An adage says; “The journey of twenty miles begins with a step” similarly, the desire and commitment of the four young ladies in 1815 at Florence in Italy to dedicate their entire life to serve God by living out the memory of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sorrows of our mother Mary, is indeed the wonderful work of God! which marked the birth of this noble Congregation. God himself undoubtedly inspired and sustained this work through His handmaid Maria Maddalena Frescobaldi Capponi, a noble woman from a noble origin.
The Congregation was founded by Maria Maddalena Frescobaldi Capponi in Italy on the 17th of March 1815. This noble and highly religious lay woman was born in Florence on 11th November 1771 into the family of Frescobaldi.
At the age of 19years, she got married to Marquis Roberto Capponi. The union was blessed with four children three females and one male. Unfortunately, she lost the three females one after the other. Thus, she was left with her only son Gino. Still suffering the loss of her three children, the family was faced with a painful political situation. In 1779, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Toscana and her family was forced to separate because her husband had to follow the Granduca (the king) into exile being the second in command leaving his wife and son behind in the palace among the impostors.
While still exiled in Vienna she did not lose focus of her Christian calling. She demonstrated this by being a member of Catholic movement known as ‘CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP’ founded by a Jesuit priest Fr. Nikolaus Albert Diessbach. It was formed by small groups of Lay people determined to testify even with their lives their faithfulness to Christ and the Church.
Upon her return to Florence with the family, Maria Maddalena still involved herself in the movement of “Christian Friendship” witnessing to her duty as a Christian woman in the sphere of her family and among her own people, with special predilection towards the poor and the girls fallen into prostitution.
In 1806, moved by the Holy Spirit, she started going to the Hospital of St. Boniface to serve and help the sick women. Her encounter with the disgusting bodily diseases made her discover very soon a much more serious disease: ignorance. It was the cause that compelled many young women to sell their body and souls. She felt so sorry for their souls and she took it upon herself to help save their souls. Thus, she approached them and bent down with mercy to meet their necessities. From then on, she combined wisely the duties of a spouse, mother, and grandmother and followed by that of a widow later on. She dedicated herself completely to her young women giving all she had; her time, education, money … everything she was and possessed. She gave them a shelter, food and clothes.
Like Jesus, she did not wait to be sought after, she took the first move towards encounter and she went in search of them through the streets of Florence, regardless of the murmurs and criticisms of many people. With motherly care, she succeeded in bringing them back to themselves, to God and to the society. She resorted to a force which her young women were unable to resist: the passion of Christ, source of forgiveness, mercy and salvation. This became the center and basis of the instruction she impacted on them day and night.
It was from this apostolate that the birth of Passionist Sisters of St. Paul of the Cross came to be. The Congregation is of apostolic life and of Pontifical Right, approved by a decree of praise by Pope Pius XII on 17th of June 1931 and was finally approved by Pope Pius XIV on 21st of March, 1939.
Our Presence in the World
Today, the year 2018 the little mustard seed planted by Maria Maddalena 203 years ago (Two Hundred and three years) has become a mighty Oak with its roots and branches spread to 28 Countries of the six Continents of the World; Italy, Canada, Bolivia, Spain, Philippine, Poland, Korea, India, Brazil, Portugal, Belgium, Panama, Ecuador, Indonesia, Peru, Bulgaria, Australia, France, Paraguay, Colombia, Cuba, Congo, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Nigeria, Porto Ricco, Papua New Guinea .
The Father called us through the spirit in the Church to:
♦ Live a special configuration to the mystery of Christ Crucified
♦ Bear witness to and promote the commemoration of the passion of Jesus and the sorrows of Mary.
♦ Participate in Christ’ work of salvation by making reparation for our own sins and the sins of others.
♦ Intercede with Him for the conversion of sinners; this gives us an identity in the Church.
♦ Live in thanksgiving and communion of life at the service of the mission.
The spirituality of the Congregation is “Passion oriented”. This we live in the light of the special vows; the living and grateful commemoration of the passion, death and resurrection of the Crucified Lord, which reveals Christ’s tremendous love to the world and the reason for His passion. Hence, we strive to incarnate the sentiments of Jesus (attitudes) both in prayer and in our daily life, according to the characteristic traits of our spirituality; spirit of solitude, prayer, poverty and obedience.
