Bl. Giovanna Francesca (Anna) Michelotti
Founder of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Roman Martyrology: In Turin, in Italy, blessed Giovanna Francesca VIsitation (Anna) Michelotti, Virgin, who founded the Institute of the Sisters of the sacred heart, to serve the Lord selflessly caring for the sick poor.
Beatification date: November 1, 1975 by Pope Paul VI.
“I prayed so much and this is among the will of God is in me an ardent desire to consecrate all to Jesus, care for the sick poor.” This thought, one of the few writings that humility has forwarded directly Anna Michelotti, indicates a mission born among a thousand problems, which, thanks to an extraordinary desire, is still flourishing and fruitful in the Church.
Anna was born in High Savoy (then territory of the Kingdom of Sardinia), in Annecy, August 29, 1843. Her father, a native of Almese (Torino), died young, leaving the family in complete misery. The mother gave her two children a great faith: the first day of communion with Annetta visited, at home, a poor patient. That day came a charism.
The family went to Almese for the first time when Anna was fourteen, a guest of her uncle canon Michelotti. They settled in Lyon, and a few years later, Anna came to the Institute of Sisters of St. Carlo as a first school, then as a novice. But teaching was not her mission.
Within a few years both her mother and her brother Antonio died, Anna, a novice of the Brothers of Christian Schools was left alone in the world. To keep the teacher was the daughter of an architect, but she was “the lady of the sick poor”, because just tried them and could put himself at their service.
In Annecy she met a certain Sister Catherine, a former novice of St. Joseph, who had the same feelings: all began in Lyon, in a private care for the sick poor at home. With the permission of Archbishop, she took the religious habit and professed her temporary vows. The nascent congregation was short-lived because of the war between France and Prussia in 1870 and the blessed, dressed as a nun, returned to Annecy and then Almese, and which was often brought to Turin. After the storm Sister Catherine returned to Lyon, forcing her to start again as postulant. Anna humbly accepted, but then left the school for health reasons. In those days, praying at the tombs of St. Francis de Sales and St. Giovanna Francesca by Chantal, felt that her work would be born beyond the Alps.
She returned toAlmese on the back of a mule, then moved to Turin (September 1871). Housed in Moncalieri Lupis at the ladies, for one year, with a broom, she went every day to walk into town in search of the sick be served in difficulty. Then she rented a small room, packed gloves to support themselves, while some girls began to help in her ministry. Archbishop Gastaldi, at the beginning of 1874, agreed that she could take the religious habit in the church of Santa Maria di Piazza: The Institute was born of the Little Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who in addition to the three ordinary votes provided for the free home care to the sick poor. The founder took the name of Mother Giovanna Francesca in honor of the founders of the Order of the Visitation.
The beginnings were difficult, marked by extreme poverty, dropout and frequent deaths of the sisters. The top cleric and the doctor advised the community to close the school but Oratorian P. Felice Carpignano, of venerable memory, came to encourage the mother. Mother more than once was heard exclaiming, in tears, in the apartment in Piazza Corpus Domini, a few steps from the place where the work of Cottolengo was born: “I am ready, O my dear Lord, to do your work even if it is fifty times need, but help me.” The Lord listened. Antonia Sismondi in 1879, became aware of the miserable conditions in which they lived Small Serve, housed in the villa on the hill of Turin. Then, in 1882, they managed to buy their own to Valsalice.
Mother Giovanna Francesca was living the Rule. A woman of intense prayer, she mortified her body on the ground or sleeping on a sack of straw, stirring the soup ash. In the congregation was she was generous to the sisters, saying: “If we fail, then descend a step, if you humiliated, ascend three. In return the sisters were sometimes a little tough but they loved, even in the midst of difficulties, to build trust. She read and meditated the S. Scripture with them, recommending to “be prudent, zealous and full of love”, seeking Jesus Christ in the poor. They were to assist them materially and spiritually, encouraging, where possible, the proximity to the Sacraments. Before making a major decision, she sought the advice of confessors and among these was Don Bosco. The blessed not to questua away, going in public exercises in which, at times, was insulted. She wanted to establish a group of nuns Adorers, but as the above did not allow it, dispose sister did that every day and deep adoration of the SS. Sacramento. When asked for a particular grace, she prayed with his arms on the cross, kneeling, stretching her hand toward the tabernacle. From France she brought a statue of the Madonna that was blessed by Archbishop Gastaldi. Every now and then, holding it in her arms, in procession to the garden with her sisters, praying, singing the Litany, exhorting everyone to pray the rosary and the Madonna, she had a deep devotion to the Passion of the Lord; on Good Friday she dined standing or kneeling, kissed the nuns feet, before sitting at table with a square of bread.
In the last years of her life bronchial asthma often forced the mother to bed. Deemed unfit to govern the Institute, especially in constant development in Sydney, but even more because her firm did not like as a group of elderly nuns, December 26, 1887 she was removed from the office of superior general. She accepted the humiliation, subjecting the first new superior that she had suggested. From that day the pain increased, but she smilingly said: “For Jesus sacrifice every thing is small”, “I am about to die, but you have no fear. I will continue to help and lead the Little Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the infirm poor “.
Anna Michelotti died on February 1, 1888, the day after Don Bosco. A few hours before her death, yielding to the repeated insistence of the nuns, she allowed herself to be photographed. The one who all her life, to forget herself, had served the most vulnerable, was buried by the side track Franciscan, in a poor coffin in the ground wet from rain to a small cemetery. “The grain of wheat” was dead but a light of love would continue to shine through her daughters, now also active in mission lands.
Her relics are venerated in Turin in the parent company of Valsalice. Paul VI beatified her on the solemnity of All Saints in 1975.