Saint of the Day – 15 December – St Virginia Centurione Bracelli (1587-1651) Widow, Religious, Founder, Apostle of Charity. (2 April 1587 in Genoa, Italy – 15 December 1651 in Genoa, Italy of natural causes). Patronage – Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Cavalry. St Virginia was Cabonised on 18 May 2003 by St Pope John Paul II at Vatican Basilica. Her body is incorrupt.
She was born in 1587 in Genoa to a family of nobles. She was the daughter of Giorgio Centurione (who was the Doge of Genoa from 1621 to 1623) and Lelia Spinola. Though she felt a calling to dedicate her life to prayer and service in a religious community, she was given in marriage to a well-known and wealthy young man, Gaspare.
The couple had two daughters, but Gaspare’s attention was divided by pursuits of pleasure. Living harshly shortened his life and Virginia found herself a widow by the time she was 20. Her father tried to arrange a second marriage,but she refused and made a vow of chastity.
While she remained obedient to her father in other matters and never disregarded the care of her own children, she began to share her available time and resources with those in need. She felt called to serve God through the poor and dedicated half of her wealth to those who lacked what they needed for a dignified life.
When her daughters had grown and accepted marriages, Virginia turned her full attention to helping orphans, the elderly and the sick. War, epidemics and famine all brought many suffering people to her doorstep. She began to go a step further, traveling to disreputable areas of the city to seek out those in danger, especially women.
An empty convent stood near the town and she was given permission to rent it to care for children who were orphaned and suffering from a plague and famine. Other women came to join her in service. Within three years, some 300 were receiving care there and the centre was recognised as a hospital. She organised the women who came to help her into a community and spent the rest of her life supporting their work to serve God through the poor.
Nobles and government officials called upon her to help mediate differences and she gathered people to find ways to fight systems of inequality in the region. Despite all of these engagements, she never lost sight of the poor—she always had time and assistance to offer them and continued to seek them out. She died on this date in 1651 and was canonised by St Pope John Paul II in 2003.
St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli, you served God through the poor, pray for us!