She was then entrusted to a governess who did not understand her and caused her to suffer much. Her long suffering brought her closer to God and Magdalene decided to consecrate herself wholly to him. She dedicated herself to the care of His dear ones with great love, giving help, comfort and serenity to all those whom she encountered.
In 1797 when Napoleon’s troop occupied Verona, Magdalene sought refuge at Venice, where she experienced the difficulties and sadness of being in exile. After returning to her native city, she was moved by the site of the many miseries which were the lot of the poor. What impressed her most was the frightening state of so many children and ignorant young girls, left to themselves and exposed to numerous dangers. Urged by ardent charity she began to look out for them assist and educate them and act as a mother to them. She was helped in this work by generous collaborators.
In 1808, free at last from all obligations to her family, she finally left her rich palace to live a poor life and serve the poor. In the parish of St. Zeno the most destitute in the whole of Verona.
The sources of her inspiration were Jesus Crucified who showed the most perfect love to His Father and to all people by dying for us, and His mother who stood by her son as he hung on the cross, sharing in his mission.
Magdalene died on 10th April 1835 and on October 2nd Pope John Paul II declared her SAINT.
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in the region of Sudan, Africa in 1869. As a little girl, this African flower, knew the anguish of slavery and kidnapping. She was stolen by slave traders and cruelly tortured. In this traumatic experience, the little girl, could not remember her name and was named Bakhita which means “the lucky one”.
After being sold and resold she was finally bought by an Italian Consul. For the first time now, Bakhita experienced being loved and cared for as a person. At her insistent request, she went with the Italian Consul to Italy. She was then given as a present to a couple that had a little daughter. Through them she came to know the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice. She asked to be baptized as a catholic. She then asked to offer herself totally to God as a Canossian sister.
Simple yet humble, she was full of love for God and neighbour. On 8th February 1947, she breathed her last at the age of 78, in Italy. She was declared a saint on 1st October 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Bakhita is revered as saint, because she is a “Universal Sister.
Sr. Fernanda Riva
The Canossian Sisters all over the world and particularly in India, rejoice and are grateful to God, who through the instrumentality of His Vicar on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared the ‘Servant of God’ Sr. Fernanda Riva, “Venerable” on 28th June, 2012.
Sr. Fernanda was born in Monza, Italy on 17th April 1920. She joined the Canossian Missionary Novitiate in Vimercate, Milan,on 19th March 1939. A few months later she was sent to India and arrived in Mumbai, on 30th October 1939. She continued her First Formation at St. Joseph’s Convent, Belgaum, where she pronounced her First Vows, on 24th December 1941.
She completed her Education B.A., B. Ed at the Colleges in Belgaum from 1943 to 1947, and came to Mumbai for her Master’s Degree in Education.
From July 1950 to September 1953 Sr. Fernanda served at Canossa High School, Mahim first as a Teacher and then as Principal. She was fondly loved and respected by the students, Staff, Sisters and people around Many of them testified to the ‘heroicity’ of her virtues and remember her even today.
In September 1953, Sr. Fernanda was transferred to St. Joseph’s Convent, Alleppey, Kerala to start the St. Joseph’s College for Women there and take over as its first Principal. This took a good bit of her energy – to supervise the construction and equipment of the College. Within a year in 1954, she fell ill and was sent for a check-up to Mumbai. She was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home and was operated upon by the Late Dr. Arthur D’Sa in September 1954. She seemed to recoup and under the Doctor’s advice returned to Alleppey after a month, on 30th October 1954.
She went all out to be of service to the Staff, Students of the College in particular and the people of Alleppey, with such exquisite charity that those who came in contact with her went away happier for having met or been with her.
However on 6th January 1956, she had to be rushed back to Mumbai because of her illness, which turned out to be – Cancer. This time it struck her fatally. The Late Dr. Arthur D’Sa and the Late Valerian Cardinal Gracias visited her. They were touched by her serenity and faith. She had a kind word, a smile, a gesture of concern for those sisters and hospital Staff who attended on her and gratitude for all.
She breathed her last on 22nd January 1956. Crowds filed past her body which lay in the Chapel of Canossa Convent, Mahim. Whispers of “She is a Saint” could be heard among the crowd gathered at her funeral. She was buried in the Cemetery of St. Michael’s Church, Mahim. A few days after her death, this very Diocesan Bulletin “The Examiner” carried an article based on her illness and death.
Such was the Sanctity of her life, that His Lordship, Micheal Arattukulam, the then Bishop of Alleppey asked that her Cause for Canonisation be introduced. On 13th August 1994 under the direction of His Eminence Simon Cardinal Pimenta, the Cause was introduced, at St. Michael’s Church Mahim.
Today her bones are placed in a niche dedicated to her Memory amid the other deceased Canossian Sisters at St. Michael’s Church Cemetery. She remains with us to help us on our journey to the Lord. Our dear Venerable Sr. Fernanda, pray for us!