Saturday March 25, in Roma, at the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Rome, Sr. Erika Bracaglia of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo will profess her final vows in the hands of mother superior Sr. Rachele Paiusco. During the same celebration they invite all to join them in celebrating the tenth anniversary of the ecclesial recognition of the Missionaries. Here we publish Sr. Erika’s story.

When I was a little girl I always dreamed, like Cinderella, of finding my prince charming and of living in a castle.  I wanted to become a princess who was fair and good, one who everyone loved.  I wanted to be happy.  Today I can say I live a life full of joy and I would like to share the journey that has brought me to this point.

I grew up in Frosinone, the city in the heart of Ciociaria (the territories in the region of Lazio southeast of Rome), where I spent my childhood and young adulthood.  It is here where my life was marked by a fundamental encounter.  I am grateful to my parents for the gift of my life and for educating me in the Christian faith.  My father is a generous man, always ready to meet any of the family’s needs.  From him I learned precision, order, attention to people and to things, and good manners.  My mother is an affectionate woman who taught me devotion to God and respect for others.  Thanks to her, I never completely abandoned the Church during my moments of restlessness in which I otherwise would have wanted to.  She taught me to cook many typical dishes from the Ciociara territories, of which I am very proud!

I attended the Technical Commercial Institute (l’istituto Tecnico Commerciale) and then I enrolled in the Faculty of Economics and Business at the university of Cassino (near Frosinone).  To make ends meet, I worked at a car dealership where I did a little bit of everything.  On the outside, it seemed I wasn’t lacking anything: I had a job, a boyfriend, friends with whom I went out on weekends; every once in a while I took an exam.  I went to mass on Sundays, but really only because I felt I had to and to not disappoint my mother.  Whenever I could I looked for an excuse not to go.  My days were full of beautiful things to do, and yet, in the evenings, I came home unsatisfied and bored.  I had everything but I didn’t know who I was and what I really wanted.  I was fragile; I was hard for me to make decisions without following others’ choices, out of fear of being criticized.

In 2004, the priests of the Fraternity of St. Charles opened a house in my parish.  My sister Katia introduced Fr. Mario Follega to me, and with him a beautiful friendship emerged.  Every Sunday after the noon mass, I stopped in to say hello to him in the sacristy.  Every time he welcomed me with this question: “How are you?”  At first I dodged the question with a quick “Fine, thanks.”  I was used to considering it to be a rhetorical question.  With time, however, I discovered that those words were anything but filler.  Fr. Mario was sincerely interested in how I was living my life.  His question demanded of me a sincere response: thus I began to look at myself and not only what others were doing.  And this is when a change in me began.  I have a very clear memory of a Sunday evening in March, 2005.  I was in my office and something was making me restless.  All of a sudden I erupted in tears and I hurried out of that familiar place which in that moment felt oppressive.  I went to mass at the church of the Sacred Heart and I went to confession.  The priest suggested we meet the following day but I needed to talk that very moment.  I drove aimlessly around the city streets without a destination until finally I found myself in front of Fr. Mario’s parish.  It was 8 p.m. and the people were still leaving the church when I went inside and sat down in one of the last pews.  Fr. Mario saw me and approached me.  I told him about the uneasiness I was experiencing.

From then on, meeting often with Fr. Mario and participating in the School of Community have helped me know who I am inside, leading me to the point of the most important decision—that of giving my life to the Lord.  Before that I had never felt so profoundly sure I was making the right choice!

My encounter with Fr. Mario and with all of my friends of the CL movement was the way God presented himself to me and rendered me an object of His love, completely turning my life upside down.  I felt loved and esteemed, regardless of all of my limitations.  When one feels looked upon with way, she finds the courage to fully live her life, without fearing anything, with her gaze oriented upward.  I graduated while I was still working.  I desired to live like those priests from the Fraternity I’d met from the house in Frosinone.  I wanted to bring Christ’s gaze to the world and continue following Fr. Giussani’s charism within the companionship of the Fraternity.  It was then that I met Sr. Rachele, from whom the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles were born.

During these six years in the House of Formation, I’ve experienced God’s embrace of my life through the companionship of my sisters and through what our superiors have taught me.  The challenge has been discovering those talents the Lord has given to me and putting them to use in the best way possible to serve God’s work.

Today I am responsible for the economic management of the institute.  Regardless of my great desire to leave on mission, I am happy about this work which is allowing me to discover more about myself.

Being looked at and loved is an experience that continues and I feel happy, like a princess in her kingdom.  Thus I want to say “yes” definitively to the Lord and belong forever to the Missionary Sisters.


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