Saint of the Day – 18 January – Blessed Maria Giovanna Fasce OSA (1881-1947) Religious Augustinian nun with the religious name of Sr Maria Teresa. Born on 27 December 1881 at Torriglia, Genoa, Italy and died on 18 January 1947 of natural causes. Blessed Maria Teresa was an Italian Roman Catholic who served in various leadership positions in her convent in Genoa and was noted for the establishment of an orphanage and spreading the charism of Saint Augustine and Saint Rita of Cascia (1381-1457). She was beatified at Saint Peter’s Square on 12 October 1997 by St Pope John Paul.
Maria Giovanna Fasce was born on 27 December 1881 in Genoa to the middle-class Eugenio Fasce and his second wife Teresa Valente. She had seven siblings and her oldest sibling was Luigia. Her relations dubbed her as “Marietta”. Her mother died in 1889 which prompted her oldest sister Luigia to take care of the younger children.
Fasce taught catechism to children and grew to love the charism of Saint Augustine. She also met her confessor Father Mariano Ferriello in Genoa who encouraged her to learn of the Augustinian figures and pursue her vocation.
She became aware of the life of Saint Rita of Cascia and travelled to Rome in 1900 when Pope Leo XIII canonised her – this was the most important event of her life thus far and solidified her desire to become a nun. She expressed this intention to her relatives who took the news badly and her brothers in particular were negative about it. Her oldest sister Luigia accepted this but did not understand Fasce’s reasoning for living in a primitive place like Cascia. She applied for admission to a Ligurian convent but was rejected much to her surprise. The Abbess Giuseppina Gattarelli said that she believed Fasce was unable to handle the rigours of the monastic life. Fasce reapplied and was accepted in 1906.
On 22 June 1906 she entered the convent of the Order of Saint Augustine (she received the habit on the night of 25 December 1906) and made the profession of her initial vows on 25 December 1907 in the religious name of “Maria Teresa”. She became quite disillusioned due to the convent’s decline and returned home in June 1910 for a period of deep reflection. Her time at home saw her affirm her desire to be in the monastic life and returned to the convent in May 1911 and later made her solemn vows on 22 March 1912.
In August, 1920, she was elected abbess and was confirmed in this office nine times throughout the following 27 years until her death. The great ambition of Mother Teresa, which she succeeded in converting into a plan of action, was the enrichment of the religious spirit of her community and of each one of the nuns.
Her influence, however, reached far beyond the walls of the cloister by means of the initiatives she undertook to spread devotion to Saint Rita and to promote the well-being of her adopted town. Among these were the publication of the magazine “From the Bees to the Roses”, the establishment of an orphanage for girls, the founding of a seminary for candidates to the Order and the construction of the Basilica as a place of pilgrimage and the fitting resting place of the saint to whom she was so devoted.
During the Second World War she courageously protected the convent and defended the rights of the nuns as well as members of the resistance under attack.
Throughout her life Mother Teresa suffered many physical ailments, including cancer and a debilitating condition which at times made it difficult for her to walk. All of this she bore with complete resignation and patience and was an example of fortitude and serenity to the nuns and people of Cascia.
She died peacefully on 18 January 1947 and was beatified together with Blessed Elías Nieves on 12 October 1997. Her body is venerated in the lower shrine of the Basilica which she made possible next to Saint Rita of Cascia.
Mother Teresa Fasce was a cloistered contemplative nun, not only in name but also in fact, during the several decades of her religious life. At the same time she was a woman of great vision and action, who had the capacity to inspire others even as she was inspired by the life and message of her patroness, Saint Rita. She reminds us that there is no contradiction between contemplation and service – both are motivated by love and must be expressed in love.
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