Anna Pendlebury, our wonderful organist at St Joseph’s writes: ‘My Great Auntie Mary was a nun from Morecambe who saved Jews during the Holocaust who was honoured more than 15 years after her death.
Sister Maria Antoniazzi, known as Sister Anthony, was intiated into Israel's Righteous Among the Nations at a ceremony in Rome.
She was born Maria Anna Francesca Antoniazzi in Bardi in Piacenza in Northern Italy on November 12, 1900.
She left Morecambe and her father's cafe against his wishes to become a Notre Dame sister shortly before the second world war.(She had to sell her piano to raise money for a dowry to enter the convent!)
The order sent her to a poor part of Rome when war broke out. Under the leadership of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, the convent became one of a network of safehouses in the city.
Mgr O'Flaherty's wartime experiences were made into a film, The Scarlet and the Black. Sister Anthony's work hiding Jewish children in the school and gardens remained unrecognised, because she had managed to keep it secret from both the Gestapo and the order.
She provided false papers for the children so that they could be smuggled out.
After the war she returned to England and joined the Parbold Notre Dame convent, near Wigan. She never talked to any of the family at any time about her activities during the war, even though Jewish survivors visited her to thank her.
Thanks to pressure from some of the children she saved now living in the US and their determination to track her down, Sister Antoniazzi (Anthony) was awarded this very special honour, which as far as we know has only been awarded to seven other British citizens. Her name is inscribed on the wall of the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, (the pictures below show the medal awarded, the wall on which her name is inscribed and a picture of Sister Antoniazzi at the time and in later life).
It was a great honour on our recent pilgrimage to the Holy land to visit Yad Vashem and to see her name on the memorial wall in the garden. Thanks to Deacon Stephen and Fr. Philip for going beyond the call of duty to locate and photograph her name and then manage to get back safely to the coach after passing through two check points!!