Regina Christine Wilhelmine Bonzel was born in Germany to a deeply religious family. Early in life, she felt the call to religious life. She recalled:
On the day of my First Holy Communion, I was unspeakably happy. Before that I was vivacious child, ready to take part in every prank. But after I received the Lord in my heart and returned to my place, an indescribable feeling came over me. Without really knowing what I was saying, I repeated over and over again, “O Lord, I am your victim, accept me as your victim; do not reject me.”
Her parents refused to allow her to enter a religious order, but when she was twenty, she entered the Third Order of St. Francis. With a group of friends she embarked on a life of service to orphans. Eventually, they were recognized as a new congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. She became superior, taking the name Maria Theresia. As new members joined them, the order established a series of schools, hospitals, and orphanages. She was determined that her sisters always embrace the spirit of poverty, humility, and charity.
“We are the children of St. Francis. We must follow his example.”
During the Franco-Prussian War, Mother Maria’s sisters cared for over eight hundred wounded soldiers. Yet, after the war, the government instituted a series of harsh anti-Catholic measures known as the Kulturkampf. Severe restrictions were placed on all religious congregations, and the sisters were forbidden to accept new members. Mother Maria responded by sending sisters to Indiana in the United States. She herself accompanied the first six missionaries in 1875, and returned twice more to oversee their expanding work.
Mother Maria died on February 6, 1905. She was beatified in 2013.