Pope John Paul canonises Paula Frassinetti on Sunday. Here a Sister of Dorothy describes the saint's life and good works
PAULA FRASSINETTI was born in Genoa. Italy, on March 3 1809.
Her upbringing was modest and based on strong Christian principles, which in later years were to prove the foundation of her four brothers' vocations to the priesthood. and Paula's to the religious life.
The early death of her mother and subsequently of her aunt. resulted in Paula dedicating herself completely to the care of her father and four brothers whom she served tirelessly and with entire selflessness.
God's designs for Paula were manifest in 1834 when Fr Joseph Frassinetti, the eldest son, blessed his sister with her first companions as they gave birth to the Congregation which was later to be known as The Sisters of St Dorothy.
The Congregation had grown in size and number when. in 1841. Paula was advised by her spiritual directors to accept an invitation to start a new foundation in Rome and therein she recognised God's will.
In every undertaking. Paula involved her sisters in parish work. with primary interest in youth (at a time when their spiritual welfare was in great need) and the poor.
In simplicity and poverty, they walked through the streets of Rome. "attentive to the needs of the Church and of their neighbour . going where there was greater hope of rendering greater service'. and covering many parishes in their zeal to win souls for God.
Pope Gregory XVI wished Paula to take over the direction of a Conservatorio in S Onofrio run for orphans and young women by 15 old women, one of whom acted as Superior.
The establishment had lost its good name when a spirit of laxity crept in. Paula spent hours in prayer seeking God's will before exposing her sisters to such an undertaking, but convinced that the Holy Father expressed God's will — she accepted.
She and her companions suffered months of abuse and impertinence at the hands of the staff as much as from the young women, until the loving care and concern metered out to their tormentors, won their hearts, assuring a happy transformation of the house. later destined to become the Mother House with a flourishing boarding and day school.
It is perhaps noteworthy, that with the accession to the Papacy of Pope Pius IX. Paula was once again requested to right a similar situation at the Conservatorio of Divine Providence in Rome.
She again accepted knowing it was God's will and also because she held the Holy Father in great esteem.
Many were the times she visited the Vatican to seek counsel and assistance of Pius IX, and not infrequently, he returned the visit to the convent and the school at S. Onofrio — to the great consolation of the community and the delight of the children!
Many other houses were opened in Rome and other towns from the north to the south of Italy where schools were started and simultaneously youth activities undertaken in the parishes.
In !866 the Sisters of St Dorothy were requested to found a house in Brazil. The Foundress suffered deeply to sold her sisters so far away in times when distances were great and the likelihood of ever meeting again remote.
She again entrusted them to God in what was to become one of the greatest mission lands of the Congregation — not however before the missioners had suffered the hatred and antagonism borne by the suffering Church in those turbulent years.
Portugal also welcomed a group of Sisters during the same year and many houses were to be opened in the years leading up to the Revolution of 1910. Schools and colleges abounded with children when in 1911. the religious houses were suppressed and the sisters expelled from Portugal.
They suffered the heartbreak of realising their flourishing apostolate had terminated. and had yet to learn that God's ways are not man's ways! The sisters dispersed, destined to extend Christ's Kingdom on earth.
They landed in Belgium — England — Italy — Spain — Switzerland — The United States and Brazil. One mission had indeed been lost for which God had opened many more. and in the not too distant future. Portugal would again open her frontiers and welcome the Sisters to an even greater field of work.
After suffering a second stroke in 1881 indicating that Paula's days were numbered, she received a visit from a greatly esteemed friend, Don Bosco, Founder of the Salesian Fathers, who wished to impart his last blessing on the Foundress.
The Sisters were hoping to hear reassuring words of their Mother's recovery from this saintly priest. His only remark however was, "My children, her crown of merits is completed!"
Paula died on June 11 serene in the acceptance of her time-repeated-teaching "Will of God.
Thou art my Paradise", never having acted without the assurance of knowing 'His will' lay therein.
She died in the knowledge that the Congregation she had founded was His mission in which her followers had been taught to work in simplicity — to give love for love to God and man — with special priority for youth and the poor. There are now 1,906 sisters in 12 countries_