Sr Lucindis. St Peter’s Sq
She looked like a tramp.
She was always hanging around the Vatican. Sat perched on the base of a column. Her rosy, wind-chapped cheeks peeping out from under her woolly hat. Alongside her, an old wheeled shopping basket. Always alone.
She was a Pallottine Missionary sister, who had made St. Peter’s Square her home.
She was Sister Maria Lucindis Stock.
“I can’t say that she was a saint,” says Father Hans-Peter Fischer, the only priest in Rome she ever spoke to. “Only the Lord knows that.”
Sister Lucindis, 82, first appeared in St Peter’s Square in 2011. She started going to the daily 7.00 am Mass at Santa Maria della Pietà, alongside the German seminary.
Father Fischer says she knew very little Italian.
She only spoke German.
Day after day, he said, “she was alone in the square watching people. From morning to night. I don’t know if she prayed.”
Most nights, she spent at the general house of her order, the Pallottine Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate, a 10-minute walk from the Vatican.
Other nights she would sleep in St Peter’s Square itself or in one of the nearby shelters for the homeless.
The priest said that the Pallottine sisters did everything they could to help her. They tried to get her psychiatric help. They arranged for her to be admitted first to a hospital in Italy. Then to a hospital in Germany. But she refused any treatment and ran away from both.
After she ran away from the hospital in Germany, she lived in Israel for two months and then Hong Kong for another month. How she got to both countries and how she survived in both, she never said.
February 2013 she returned to Rome. She had heard that Pope Benedict XVI had resigned and she wanted to be present at his final Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Father Fischer said Sister Lucindis told him her story just before she died.
She had developed a severe infection in her legs. She was taken to hospitable where she was treated with antibiotics. But she asked to leave. She also stopped taking the medication. The infection spread to her blood.
Father Fischer said he was called to her room in the convent.
He gave her the last rites.
But even though she was suffering from severe blood poisoning, she continued to go to St Peter’s Square until shortly before her death.
When she died, the priest said, she faded away like “the dying wick of a candle”.
Her funeral in Santa Maria della Pietà was packed. It was attended by her two brothers, a small group of sisters of her order and crowds of people who knew her from her days sitting in St Peter’s Square. Sat perched on the base of a column. Her rosy, wind-chapped cheeks peeping out from under her woolly hat. Alongside her, an old wheeled shopping basket. Always alone.