Foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of St. Jerome Emiliani (1801-1857)
+ Caterina was born in Bergamo, Italy. When she was seven, her mother died and her father abandoned Caterina and her sister, leaving them to be raised in a local orphanage.
+ During her years in the orphanage, Caterina developed a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to Saint Jerome Emiliani, the patron saint of orphans.
+ Caterina became a teacher at a public girls’ school in Somasca. She and her sister desired to enter religious life, but their spiritual director advised them to remain in Somasca and establish a new religious institute dedicated to the care of girls. The Cittadini sisters became respected educators.
+ Following the death of her sister and her spiritual director, Caterina became the director of the schools she and her sister had established and she accepted three companions who assisted as teachers and caregivers for the orphans. In time, this small group formed the nucleus for a new community: the Ursuline Sisters of St. Jerome Emiliani.
+After years of service to poor and abandoned girls, Blessed Caterina Cittadini died on May 5, 1857, and was beatified in 2001. At her beatification, Pope Saint John Paul II reflected, “Her deep capacity for loving, sustained by great emotional balance, is emphasized by all those who had the opportunity to know her. Having been orphaned at a very early age, she made herself a loving mother to orphans. Moreover, she wanted her spiritual daughters, at the school and in their contact with the children, to be ‘mothers.’”
The community founded by Blessed Caterina was named for Saint Jerome Emiliani. A former soldier, he was moved by the suffering and death he witnessed during a plague in 1528 and was inspired to become a priest. He began caring for orphans and abandoned children and eventually established a new religious order: the Clerks Regular of Somasca (more commonly known as the Somascan Fathers). Saint Jerome died in 1537 and was canonized in 1767.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”—Matthew 19:14
O God, who raised up blessed Caterina in your Church to show others the way of salvation, grant us, by her example, so to follow Christ the master, that we may come with our neighbor into your presence. 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 Educators)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.