Inspired to incarnate the sentiments of Jesus both in prayer and in life, we consecrate ourselves in the educative mission rooted in the Memoria Passionis and we live it out in different forms of educational-pastoral service according to the needs of the persons and the exigencies of the socio-cultural and religious realities in the areas where we minister.
In our apostolate, we give particular attention to the poor and marginalized women, children, adolescents and youths, who are exposed to various forms of violence and exploitation.
Our Apostolate scope covers:
Pastoral works, Education, Medical and Social
Our Presence in Nigeria:
We arrived Nigeria in the Diocese of Ijebu-Ode in 2003. At present we have eight communities; two in Ijebu Ode, one in Imo State, Enugu, Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Ibadan.
One of the two communities in Ijebu-Ode runs an orphanage. The second community is a formation house for the postulants and Novices. The aspirants formation house is in Imo State. We run schools in Imo, Enugu, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti. While in Ibadan, we manage Catholic Home for the Needy.
Special Contribution to the Church in Nigeria:
There is a saying that ‘holiness does not consist in doing extra ordinary things but doing ordinary things in an extra ordinary way’. The Congregation in her ten years of existence in Nigeria may not have done extra ordinary things but she has strongly witnessed to the gospel by the extra ordinary manner in which she carried out many ordinary things. Thus, undoubtedly has contributed in her own little and simple way to the church in Nigeria and to the society through the activities she engages in her apostolate.
First, her presence and service to the needy, the Congregation gives special attention to the poor, the marginalized the less privileged, the orphans, the motherless and the abandoned children. The Congregation established a home that shelters the needy and takes care of their need psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, educationally, morally, economically etc. in order to protect them against various forms of violence and exploitation their situation exposes them to. We also have a distant help scheme called ‘Agatha Smeralda’ through which we help more than 150 children and youths who are really indigenes across the country. We look out for some individuals to sponsor them in school and take care of their welfare to certain extent. These people of goodwill have generously helped in sustaining this mission of love. This scheme has really helped many poor people in the places where we work and thus putting a smile on their faces, hopes of survival and bright future given to many who are really helpless. To the glory of God, it is worth noting that some of these children are grown up young adults doing very well in various tertiary institutions. Through the love and care shown to them some who were no Catholics from origin have embraced the faith out of volition. Similarly, we give love, care and life to the aged and the needy of our society.
Secondly we also engage in formal education apostolate from nursery to secondary levels, forming and pruning these young souls in an atmosphere of a holistic formation. A girl child formation is given a careful and special attention because an adage says; ‘when you train a boy you train an individual but when you train a girl you train the whole nation’.
Furthermore, we believe so much in grass root evangelization, thus we give special attention to education of women, youths and children living in villages’ e.g. Orita j4, j3, Egbe etc. in Ijebu-Ode Diocese, Ogbor- Ugiri in Okigwe Diocese etc. For example, not with-standing the economical challenge of a place like Ogbor-Ugiri the Congregation remains in this village serving the people from her meager resources because of her strong belief in grass-root evangelization in helping to uplift their standard of living through provision of a qualitative education.
Moreover, we engage in pastoral work in parishes; in teaching catechism, working with the youths, children, women etc. However, in order to make our presence felt among the people where we reside, we engage in home visitations, which the people especially the non-Catholics and non-Christians sincerely appreciate, as sharing their lives.
However, in a quiet way the congregation has been taking care of a few young girls who fall a victim of teenage pregnancy, by encouraging, supporting and rehabilitating them, as it was the origin of Congregation’s existence. Similarly a few poor widows and marginalized have been supported and empowered for self-sustenance. We also run Women Empowerment Program for young girls and women.
At the moment we have 55 professed Nigerian sisters and two of the blessed memory. 41 sisters are working in Nigeria, 12 sisters working in Italy and 2 sisters in Tanzania. It is our utmost desire to keep spreading this mission of love to other parts of the Country.
Being a young Mission in Nigeria and in 2017 we became a Delegation. Our Generalate is located in Rome, Italy. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to having our Delegation House.