as her words and acts, deeply influenced the world in recent times, impacting both the lives of Catholics and non-Catholics.

5 Catholic women + 1: Malala Yousufzai (1997)

She is not a Catholic, yet she is the youngest Peace Nobel Prize winner in history, and an example of unbelievable courage. Malala is a Pakistani activist for female education and human rights. She was only 11 years old when she started writing on a BBC blog to denounce gender discrimination and the bans on female education that local Taliban imposed in her country at times. In 2012, she was only 15, she was shot by a Taliban who wanted to kill her. She was hit in the head with a bullet, but miraculously survived becoming one of the world’s most iconic female change agents.