ALBUQUERQUE – An Italian-born nun who once challenged Billy the Kid, calmed angry mobs, opened hospitals and schools in the American Southwest and is now on a path toward possible sainthood soon will be the subject of a TV series.
Saint Hood Productions based in Albuquerque announced this week a new project around Sister Blandina Segale – a 19th-century nun whose clashes with Old West outlaws and work with immigrants has been the stuff of legend.
“At the End of the Santa Fe Trail” aims to be a fictional account based on Segale’s life and largely will use material from her 1932 book with the same name. That book consisted of Segale’s letters she wrote to her sister about the lawlessness in Trinidad, Colorado, and in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. She also discussed working 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. Segale 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 Segale’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 new production comes as Albuquerque has become a popular filming location for television series, ranging for AMC-TV’s “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” and NBC’s “The Night Shift.”
It also comes just as the Roman Catholic Church is examining Segale for sainthood.
In October, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe formally closed its inquiry on why the legendary nun should become a saint and sent its findings to the Vatican.
The public inquiry, headed by former Archbishop Michael Sheehan, was aimed at determining if there was enough evidence to move her case through the largely secret process at the Vatican.
Witnesses said Segale fought against the cruel treatment of Native Americans and sought to stop the trafficking of women as sex slaves. They also testified that in death, Segale 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 history with the Roman Catholic Church that an inquiry was completed in the state on the cause of beatification and canonization.
Officials say determining whether Segale qualifies for sainthood could take up to a century. The Vatican has to investigate her work and monitor for any related “miracles.”
Segale, 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 Sister 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.