Just like the girl who had inspired her, this Italian woman was killed by her would-be rapist.
Many of us are familiar with the child saint celebrated July 6, Maria Goretti, who at the age of 11 was brutally murdered by her would-be rapist. St. Maria was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1947 and canonized a saint by him in 1950. She is a patron saint of chastity, rape victims, teenage girls and forgiveness.
But there is another young woman from Italy who is not nearly as well known as Maria Goretti. She died at age 26 in circumstances similar to Maria’s. Her name is Pierina Morosini and she was beatified by Pope John Paul II exactly 40 years after Maria’s beatification. She was also declared a patroness of rape victims.
Pierina was born in Fiobbio, a town in northern Italy, on Jan. 7, 1931. She was baptized into the faith the very next day at the local parish church. She would be the first born of eight children to Rocco and Sara Morosini. Pierina’s dad was a night watchman at a local factory and worked in the fields during the day. Her mom, a devout Catholic, was the primary instructor of the faith for her children. Pierina, as the oldest, became her mom’s assistant and spent much of her time helping her care for all the other kids and do housekeeping. She also learned how to be a seamstress.
Pierina, besides helping her mom seven days a week at home, took a position in a cotton factory to help bring money into the household. The job was four kilometers away (about 2.5 miles) and Pierina worked 8-hour staggered shifts; one week 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the next week, 2 p.m. to 10. p.m. These hours always required her walking back and forth a minimum of three hours a day through forest and fields. As she walked she prayed the Rosary over and over and over. Every chance she had she attended Mass and received Holy Communion.
She had joined Catholic Action and tried to be as active as possible with her harried schedule. As part of Catholic Action in her parish she had the opportunity to leave her home for the only time in her life to attend the beatification of Maria Goretti in Rome. The year was 1947.
The story of Maria Goretti had a profound affect on Pierina. And the grandeur of Rome left the village girl breathless. She even caught a glimpse of the pope. Seeing all that was being done for young Maria Goretti, who had offered herself in martyrdom for her faith and granted forgiveness to her killer, Pierina wanted to be just like the newly beatified girl.
Pierina was quoted as saying, “How I would love the death of Maria Goretti to touch me. I want to look like her… I want to be like her.”
Blessed Maria Goretti had become Pierina Morosini’s inspiration. She began to wear the Carmelite (Brown) scapular and also joined the Third Order of St. Francis. She tried desperately to convince her parents to allow her to join a religious order but they refused.
Faithful to her duties, Pierina grew in piety and love for Our Lord, praying, “May I never allow myself even the smallest compromise with sin, whether in dress, speech, reading, looks, or entertainment.”
On April 4, 1957, somewhere between 3 and 3:30 p.m., Pierina was walking home from work through the meadows. As usual, she was holding her rosary in her hand, fingering the beads in prayer.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a man appeared in front of her. She was instinctively filled with fear.
The stranger began to force himself upon the young woman as she refused and desperately tried to fight him off. Enraged, he picked up a large rock and began to smash the innocent woman in the head, breaking her skull.
Pierina managed to crawl a little distance away from the site of the attack and then fell unconscious. Some time later, as she was late to arrive home, her brother went looking for her. He found his bloodied sister on the side of the road. Her rosary was still in her hand. Pierina was taken to the hospital but it was too late. She never regained consciousness and died on April 6, 1957.
On July 3, 1987, Pope John Paul II declared that Pierina Morosini had died “in defensum castitatis” (in defense of purity) and approved her beatification, which took place Oct. 4 of that year.
As St. Maria Goretti inspired Blessed Pierina Morosini, may Blessed Pierina inspires us all.
Blessed Pierina Morosini, please pray for us.