Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno
One of six children born to the wealthy, pious family of Francesco Benedetta and Adelaide Campanella Benedetta. Baptized the day after her birth, and confirmed at age 12. Educated at home, she was familiar with the politics and anti–clerical arguments of her day.
Married to Gerolamo Custo on 5 November 1852. The couple first moved to Marseilles, France, but financial difficulties forced them to return to Genoa, Italy. Their oldest child was rendered deaf and mute by illness. Gerolamo died of natural causes on 9 March 1858, leaving Rose Maria a widow with three children; the youngest died a few months later of natural causes.
While these miseries may have caused some to become angry with God, Rose Maria instead took them as a lesson, and an indication of vocation – she knew pain, poverty and trial, and was thus qualified to work with others experiencing them. Though she continued to provide for her children, she took private vows of chastity and obedience in 1858, a vow of poverty in 1861, and became a Franciscan tertiary. In 1862 she received the hidden stigmata.
Though she preferred silence and solitude, Catholic associations in Genoa began soliciting her help. President of the Pious Union of the New Ursuline Daughters of Holy Mary Immaculate, and revised its Rule. While working on it, she received a call to form her own congregation. Though she was encouraged by everyone, including the archbishop of Genoa, but she hesitated, fearing it would take her away from her children. She approached Pope Pius IX about it on 3 January 1866, hoping he would discourage the idea; he told her to begin work on it immediately.
With Father Giovannio Battista Tornatore, she co-founded the Institute of the Daughters of Saint Anne, Mother of Mary Immaculate in Piacenza, Italy on 8 December 1866 with a mandate to work with the poor and sick. She took the habit of the Institute on 26 July 1867, and on 8 April 1870 she and twelve sisters made their solemn profession, during which she took the name Anna Rosa. The Institute received official approval in 1879, and its rule was approved in 1892. She worked with Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini. By Anna Rosa’s death there were 368 houses in Italy, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Eritrea, they had built hostels, schools and kindergartens, had 3,500 sisters, and worked in a ministry to the deaf and mute. Today they are associated with the Movement of Hope, the Contemplative Order of the Daughters of Saint Anne, and the Sons of Saint Anne.