Among Albania’s 38 martyrs on the way to beatification is a onetime postulant of the Stigmatine Sisters of Shkodër, Maria Tuci (1928-1950).
Arrested in 1949 when she was teaching at an elementary school run by the sisters, Maria died a martyr’s death the following year at the age of 22. In prison, she was brutally tortured for her faith and religious vocation, humiliated and sexually assaulted by the prison guards.
She was threatened by one of the guards in these terms: “I will reduce you to a state that even your family members would not be able to recognize you.” In fact, that’s exactly what happened.
Resisting to the end, she was closed in a tied sack with a street cat whom the guards beat continuously with a stick. Maria was brutally scratched and bitten by the cat’s pointy teeth. Puncture wounds from cat bites are usually very deep, sending bacteria deep into flesh, and if not immediately cured the infection can be lethal.
After days of brutal torture, Maria was admitted to the hospital, disfigured with bumps and blisters all over her body. She died an agonizing death on October 24, 1950, holding a rosary in her hands.
“I thank God because he gave me the force to die free,” she said.
Despite terrible torture, the 22-year-old did not betray her faith and personal dignity. She forgave her tormentors and the prison guards.
In effect, Tucci is “the modern St. Agnes, who forgave the persecutors and desired for reconciliation between victims and perpetrators” said Massafra in an interview with La Stampa/Vatican Insider.
Young Maria had the gifts of faith, fortitude, wisdom, love, and forgiveness, it is a classic example of ‘genius of women’.