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Servant of God nun who challenged Billy the Kid to be the subject of new TV series

Pamphlets and prayer cards to Sister Blandina Segale at the Catholic Center in Albuquerque (AP)

An Italian-born nun who once challenged Billy the Kid, calmed angry mobs, opened hospitals and schools in the American Southwest, amd whose canonisation Cause is underway, will now be the subject of a TV series.

Saint Hood Productions, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will announce today a series on Sister Blandina Segale, a 19th-Century nun whose clashes with Old West outlaws and work with immigrants have become legendary.

At the End of the Santa Fe Trail is a semi-fictional account based on Sr Blandina’s life and largely based on material from the nun’s 1932 book with the same name. The book consists of Sr Blandina’s letters to her sister about the lawlessness in Trinidad, Colorado, and in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. It also describes her work with immigrants and prisoners.

Her encounters with Old West outlaws later became the subject of an episode of the CBS series Death Valley Days, titled The Fastest Nun in the West.

According to one story, she received a tip that Billy the Kid was coming to her town to scalp four doctors who refused to treat his friend’s gunshot wound. Sr Blandina nursed the friend to health, and when Billy went to Trinidad to thank her, she convinced him to abandon his violent plan.

Allen Sanchez, president and CEO of CHI St. Joseph’s Children — an Albuquerque community health organization born of Sr Blandina’s work — said the nun is a perfect subject for a television series since many of the same issues she faced still resonate.

“She saw a divided country. She fought violence with nonviolence. She worked to stop discrimination against immigrants,” Sanchez said. “These are all things we are seeing today.”

The series comes just as the Church is examining Sr Blandina for sainthood.

In October, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe came to the end of its inquiry on whether the legendary nun should become a saint, and sent its findings to the Vatican.

The public inquiry, headed by former Archbishop Michael Sheehan, heard from witnesses who said Sr Blandina fought against the cruel treatment of American Indians and sought to stop the trafficking of women as sex slaves. They also testified that in death, Sr Blandina has helped cancer patients and poor immigrants who have prayed to her for help.

It’s the first time in New Mexico’s 400-year Catholic history that an inquiry has been completed in the state on the cause of beatification and canonisation.

Officials say determining whether Sr Blandina qualifies for sainthood could take up to a century. The Vatican has to investigate her work and monitor for any related miracles.

Sr Blandina, a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and an advocate for Hispanics and Native Americans, founded schools in New Mexico and St. Joseph Hospital, a predecessor of the Albuquerque health organization. She worked as an educator and social worker in Ohio, Colorado and New Mexico.

Tomas Sanchez, executive producer and director of the Segale production, said 98 percent of the cast and crew will be from New Mexico.

“I am honored to tell Sr Blandina’s story,” he said. “This task requires lots of attention to history and demands that we hire the best New Mexican cast and crew to execute some very technically challenging film sequences.”

Officials said the production is working on finding a network to air the series.