Heroes of the Faith

St. Paulina do Coração Agonizante de Jesus
(1865 – 1942)
 

Mother Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus (Amabile Lucia Visintainer), was born on 16 December 1865 in Vigolo Vattaro in the Province of Trent in Italy. Like all the other people of the area her parents were practicing catholics and very poor. In September 1875 her family, together with many other people from Trent, emigrated to the State of Saint Catherine in Brasil, thus creating the town of Vigolo, which is presently part of the community of Nova Trento. After receiving her first Communion at about the age of twelve, Amabile began to participate in parish life: catechism for children, visits to the sick and cleaning the chapel of Vigolo.

 

On 12 July 1890 Amabile and her friend Virginia Rosa Nicolodi took care of a woman suffering from cancer. Thus began the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, which obtained the approval of the Most Reverend José de Camargo Barros, Bishop of Curitiba. In December of the same year, Amabile, together with her first two companions, Virginia and Teresa Anna Maule, professed her religious vows and took the name of Sister Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. The holiness of life and apostolic zeal of Mother Pauline and her Sister companions attracted many vocations despite the poverty and the difficulties in which they lived. In 1903 Mother Pauline was elected Superior General “for life” and left Nova Trento in order to take care of the orphans, the children of former slaves, and the old and abandoned slaves in the district of Ipiranga of Saõ Paulo. 

In 1909 Mother Pauline was removed as Superior General by the Most Reverend Duarte Leopoldo e Silva, Archbishop of Saõ Paulo, and sent to work with the sick at “Santa Casa” and the elderly of the Hospice of Saint Vincent de Paul at Bragança Paulista, without any longer being able to assume an active role in her Congregation. These were years marked by prayer, work and suffering, all of which she accepted and endured so that the Congregation of the Little Sisters might continue its journey and “our Lord be known, loved and adored by all souls, in the whole world”. In 1918, with the permission of Archbishop Duarte, she was called by the Superior General Mother Vicência Teodora to the Mother House of Ipiranga, where she would remain until her death. There she lived a hidden life, interwoven with prayer and loving assistance to the infirm Sisters.

She was acknowledged as the “Venerable Mother Foundress” when, on 19 May 1933, the “Decree of Praise” was granted by the Holy See to the Congregation of the Little Sisters, and during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of its foundation on 12 July 1940, when Mother Pauline wrote her Spiritual Testament: “Be humble. Trust always and a great deal in divine Providence; never never must you let yourselves be discouraged, despite contrary winds. I say it again: trust in God and Mary Immaculate; be faithful and forge ahead!”. 

From 1938 onwards, Mother Pauline began to experience serious health problems due to diabetes. After two operations, first her middle finger and then her right arm were amputated. She spent the last months of her life totally blind. On 9 July 1942 she died with the last words: “God's will be done”. 

The Ignatian spirituality, which Mother Pauline received from her spiritual directors, present their own characteristics. These made the “Venerable Mother Foundress” a religious woman in whom the theological and religious virtues can be admired to an eminent or heroic degree: profound Faith and unlimited trust in God, passionate love for Jesus present in the Eucharist, tender and filial devotion to Mary Immaculate, devotion and trust in “our good Saint Joseph”, and veneration for those in authority in the Church, as well as religious and civil leaders; limitless Love for God expressed in acts of service to the poorest and most needy brothers and sisters. The entire life of Mother Pauline can be summed up by the title given her by the people of Vigolo in Nova Trento: “nurse”, that is “being-for-others”; or the one given her today by those devoted to her and by the Little Sisters: “all for God and for her brethren”. Humility led Mother Pauline to deny herself so that the Congregation continue its activity. The most shining page of the holiness and humility of Mother Pauline was written by her attitude when Archbishop Duarte announced her removal from general government: “She threw herself on her knees... she humbled herself... she answered that she was most ready to hand over the Congregation... she offered herself spontaneously to serve the Congregation as an underling”. 

When the General Chapter was finished in August of 1909, the sorrowful and meritorious holocaust of the Mother Foundress began. The Archbishop had decreed that “she should live and die as an underling”. Indeed she lived in the shadows right up until her death, in union with God as she declared to her spiritual director, Father Luigi Maria Rossi, SJ: “The presence of God is so intimate to me that it seems impossible for me to lose it; and such presence gives my soul a joy which I can not describe”. 

The charism which Mother Pauline left to her Congregation consists in the sensitivity to hear the cry of reality with its needs, and in the willingness to serve, in the Church, the most needy and those who live in situations of great injustice, with a spirit of poverty, humility and interior life. It is a service which feeds upon a eucharistic-marian spirituality. It is because of this spirituality that every Little Sister makes Jesus, present in the Eucharist, the center of her own life, nourished by tender devotion to the Immaculate Virgin and to the good Father Saint Joseph.

The first Saint of Brasil was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 18 October 1991 in Florianopolis in the State of Saint Catherine in Brasil. [She was canonized 19 May 2002 by Pope John Paul II, Rome, Italy.]

To Mother Pauline we entrust the Brasilian people, the Church in Brasil and the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, and all those who have helped to attain her Canonization.

Source: Vatican News Service

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