Widow and Foundress (1827-1889)
+ Gaetana was born in Cassola, Italy. Her father, a minor civil servant, died when she was a teenager, leaving her family in a difficult financial situation. The young woman found comfort in the practice of her faith and in helping care for her siblings.
+ She married Liberale Conte, a local widower with three children. The couple were soon expecting their first child. Shortly before the baby’s birth, Liberale died and, to add to her grief, the infant died a few days after being born. Liberale’s family demanded that his three children be given to them, leaving Gaetana widowed, alone, and with limited prospects.
+ During this period, she discerned that God was calling her to religious life and she entered the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She was only able to remain in the community five months; the death of her mother meant that Gaetana had to return home to care for siblings.
+ Six years later, she was able to again pursue her vocation and she began serving the poor in a hospice for beggars in Bassano. She would spend the next 36 years of her life serving the sick, aged, and dying.
+ In 1865, Gaetana and two companions formed a new religious community: the Daughters of the Divine Will. They chose the name as a reminder that members were to surrender themselves completely to God’s will in serving the sick and poor, especially in their own homes.
+ Blessed Gaetana Sterni died in 1889 and was beatified in 2001.
“Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”—Matthew 25:40
O God, who have taught your Church to keep all the heavenly commandments by love of you as God and love of neighbor; grant that, practicing the works of charity after the example of blessed Gaetana, we may be worthy to be numbered among the blessed in your Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Holy Men and Women—For Those Who Practiced Works of Mercy)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.