This is the story if a saintly laywoman who lived at the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, DC. In the convent this woman's name was Marie Estelle. She had an interesting history.
She had called at St. Aloysius' rectory one evening during a mission and asked for the pastor. She told Fr. Conniff a strange story. She had not led a good life and on that day had finished a term in the District Jail. She was sorry for her past and wanted to serve God and "His dear Mother, Mary" all the rest of her life. Would Father help her to begin a new life?
Like Mary Magdalen, when her heart was touched by grace and love, Mary Estelle began a new and holy life that night. Fr. Conniff placed her under the spiritual direction of Fr. William Brooks, SJ, a kind and skilled confessor, and she became a daily communicant. Later, Fr. Conniff had her placed in the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor under the special guardianship of Sister Marie de St. Odile. Here she became a model of holiness and of devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Priests of the city asked her prayers in their work with convents and lapsed Catholics.
Fr. Conniff once made a special visit to the Little Sisters Convent to see the newly admitted guest. George Greer, who had been an officer in the Metropolitan Police Department, greeted the priest with eagerness. "Did I get the shock of my life this morning Father," he said, "when I accidentally met your Marie Estelle, why, she was once one of the most notorious police characters in Washington. Her home was a 'dive' and we were continually raiding it. Once Fighting Sergeant John Daley and I led a raid on her house and she evidently had been tipped off that we were coming. She had mixed some concentrated lye into two basins of scolding hot water. As I stepped into the living room this woman threw the contents of one basin into my face. A maid threw the contents of the other basin into Daley's face. We nearly went insane with the pain and torture from the terrible burns and we were hospitalized for many weeks. These red scars on my cheek and forehead and around my mouth came from that attack. The woman got a long jail sentence and when she got out she completely vanished. And now I run into her again and she has become a saint! Can you beat that?"
The Metropolitan Police Department Official Illustrated History, published in 1907, records of the lye-throwing attack on the officers. According to Officer Greer's story to Fr. Conniff, he had come suddenly face to face with Marie Estelle and each recognized the other. They had a long and friendly conversation in which the woman told Greer that she had prayed daily through the years for him and Daley in an effort to repair for the cruel attack she had made on them. She said that in the year 1915, she had been told that Daley, then a Captain of the Police, had neglected his religious duties for more than 25 years. She made what she termed a "strong novena" to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in preparation for Her Feast Day on July 16, praying that Captain Daley would return to the practice of his religion.
Several days after the Feast Day, Marie Estelle received word that Captain Daley had permitted the Very Rev. Paschasius Heriz, O.C.D. of the newly established Carmelite House of Studies, to enroll him in the Brown Scapular on the very evening of the Feast Day. One week later he went to Confession and on the following day received Holy Communion with a devotion that greatly impressed his pastor, Fr. Eugene Harian, of St. Martin's Church. Captain Daley died at the end of that very month, July 30, 1916, well prepared for death by the special grace he had received, through the prayers of the woman who once tried to kill him but who later had won the Love of the Good Shepherd.
Some months later, Fr. Conniff knelt one day at noon with the Fathers of the rectory as they recited the Angelus. At the conclusion of the prayer all arose and left except Fr. Conniff. He remained kneeling and apparently lost in contemplation. He did not appear in the dining room until 15 minutes later and then he appeared lost in thought. After the meal he confided to Fr. Brooks that he had gone through a most amazing experience. He felt, he said, as if Our Blessed Lady was standing before him in wondrous beauty and that from her hands two streams of light were falling upon him and filling him with great spiritual joy. "I felt as if I were in Heaven," he said. "I cannot explain it but I feel strangely happy."
An hour later Fr. Conniff received a telephone message from the Mother Superior of the Little Sisters of the Poor, telling him that Marie Estelle had died. "Shortly before her death, Father," said the nun, "she asked me to tell you that she owes her salvation to you and to Sister Marie de St. Odile. She wanted you to know that when she is received into heaven she will implore Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to flood your soul with the richest of graces and blessings and to let you know that you are close to Her Immaculate Heart."
"Thank you Reverend Mother, for your kindness," replied the priest. By the way, Mother, at what time did Marie Estelle die?"
"At noon, Father, she died while the Angelus bell was ringing."
Source: Ave Maria Magazine.