Spiritual Maternity

vanniniMother Giuseppina Vannini, during her frenetic life which had a notable impact on her health, never neglected to live three great virtues: assiduous prayer, charity – spiritual maternity in relation to her sisters, and visits to, and care for, the sick.

As regards her being a ‘mother’ towards her sisters, very many delicate stories have been told which demonstrate the sensitivity of the spirit of Mother Vannini. She often deprived herself of what she needed in order to give it to her sisters or to the novices; she recommended that after providing nursing care the sisters should engage in recreation and rest. She dedicated very great care to her sisters who had bad health or were sick and in 1907 she opened a house specifically for them – Villa Loreto, in Cremona. She often went to visit them and said that the real strength of the Congregation was the sick sisters who every day offered up their sufferings to God for the good of humanity. Mother Vannini truly had a motherly heart. Amongst other things, in the early years of the twentieth century the Founder was led to open important new houses: Brescia in 1904, San Bassano in the Province of Cremona, Viterbo, and in 1910, Rieti, moving the novitiate to that city. Thus the novitiate left Grottaferrata to go to the valley of Rieti. It was there that the Mother began to spend various periods during the year. There were two reasons for this. First, because the novitiate was the heart and the future of the Daughters of St. Camillus. Secondly, because she found the summer heat of Rome oppressive, given that she had already begun to suffer from heart problems. Then came the year for a very important foundation. The sisters left for South America and more specifically for Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ship left from Genoa on 12 April 1906. The words of farewell of Mother Vannini were emblematic: ‘Be the servants of the sick poor’. There thus began the great adventure of the Daughters of St. Camillus in the missions, in the far ends of the earth! She often wrote to her sisters in Argentina, recommending a spirit of sacrifice, love for the sick, prayer, and self-offering. Overall, we have handed down to us 160 letters by Mother Vannini, as well as two works of meditation addressed to her Congregation. As has been observed, in her writings she expressed all of her love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, inviting her sisters to fight self-love – which was seen as the true obstacle to spiritual advance – with all their strength.