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Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli

“A Simple and Active Saint”


Public Domain

Religious Foundress (1587-1651)

Her life

+ Virginia was the daughter of the Doge of Genoa, Giorgio Centurione, who was known for his domineering personality. Because of her family’s position, she was forced to accept an arranged marriage.

+ In 1602, she married Grimaldi Bracelli. An alcoholic and gambler, he caused Virginia great suffering. Grimaldi died in 1607, leaving Virginia (only 20 years-old) with two small daughters.

+ Virginia moved in with her in-laws and raised her children, dedicating her time to prayer and charity. After her daughters were grown, she focused on caring for the poor and sick.

+ After her mother-in-law died in 1625, Virginia turned her house into a refuge, establishing a ministry for all those in need of support.

+ When plague struck Genoa in 1629, her house was overrun by the poor and she rented an abandoned convent to provide for their care. This housing project was expanded in 1634 and she was soon providing medical care for more than 300 patients. At this time, she began working closely with young women, teaching them religion and ways they could earn an honest living.

+ As the year’s progressed, Virginia expanded her ministry, purchasing two more villas and building a church dedicated to Our Lady of Refuge. This became the mother church of a new religious community, which was later divided into two distinct religious congregations: the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge of Mt. Calvary and the Daughters of Our Lady of Mt. Calvary.

+ Virginia resigned as superior, serving the poor as one of the least of the sisters. However, when the community began to lose support, because many of their wealthy patrons feared direct contact with the poor and sick, Virginia returned to administration and saw the community flourish.

+ In her later years, Virginia help promote the Forty Hours Devotion and promoted parish missions in and around Genoa. She also acted as a peacemaker between warring families, including reaching a peaceful conclusion between the Church and the Republic of Genoa.

+ Saint Virginia Cenurione Bracelli died on December 15, 1651, and was canonized in 2003.

For reflection

In love with Christ and for his sake ready to give herself for her brothers and sisters, Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli leaves the Church the witness of a simple and active saint. Her example of courageous fidelity to the Gospel also continues to exert a powerful influence on people in our time. She used to say: when God is one’s only goal, ‘all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome.’”—Pope Saint John Paul II


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 Virginia, 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.

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