St. Benedicta Cambiagio Frassinello
Daughter of Giuseppe and Francesca Cambiagio, she grew up in Pavia, Italy. At the age of 20 she had a profound mystical experience that left her devoted to prayer and desiring a religious life. However, to go along with her family’s wishes, she married Giovanni Battista Frassinella on 7 February 1816. The couple had a normal married life for two years, but Giovanni, impressed with Benedicta’s holiness and desire for religious life, agreed to live continently. The two took care of Benedicta’s little sister Maria until the girl‘s death from intestinal cancer in 1825. Giovanni then joined the Somaschan Fathers, Benedicta became an Ursuline nun.
In 1826 ill health forced Benedicta to return home to Pavia. There she began to work with young women in the area. The work sent so well that her husband Giovanni was assigned to help. The schools continued to grow and prosper, and Benedicta was appointed Promoter of Public Instruction in Pavia. However, no matter how chastely they lived, Benedicta and Giovanni’s unusual relationship drew gossip and criticism from civil and Church authorities. To insure that she did not get in the way of the work, in 1838 Benedicta turned her work over to the bishop of Pavia, and withdrew to live as a nun at Ronco Scrivia, Italy.
Not content to withdraw from the world, Benedicta began all over. With five companions, she founded the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Providence dedicated to teaching, and opened another school. Living alone, the local authorities found no causes for gossip, and Benedicta spent her remaining years in prayer and service.