Saint of the Day – 26 July – Saint Bartholomea Capitanio SCCG (1807-1833) Religious and the Co-Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Lovere, Teacher, Apostle of the Poor, the ill, children – commonly known as the Sisters of Maria Bambina, which she established with St Vincenza Gerosa (about St Vinenza – https://anastpaul.com/2019/06/28/saint-of-the-day-28-june-st-vincenza-gerosa-1784-1847/ ). Born on 13 January 1807 at Lovere, Bergamo, Italy and died on 26 July 1833 at Lovere, Bergamo, Italy of tuberculosis, aged 26. Patronages – Teachers, Sisters of Charity of Lovere. St Bartolomea Capitanio was Canonised in Rome by Pope Pius XII on 18 May 1950 together with St Vincenza Gerosa. The two Saint friends, have an additional Memorial on 18 May in the Ambrosian Rite which includes the Sisters of Maria Bambina, the Diocese of Brescia, Italy, the Diocese of Bergamo, Italy and the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy.
Bartolomea Capitanio was born at Lovere, a flourishing commercial centre on the western bank of Lake Iseo, on 13 January 1807, as the first born of Modesto Capitanio and Caterina Canossi. Of the six children born after her, only Camilla survives, all the others died at a young age. Her father, a merchant of grains, managed a small shop with which he maintained the family. The girl grew vivacious and dynamic, gifted with an exceptional intelligence.
Her mother, unable to care for her as she would have preferred, to give her proper Catholic instruction and to keep her away from dangers, due to having to work in the shop, entrusted her to the Sisters of the Poor Clares. She attended their School at the Monastery in Lovere.
Here, at just 12 years of age – as witnesses attest – having chosen the longest straw in a game, that indicated who would have become a Saint first, she decided really to become “a saint, a great saint, a saint soon.” Discovering the tangible signs of God’s love in her life, Bartholomea became fascinated by this immense love, unmerited and gratuitous, and felt the need to respond to it, with the whole strength of her exuberant and determined/strong-willed nature. She understood that there is no better way to reciprocate God’s love, than that of loving concretely one’s brothers and sisters, those whom He loves as He has loved her and for whom, He did not hesitate to descend to earth, to offer His life on the Cross and to give himself totally in the Eucharist.
And so, as soon as she came out of the Monastery, without disregarding her family duties, she took care of the needy persons of her town – the girls in moral danger, for whom she opened a small school with the help of the Parish Priest; she revived with brilliant initiatives, the Oratory which had been started by Caterina (St Vincenza) in her wealthy house; the abandoned sick and those who were in the hospital, that was also begun by “Lady” Caterina with the bequest of her uncle. She visited the prisoners and the poor.
Bartholomea kept in contact with many of her companions through her frequent correspondence and with the Priests of the neighbourhood to favour the renewal of Christian practice after the outburst of irreligiousness and anti-clericalism that had turned Italy upside down, following the French revolution. The passage of Napoleonic army had left the population in a deep material, moral and spiritual desolation.
The activity of Bartolomea was untiring, sustained by an intense prayer that pervaded every second of her day, lived in a spousal intimacy with her Lord. She understood that in order to give continuity to the works initiated, it was necessary to begin an Institute “whose aim should be – the Works of Mercy.”With the support of the Parish Priest and the help of her Spiritual Father, Fr Angelo Bosio, amidst difficulty and tribulation, she began her Order in an extremely precarious situation, in a poor house, with only one companion, Caterina (later Sr Vincenza). On the Feast of the Presentation – on 21 February 1832 – the pair dedicated themselves to God (in Bosio and Barboglio’s presence at San Giorgio in Casa Gaia) and began to live a communal life. The formal founding was on 21 November 1832. Within five months of it’s beginning, a grave pulmonary sickness took her to her tomb at only 26 years of age.
She accepted it as the call of the Lord with serenity, with the certainty that from heaven, she could have helped the Institute more than on earth. At her death, everything seemed to end because Caterina, already mature in years, did not feel capable of the project of Bartolomea. Nevertheless, solicited by the Parish Priest and supported by Fr Bosio, she carried on the work and took it forward with fidelity and holiness of life. Thus the Institute grew quickly, expanding in Lombardy-Venice and in Tyrol.
In 1860 the sisters were requested to evangelise Bengal (India) and following it, they continued to spread, going where their presence was called for because “the need is great and urgent,” just as the Foundress used to desire
Today they are present in 20 Countries on four continents. For this reason, the Institute has acquired a clear international physiognomy. Everything sprang forth from that small seed in the beginning, sown with trust in the Lovere soil, which had accepted to die in order to let the Lord to make it fruitful for the necessity of men and women of their and our time.
The Sisters of Charity of the Saints Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa (SCCG) grateful for the gift that God had given them and to the whole Churc, committed themselves to witness, with a life dedicated to charity, to the Redeemer’s ardent love for every man and woman, of any race, language, culture, religion and social origin, as Bartolomea and Vincenza did.
They are familiarly called Sisters of Maria Bambina because they preserve in the Shrine in Milan, where the body of St Bartholomea lies, an effigy of baby Mary gifted to the Institute in 1842.