January 2011. Rachele Paiusco, superior general of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, travels to the monastery La Font Saint-Joseph du Bessillon in Cotignac, France. She makes a vow to St. Joseph alongside three sisters, asking to find a bigger house in Rome capable of hosting those responsible for guiding the Missionaries, and capable of welcoming and forming the new young women God calls to join them.
The story of our new house begins here, a story made up of investigations, of doors on which we have knocked, of exploratory trips to the Roman countryside, of requests for help to those we know and those unknown.
After several years of searching, the task of finding the right house was ultimately entrusted to me. Taking advantage of my Ligurian roots and of the proximity to France, in August 2014, I wanted to continue the work that had been done by my other sisters up til that point. In Cotignac, I entrusted myself to St. Joseph, carrying with me a letter from Rachele that renewed the request for help.
Between January and February of 2015, from two different sources I received news of a monastery of Capuchin Poor Clare sisters. Located on via Aurelia Antica, the “St. Urban Monastery” would soon be evacuated by the few elderly sisters who remained. They no longer had the strength to live there and manage such a large building and property. I also learned that the property was owned by the Holy See.
On May 13 (2015), in which we celebrate the Memory of our Lady of Fatima, I went to visit the house along with don Mimmo and several employees of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. It was a sunny, clear, typical Roman day. One of the first things that captivated me was the beauty of the place in which the monastery is located. Looking down the adjacent street, via Piccolomini, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica immediately catches the eye, meanwhile in front, the beautiful pine trees of the Villa Dora Pamphili park stand out against the blue sky. Once we had entered through the tight, narrow front gate from via Aurelia Antica, the simplicity and sobriety of the nuns’ franciscan-style cells, as well as certain areas of the property that hadn’t been tended to for some time, left an impression on me. And again, a garden with a grotto to our Lady, trees bearing fruit and the bright color of the Bougainvilleas, the courtyard with a statue of St. Clare placed centrally to protect the monastery, the terraces and patios that open up the view of the Villa Pamphili park.
Shortly thereafter I revisit the house, this time with Sr. Rachele. After having brought Fr. Paolo Sottopietra as well to see the monastery, and observing, reasoning and praying that God enlighten us, on Pentecost we decided that the house could be our home and that it would be worth continuing down that road. Thus, one step at a time, we finally signed the loan contract on Oct. 22 (2015), the feast of St. John Paul II. He too wanted us to feel his closeness!
Throughout this whole year, as we’ve prepared ourselves to face the huge costs of the renovations, along with my sisters I have been a spectator of a superabundance of gifts that have left us amazed and grateful. A people is helping us build our home: there are those who have offered their help in designing the renovation work; those who have given us furniture, materials, and advice; those who have organized transport; those who have helped us immagine the decor; those who have provided financial support; those who offered to and renovated the doors and windows; and those who have invested their time to fix the garden and clean. In short, a river of charity has inundated us, carrying with it many peoples’ desire to participate in the construction of our house.
The first group of sisters started living in the house on Sept. 12, 2016. By Christmas there will be 20 of us living there. In the following months we will be glad to welcome and accomodate friends in the new guest house. We perceive this house as a sign of God’s love for us and for the people to whom we are sent.