Saint of the Day – Blessed Vincenza Maria Poloni (1802-1855) Nun and Co-Founder of Sisters of Mercy of Verona, Apostle of the Holy Eucharist and of Charity and Mercy to the Sick, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, Our Lady of Sorrows – Born as Luigia Francesca Maria on 26 January 1802 in Verona, Italy and died on 11 November 1855 in Verona, Italy of cancer. She is Patron of the Order she founded. Additional memorial – 10 September, within her Order.
On 26 January 1802, in Verona, at the present number 8 of Piazza delle Erbe, the Servant of God Vincenza Maria Poloni was born to Gaetano and Margherita Biadego. In the afternoon of the same day, she was baptised in the Parish of St Maria Antica near the Scaliger Tombs with the name of Luigia Francesca Maria.
She was the last of twelve children – all the others being brothers, of whom nine died at an early age. Luigia grew up in a family atmosphere permeated by solid religious principles and a style of solidarity with the weakest. From her parents, she absorbed the sense of faith, prayer and industriousness and received a degree of education appropriate to her social condition.
A young woman of open and lively genius, she became the mother’s right hand in the care of the home, the irreplaceable support in the education of the numerous grandchildren, the caring assistant of a sister-in-law who was often sick and the main help in her father’s shop. Also, her brother Apollonio, found in his sister Luigia, a valid support for the management and administration of the complex agricultural activity in Palazzina (Verona).
Under the spiritual direction of Blessed Karl Steeb (1773 – 1856), her heart went along with the calls of the Holy Spirit who led her with ever greater inspiration, to devote time and attention to the elderly and chronically ill at the Pius Ricovero home. In 1836, during a terrible cholera epidemic, she showed unconditional assistance in the emergency wards, endangering her own health.
Meanwhile, God’s will was becoming more and more clear, the elderly and the sick constituted the body of the suffering Christ to whom He generously gave Himself and to whom He wanted to attract others who would offer themselves with Him.
Overcoming the many resistances posed by family members, who considered Blessed Vincenza, to be indispensable to the well-being of the family, on 2 November 1840 she settled with three companions in two small rooms at the Pio Ricovero to devote herself full time to the service of the elderly and the sick.
The beginnings of God’s works are always characterised by the zeal of self-giving and by a generous poverty, chosen consciously. Those four people immediately assumed the lifestyle of a religious community marked by a strict timetable, fervent prayer and a total service of charity towards others. Soon other companions were added, a house was purchased, civil and canonical authorisations were obtained and so on 10 September 1848 Luigia Poloni, she taking the name of Vincenza Maria and twelve sisters took religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The Sorelle della Misericordia Institute of Verona became a reality. A new source of light and love flowed in Verona, a city of saints and blesseds.
Mother Vincenza Maria, in the fifteen years she lived after the foundation of the Institute, exercised her mission of assistance to the elderly, sick and orphan children with admirable zeal. With the wisdom that derived from her temperament, from the experience of life in the family and above all from fidelity to the Spirit, the Community expanded reaching – at her death – the number of 48 sisters.
With the example of life and teaching, she recommended to her daughters rectitude in action, tenderness towards the sick, patience in tribulations, humility in recognising their mistakes, charity towards others, especially towards Poors. She used to say: ” The poor are our masters, let us love them and serve them as we would serve Jesus Christ Himself. “
Blessed Vincenza endured difficulties and sacrifices with faith and confidence in the divine Providence. She cultivated prayer, love for the Eucharist, devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, to the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. She also nurtured a particular devotion towards St Vincent de Paul, the saint to whom Blessed Karl Steeb was inspired in laying down the Rules for the Institute that was about to arise.
The fame of the new Institute spread even outside Verona and Mother Vincenza Maria soon received requests for sisters to establish a service of mercy, in other cities and countries. The first communities were opened in Cologna Veneta, Montagnana, Zevio, Este and Monselice.
In the last years of her life, Mother Vincenza Maria was struck by a tumour that slowly but inexorably consumed her . She endured the pain with Christian fortitude and in silence so as not to be a burden to the sisters. She underwent surgery and even more painful treatment without anesthesia.
He spent the last ten days of her life in preparation for death, comforted by the presence of her spiritual director, Don Karl Steeb, who gave her the sacrament of the sick.
She entered eternity at 9.00 on 11 November 1855, leaving her daughters the treasure of her example and a wonderful spiritual testament in which she recommended charity with all her strength. Those words seem written with her blood and still have the charm of a heroism achieved by her commitment to conformity to Christ. Her figure constitutes a shining light that shows us the sure path of holiness.
This pearl could not remain hidden, so we say our thanks to the Church which, after scrupulous historical and theological examination, officially recognised on 28 April 2006 the exercise of the heroic virtues of mother Vincenza Maria Poloni and 17 December 2007 the miraculous healing of Sr Virginia Agostini, who had turned to her intercession in 1939.
Today our joy is complete, because Mother Vincenza Maria is officially proclaimed Blessed by the Church. A new saint is offered to us as an example and as a protector. … Vatican.va
For the Full Biography of Blessed Karl Steeb: