My original intention was to write about St. Catherine of Siena today, but I discovered a really cool saint this morning that I would like to share with you instead. St. Catherine is cool as well, so we will discuss her at a later time, but today is St. Rose’s feast day and I’d like to honor her.
She was born in Italy in 1656. Her family was very pious and at a very young age, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life. As a young woman, however, she flirted with the idea of marriage. She found a worthy young man, but her fiance died before their wedding day. At the urging of her father, she joined a Dominican monastery where her aunt was already a nun. That plan didn’t work out either. Her father died after only a few months and she was forced to leave the monastery to care for her ailing mother.
While she lived at home with her family, she gathered women and girls from the town every evening to recite the rosary. It was there that she discovered her true vocation. Talking to the women and the girls, she realized how very little they knew and understood about the faith.
During this time, she met regularly with a Jesuit priest who helped her to really discern what God was calling her to do. With her bishop’s blessing, her and two friends set out to start the first public schools in Italy. She wanted to make sure that every girl not only understood her faith, but also knew all the basics that she’d need to participate in society.
All along the way, she encountered people who were against her mission. Priests were angry at her because they felt that teaching the faith was their job, not the job of some uppity noble woman from out of town. Other people were scandalized by the idea of a woman educating girls living in poverty. But she continued starting schools all over Italy, eventually getting blessing from Pope Clement XI himself!
In her lifetime, she opened more than 40 schools. She traveled extensively training teachers. Her followers, after her death, became their own religious order. The Venerini Sisters are found all over the world, particularly in the northeastern US. They followed the Italian immigrants who came to the US looking for a better life. They started some of the first day care centers and schools in the US for those immigrants.
I love strong women like her! I do, also, think that her story is particularly important today.
Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped in Nigeria three weeks ago for the crime of going to school. This same militant group is still kidnapping girls and murdering boys simply because they are students. This issue is not isolated to Nigeria. Remember Malala Yousafzai almost became a martyr for the education of girls in Pakistan. Other countries include: Liberia, India, Nepal, Togo, Turkey, Yemen, Somalia, and pretty much all of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa The fight for the right to an education is still being fought all over the world. Children in poverty are still in need. We still need strong, patient, loving people like St. Rose Venerini to work for the education of all children.
St. Rose Venerini, pray for us!