Pope Francis proclaimed five new saints on October 13th during the Extraordinary Missionary Month. Every Catholic is invited to live this special month actively: deepening your prayer life and testifying Christ in the place you live. Twenty-five years ago, on the 16th of October, one of these five new saints – Giuseppina Vannini – was proclaimed blessed.
Giuseppina Vannini was born in Rome on July 7, 1859, the second in a family of three children. Since childhood, Giuseppina suffered from many troubles. At the age of four, she lost her father, and at the age of seven, her mother. She grew up separately from her brothers and sisters in an orphanage, not far from St. Peter’s Square on Janiculum Hill.
Being brought up at the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, on the day of her First Communion, Giuseppina felt in heart a desire to become a nun. When she turned 21, she asked the consecrated sisters to let her join the order and was accepted, but then she was released from the community for health reasons.
Nevertheless, Giuseppina Vannini did not abandon her desire to devote herself to God. She continued the search until she met a priest from the Camillian Congregation – Father Luigi Tezza. God, who allowed Giuseppina to endure suffering, chose her in order to ease the suffering of others.
At the time of their meeting, Fr Luigi Tezza felt the inspiration of God and asked Him: “Isn’t that the young woman you are looking for in order to open the female branch of the Camillian Congregation?” Father Luigi offered Giuseppina to become the founder of the female branch of Camillians.
This meeting was a turning point in the life of Giuseppina Vannini. Two years later, under the spiritual guidance of Fr Luigi Tezza, on February 2, 1892, Giuseppina devoted herself to God. During Giuseppina’s monastic vows, Fr. Luigi Tezza handed her the red cross that he wore on his habit.
Later on, Giuseppina compared this gesture with the creation of Eve: “Just as the rib was taken from Adam, and Eve was created, the worthy son of St. Camillus, Fr Tezza took the red cross from his own garb and gave it to Mother Vannini to give life to the Daughters of St Camillus”.
From that moment, the community began to grow very quickly, and today it counts 800 sisters working in 22 countries on four continents. The successful mission of Saint Mother Giuseppina Vannini today, however, is the fruit of her struggle with many difficulties in the past.
Problems, however, arose everywhere. Starting, for example, with the Pope, who did not want new congregations to be founded in Rome. The petition for approval of the new Congregation of the Camillian Sisters was twice submitted, and twice the petition was rejected. Thus, at first the congregation was created as so-called “Pious community”. Mother Giuseppina Vannini herself did not live to see the congregation finally officially recognized.
In addition, her spiritual father and friend, Fr Luigi Tezza was falsely slandered. Because of that, he was forbidden to hear the confessions of the sisters and see his spiritual daughters. Subsequently, he was transfered to work in Peru – thousands of miles from Rome to where he would never return back to Italy. Since then, the reputation of Fr Luigi Tezza has been restored, and today he is also recognized as blessed.
Giuseppina Vannini died on February 23, 1911 at the age of 51. She was proclaimed blessed by St. John Paul II on October 16, 1994. On that day John Paul II said in his homily: “Serving the suffering: this is the special charisma of Giuseppina Vannini, founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Camillus. To belong to God without reservation, to the God Who is Merciful and honored in those who are in need was her constant concern, and she put this into daily action without boundries, alongside the sick, as in the footsteps of the great apostle of the sick, St. Camillus de Lellis”.
She believed that sadness is a devil’s trick because it obscures the realization that a human being is God’s favorite. She did not like to cry and feel sorry for herself and did not allow her sisters to do it either. She greatly appreciated their delicacy, dedication and joy. She knew how to convey these virtues to her sisters by her own example.
From the very beginning of her life, she experienced a lot of suffering, both physical and spiritual, but regarded it as a cross to be borne on her own shoulders under the guidance of Christ. Often she repeated: “A Camillian without a Cross is like a warrior without a weapon”. She had a great love for the Infant Jesus, but most reverently venerated the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Crucifixion.
God, the Father of Mercy, through the intercession of the Saint Mother Giuseppina Vanini, You continue the wonderful works of Mercy for the sick and suffering. Strengthen in us the spirit of love and bestow the grace, which insistently I beg (mention your intention). May Your Mercy be the best example of knowledge, love, and praise. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Text by Aleksey Gotovsky and Lasha Manukyan
Cover photo by Dabiel Ibanez