Sister M. Bernadeta Banja, baptized as Teresa, was born on June 18, 1912, in Veliki Grđevac near Bjelovar, as the twelfth of thirteen children to Josip Banja and Terezija Kovač. Her father had two more children with his first wife, who died. Her family was of Hungarian origin. She spent her childhood and adolescence in Veliki Grđevac and went to school there. Ever since she was a little girl, she had a desire to enter a convent and did so on June 29, 1929. She took her vows on August 15, 1932.
For a very short time, she was a cook at the St. Joseph’s Institute in Sarajevo and in October 1932 she was reassigned to Mary's home in Pale, where she stayed for the rest of her life.
In Pale she cooked for her sisters and for all the people who stayed there: the sick, the children, the poor, the guests, chance travelers...sometimes for more than fifty people. And at that time working in the kitchen was very demanding.
She was committed to her duties, everyday life, and her religious profession. Sister M. Maximilliana Weisner said: ‘I never had to repeat what to do.’
Sister M. Roza Gavran said: “...She was never in a hurry and didn’t waste her time. Sr. Bernadeta gladly accepted the religious way of life, sacrifice, and silence. She was a quiet and neat sister. She was always smiling. "
Sister M. Valeria Trgovčević wrote the following about Sr. Bernadeta: ‘God’s hand sculpted her body and soul so she would be a ray of sunshine to those she lived with and lived for. She was a little heart and lifeline of our small community in Pale. She knew what and how much it meant to give yourself when doing something for others ...’
In early December 1941 Sr. Bernadeta, terrified by gunfire, bomb, and grenade explosions, asked her fellow sisters to allow her to leave for Sarajevo. It remains unclear why she stayed in Pale. However, it is easy to conclude that her faithfulness and obedience won over her desire for tranquillity and safety.