曹桂英 Saint Agnes Cao Guiying

April 28, 1821 – March 1, 1856

Orphaned as a child, widowed after 2 years of marriage, locked up in a cage for being a catechist, Saint Agnes Cao couldn’t deny the hardships of life. Neither could she allow those hardships to shake her faith in the Risen Christ.

Cao Guiying was born on April 28, 1821 in Wujiazhai, Guizhou. Her parents were Catholic and had her baptized Agnes. While she was still young, both her parents died. Agnes moved to the city of Xingyi to live with a Catholic woman. Through the Bishop’s encouragement, she received instruction in the faith at her local parish. At the age of 18 she married a farmer and was taken into his home. His family treated her poorly and when her husband died, Agnes was kicked out of their home. Left without family or a house at the age of 20, a devout Catholic widow took Agnes in under her wing. She offered not only a home, but a continued formation in Christian discipleship.

A missionary priest from France, Fr. Auguste Chapdelaine, met Agnes while visiting Xingyi. He was impressed with how well Agnes knew the faith and invited her to be a catechist in the neighboring province. In 1852, she moved to Baijiazhai, Guangxi. There were few Catholics in Guangxi at the time, but she dedicated herself to traveling throughout the region teaching the Catholic faith. 

In February 1856, Agnes was arrested along with Fr. Chapdelaine and another catechist, Bai Xiaoman. They were each locked in a cage. 

When asked to renounce her faith, Agnes said, “Even at death’s door I will not deny my God.” Threatened with torture, she didn’t waver. The cage was small, forcing her to remain standing. She was heard praying repeatedly, “God, have mercy on me; Jesus save me!” She died on March 1, 1856 after three days in the cage.