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Saint
of the Day


 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinDecember 9, 2005 Issue 

Help spread from near to far

Helping others began by running her father's household


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Saint of the Day graphic

St. Maria Di Rosa

When: Nov. 5, 1813-Dec. 15, 1855

Where: Brescia, Italy

What: Co-founded Handmaids of Charity

Feast: Dec. 15

Canonized: 1954

Many people are generous and caring and want to help others. But some are not sure where to start because the needs can seem overwhelming.

St. Mary Di Rosa solved that problem by looking around and helping those close by, before expanding her efforts to help start a religious order to minister to those injured in war.

St. Mary Di Rosa was born in 1813 in Brescia, an industrial city in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Her wealthy parents, Clement Di Rosa and Countess Camilla Albani, christened her Paula Frances Mary. When the girl was 11, her mother died and her father sent her to the Visitandine nuns to be educated.

At the age of 17, Mary left school and began running her father's household. He had wanted her to marry and had even picked out a husband. But she preferred religious life and, with the help of her spiritual adviser, Msgr. Faustino Pinzoni, convinced her father that she would not marry.

Instead she would dedicate her life to tending the spiritual well-being of women who worked on her father's estate and in his textile mill. She formed a women's guild and arranged retreats and missions.

During a cholera epidemic in 1836, Mary cared for the ill in the hospital at Brescia. The next year, she became director of a home for abandoned girls, then started her own home for girls. Soon, she opened a school for deaf and mute girls.

Despite being a small woman, Mary rescued someone riding in a carriage when the horse pulling it bolted.

In 1840, Msgr. Pinzoni named her the superior of the Handmaids of Charity of Brescia, a religious society of women that cared for the sick. It soon had 32 members.

By 1843, the bishop of Brescia had given the society his blessing. During a war in 1848, the Hand-maids of Charity worked on the battlefields of northern Italy and in Brescia's hospitals.

Pope Pius IX approved the congregation in 1850, but it was 1852 before the first 25 sisters and their foundress, who took the name Sr. Maria Crocifissa (Mary of the Crucified), made their vows. She spent the next years caring for the sick and building convents for the ever-expanding order.

St. Mary Di Rosa died in 1855, on Dec. 15, her feast day. She was canonized in 1954.

Who should we help? St. Mary Di Rosa would probably say that's obvious: Help whomever you see that's in need.


(Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and 365 Saints)

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