St. Benedetta Cambiagio Frasinello's marriage was considered unusual by many
Gossip can either destroy a person or challenge them to rise above it. St. Benedetta Cambiagio Frasinello chose the latter course.
St. Benedetta Cambiagio Frasinello
When: Oct. 2, 1791-March 21, 1858
What: Founded Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Providence
Feast: March 21
Benedetta was born in 1791 in Langasco, Genoa, Italy, to Giuseppe and Francesca Cambiagio. The family moved to Pavia when she was a girl. A mystical experience when she was 20 attracted Benedetta to a life of prayer, penance and consecration to God. Still, five years later, she followed her parents' wishes and married Giovanni Frassinello.
After two years of marriage, Giovanni agreed to live with Benedetta "as brother and sister" and care for her younger sister, Maria, who suffered from intestinal cancer. When Maria died seven years later, Giovanni entered the Somaschi Fathers, founded by St. Jerome Emiliani, and Benedetta entered the Ursuline Congregation of Capriolo.
She left the order a year later due to ill health and returned to Pavia. She was cured by a miracle attributed to St. Jerome Emiliani. Her health restored, she received Bishop Luigi Tosi's approval to educate young girls.
When her father refused to help, Bishop Tosi asked Giovanni to leave the Somaschi novitiate to help Benedetta. After making a joint vow of chastity, witnessed by the bishop, they dedicated themselves to working with the city's poor and abandoned girls. This collaboration by Benedetta and Giovanni was the first of its type in church history. They were helped by young women volunteers who later received church approval as a religious community.
Because of her efforts to provide women with a high quality education in academic and domestic skills and prepare them to form families for a "new Christian society," the government of Austria proclaimed Benedetta a "Promoter of Public Education."
Despite that, civil and church authorities criticized Benedetta and Giovanni and spread gossip about their unusual relationship. In response, Benedetta turned her work over to the bishop of Pavia in 1838 and began living as a nun at Ronco Scrivia, near Genoa.
Soon, Benedetta started over and, with five companions, founded the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Providence as a teaching order and opened another school. Her rule stresses trust in Providence and love of God through poverty and charity. Benedetta spent her last years in prayer and service.
Today, the order ministers to youth, the poor, sick and elderly in Italy, Spain, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Peru and Brazil.
Sources: Catholic Encyclopedia; Catholic News Service; http://saints.sqpn.com; Saint of the Day; www.avemariarosaries.com; and www.vatican.va.