Saint Paula Frassinetti

Paula Frassinetti becomes a child of God on the same day she is born. She receives baptism in the Parish of Santo Stefano in Genoa, her native town. The third child after Giuseppe and Francesco, Paula grows in the peaceful atmosphere of her home which is later blessed by the birth of two other boys: Giovanni and Raffaele. Her mother is a model of virtue for her, and little Paula delicately opens herself to divine grace which works marvels in her according to God’s plan.

Young Paula led a happy life in Genoa, Italy, until she was 9. That was when her mother died, in 1818, leaving Paula to care for her father and four brothers and their household. At this young age, she made many sacrifices to give attention to her family.

Her older brother, Giuseppi, went on to study for the priesthood — as did all of her brothers — and his discussions with Paula about God and faith led her to believe she might have a vocation. But her father could not imagine how the family would manage without her, and she was forced to put her dreams aside.

Her first Holy Communion and her brother Giuseppe’s ordination are moments of deep reflection for her who already feels, in the depth of her heart, the divine call. Within the family circle she learns to read and write, and she also receives her basic formation.

At the age of 19 she is physically tired owing to the strenuous rhythm which her life as a precocious mother imposes on her, and her brother, Father Giuseppe, who is parish priest at Quinto, a small seaside village, offers her hospitality for some time. The pure air of Quinto proves beneficial to her delicate health. Parish life affords her the opportunity of doing good, as little by little, her gentle ways attract the youth of the neighbourhood. Every Sunday they go to the woods to speak about God. These encounters occur often and soon other young girls join the group. Paula reveals to them the secrets of a life totally dedicated to God, and she discovers her vocation as an educator. An enthusiastic group which lives in communion of love, forms itself around Paula. In her mind the idea of a new institute becomes clear and she confides it to her brother, Father Giuseppe.

She soon came to realize that she had talent as a teacher, and the idea for a new religious community took hold in her mind. In 1934, she and six other young women began to live in community, working at night to make money and educating very poor children by day. Her goal was to bring young people to God through education.

The group became known as the Sisters of St. Dorothy. Eventually, they opened more houses, including one in Rome. Poverty and sickness were always with the Sisters, who often did not even have enough money to buy medicine for themselves. But Paula was determined and knew that God was always with her. In 1866 she sent Sisters to Brazil and Portugal to open more schools.

Paula lives on in the Congregation through the deep spirit which animates it: to seek always and in all things the greater glory of God by a greater service of humanity.

Sister Paula Frassinetti died in 1882, but her legacy was a wide one. Today her Sisters teach in Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1984.

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