Saint of the Day – 5 May – Blessed Caterina Cittadini (1801-1857) Religious, Teacher, Founder – (28 September 1801 – 5 May 1857) was an Italian Roman Catholic religious from Bergamo who established the Ursuline Sisters of Saint Jerome Emiliani. The order was dedicated to the education of girls in Bergamo and in the surrounding areas and has since expanded outside of the Italian nation. Cittadini was orphaned as a child and cultivated her faith among fellow children in an orphanage where the spiritual direction was strong. Her order came in part of her devotion to Saint Jerome Emiliani (1486-1537) as well as the Blessed Mother. Patronages – Ursuline Sisters of St Jerome Emiliani, Orphans, Teachers.
Cittadini’s reputation increased as the decades went on due to her fame as a passionate and inspiring educator who instilled in girls both a civic and a religious education that was the basis of her educational career and her beliefs.
Her beatification was celebrated on 29 April 2001 once Pope John Paul II recognised a miracle that was attributed to Cittadini’s direct intercession.
Caterina Cittadini was born in Bergamo on 28 September 1801 to Giovanni Battista Cittadini and Margherita Lanzani. Her sister was Giuditta (1803-1840). She was baptised on 30 September in the parish of San Alessandro in Colonna. Her mother died in 1808 and her father abandoned the sisters after being widowed. The sisters were taken in and grew up in the orphanage of Bergamo where both sisters developed a strong and ardent faith; in her case it meant a strong devotion to both the Blessed Mother and to Saint Jerome Emiliani. The sisters left the orphanage in 1823 in order to live with their paternal cousins Giovanni and Antonio Cittadini in Calolzio.
Cittadini became a teacher at a public girls school in Somasca in 1824 at the time she and Giuditta felt called to the religious life. Their spiritual director Giuseppe Brena – from their time at the orphanage – advised them to remain in Somasca to instead become the basis of a new religious congregation devoted to the education of girls both children and adolescents. To that end the pair bought a house in Somasca in 1826 and also bought and furnished a building that became a female boarding school in October 1826. Cittadini taught the students religious education and managed the school on a simultaneous level; at this stage word of her success spread and she attracted dozens of students from the surrounding areas. The Cittadini sisters opened two private schools in 1832 and in 1836.
Giuditta directed these schools until her sudden death in 1840 which had put an emotional strain upon her older sister. This was exacerbated with the death of her cousin Antonio in 1841 and her spiritual director not long after that. The rapid losses that she incurred ruined her health to the point where she neared death in 1842 but was cured through the intercession of Saint Jerome Emiliani (1486-1537)
She quit public teaching in 1845 in order to just manage the schools themselves and she also took three companions under her wing to assist her in both that task and also in the care of orphans. In 1850 she received the papal approval of Pope Pius IX to build a chapel to house the Eucharist at her boarding school and in 1851 applied for the approval of a new religious congregation to the Bishop of Bergamo, Carlo Gritti Morlacchi. In 1854 the new Bishop Pietro Luigi Speranza encouraged her work and instructed her to write the Rule of her new order – her first attempt was based on those of the Milanese Ursulines and was rejected. She persisted in writing the Rule once more which was accepted on 17 September 1854 bearing the name of her new congregation, The Ursuline Sisters of Saint Jerome Emiliani.
Cittadini died in 1857 after a period of ill health; her reputation for holiness and for her ardent faith spread across the northern Italian cities and led to calls for her cause of beatification to be introduced. Six months after her death – on 14 December 1857 – the Bishop of Bergamo gave his approval for the order to be recognised of diocesan right while on 8 July 1927 the congregation received the official papal approval of Pope Pius XI; this meant the congregation was now universal and was recognised of pontifical right to exercise its functions.
The order now operates in Asia in nations such as India and the Philippines and in Europe in both Belgium and Switzerland amongst others.