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Saint Rose Venerini

Saint Rose Venerini
  • Century: 17th & 18th Century
  • Patronage: -
  • Feast Day: May 7th

Rose Venerini was born in Viterbo, Italy, in 1656, then a part of the Papal States.  She was one of four children, and her father was a famous Doctor in Italy.  She made a vow to consecrate her life to God at the age of seven.  At the age of twenty, Rosa had questions about her own future and chose to accept an offer of marriage, but her fiancé died shortly after his proposal.  In the autumn of that year, she entered the Dominican Monastery of St. Catherine, with the prospect of fulfilling her vow.  With her aunt, Sister Anna Cecilia, who was already a member of the Monastery, she learned to listen to God in silence and in meditation.  She only remained in the Monastery for a few months, due to the sudden death of her father.  She went back home to care for her mother.  Her brother Domenico soon died at the age of 27.  Two months later, due to grief, her mother died.  

In the meantime, her sister married, leaving at home only Rosa and her brother.  Rosa began to invite girls and women into her home to recite the Rosary.  This showed Rosa a sad reality, the average woman of the town was a slave to culture, moral and spiritual poverty.  Under the guidance of her Spiritual Director, she began to see a higher mission for herself, the urgent need to dedicate herself to the instruction and Christian formation of young women, not with occasional encounters, but with formal education.  On August 30, 1685, with the approval of her Bishop, she left her father’s home to begin her first school.  She had matured in her prayer life, and seen this as the will of God.  The first objective of this foundress was to give poor girls a complete Christian formation and to prepare them for life in society.  Without great pretense, she opened the first public school for girls in Italy.  The origins were humble, but the significance was prophetic.  The human development and spiritual uplifting of woman was a reality that did not take long to receive the recognition of the Religious and Civil authorities.  

She received resistance at the beginning, mostly from Clergy.  They felt that the teaching of the catechism was their responsibility, not hers.  Also, she faced public scrutiny from her boldness, especially being a woman.  She faced all her resistance for the love of God, and with her characteristic strength, continuing on the path that she had undertaken.  The fruits proved her to be right, that she was doing the will of God.  These same clergy recognized the moral improvement that the work of education among the girls and their mothers had on the community, and their families.  Eventually her fame went beyond the confines of the Diocese.  

From 1692 to 1694, she opened ten schools in Montefiascone, and the villages surrounding Lake Bolsena.  The Cardinal provided the material means and Rosa made the families aware of the value of education for their daughters, trained the teachers, and organized the schools.  Eventually she entrusted those schools and teachers to the direction of a young woman, St. Lucia Filippini, with the approval of the Cardinal.  St. Lucia organized the teachers of that diocese as a separate religious congregation known as the Religious Teachers of Filippini.  There were failures, especially when she went to Rome to open a school.  It didn’t work out, and she lost the respect and trust of the authorities.  Six years later, with the help of an Abbott, she was able to open a school in the center of Rome.  

On October 24, 1716, the Sisters received a visit by Pope Clement XI, accompanied by 8 Cardinals who wanted to observe her lessons.  The Pope addressed the Sisters, “Signora Rosa, you are doing that which we cannot do.  We thank you very much, because with these schools you will sanctify Rome”.  Wherever a new school was opened, in a short time a moral improvement could be noted in the youth.  Rosa Venerini died a saintly death in the community at the Basilica of San Marco in Rome, on May 7, 1728.  At that time she had opened more than forty schools.  In 1952, she was beatified and her remains were transferred to the General Motherhouse in Rome.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized her, on October 15, 2006.  

The Sisters came to the Untied States in 1909, to help the Italian immigrants to the country, establishing the first day care centers in many cities of the Northeastern United States.  They serve in Switzerland, India, Brazil, Cameroon, Romanian, Albania, Chile, Venezuela and Nigeria.  

Practical Take Away

Rose Venerini was born in Viterbo, Italy, in 1656, then a part of the Papal States.  She was one of four children.  She made a vow to consecrate her life to God at the age of seven.  At the age of twenty, Rosa had questions about her own future and chose to accept an offer of marriage, but her fiancé died shortly after his proposal.  She entered the Dominican Monastery of St. Catherine, with the prospect of fulfilling her vow, but she only remained in the Monastery for a few months, due to the sudden death of her father.  She went back home to care for her mother.  Her brother Domenico soon died at the age of 27.  Two months later, due to grief, her mother died.  She felt God calling her to open a school to catechize and form young women in the faith.  With the guidance of her Spiritual Director, she opened more than forty schools, gaining the support of Pope Clement XI, and many Bishops.  Her work was felt throughout all the areas that she opened her schools, as the young women were well catechized in the faith, and their lives reflected it.