CATERINA CITTADINI (1801 - 1857)
Caterina is born in Bergamo on September 28, 1801, from her parents Giovanni Battista and Margherita Lanzani and is baptized on September 30 in the parish church of St. Alessandro in Colonna. In 1808, being orphaned by the mother and abandoned by the father, Caterina, together with her sister Giuditta who was born on 1803, are accepted in the orphanage of the Conventino of Bergamo. Here, under the guidance of the prior, don Giuseppe Brena, lived an intense Christian life, that contributed to the formation of a strong faith, a profound confidence in the Lord, an active charity, a tender devotion to the Blessed Mother, a great sense of responsibility and diligence for order and fulfillment of one’s duties. After having completed the diploma of an elementary teacher, in 1823 she leaves the Conventino together with her sister to live with her cousin priests, Giovanni and Antonio Cittadini at Calolzio, a parish in the Diocese of Bergamo.
Here the sisters stay for two years, having a strong spiritual guidance and an active pastoral environment with their cousin priests. Caterina is assumed as a temporary teacher and in 1824 as a permanent teacher in the public school for girls at Somasca, a branch of the municipality of Vercurago near Calolzio. With her sister Giuditta, Caterina matures in her desire to enter in religious Congregation.
Therefore, they ask the guidance of don Giuseppe Brena, their spiritual director in the Conventino of Bergamo, who in turn indicates to them that the will of God for them consists in staying in Somasca: they themselves will be the cornerstones of a new religious family in the small place where the holiness of St. Jerome Emiliani is kept alive.
In 1826, together with her sister Giuditta, she permanently transfers to Somasca in a rented house. In the month October of the same year they buy a building, arranged and extended with complete furnishings, which will become the center for a boarding school for girls and eventually the center of the Religious Institute of the Ursuline Sisters.
At Somasca, Caterina finds a valid guide for her spiritual life in the Regular Somascan Clerics, founded by St. Jerome Emiliani, whom she considered as a “father” even from her infancy as an orphan and she admires and follows the example of charity and poverty.
The task of being teacher places her in the midst of the life of this small place, Somasca, where Caterina actively participates in the parish life: she is a teacher in Christian Doctrine, she enrolls in the different confraternities, participates with her companions and students at the sacred functions, opens her house to receive young girls to animate and form them in an oratory style.
Caterina fulfills her task with such fervor and commitment that she elicits much praise from the authorities and unanimous approval of the people.
Her attention towards the needy and the poorest, brings her to great sacrifices of every kind, her works benefits orphan girls or girls with difficulty in attending public school and those who are coming from faraway towns. Thus, a “Cittadini” private school is born in 1832 and in 1836, a boarding school for girls, whose direction is entrusted to her sister, Giuditta by Caterina.
The positive evaluation of the private school and boarding school increases: in fact, the formation of the boarders aimed at Christian values prepares the girls to make wise choices in life, lived with Christian coherence, so much so, that an exceptional witness writes: : “The most convincing proof and that alone is enough to explain the excellent instruction that the girls received by the pious teachers in the constant flourishing of the boarding house which until now is a result of the success of the pupils, and this is not benefited by them in Somasca, who were enriched by every religious virtue, moral and civil and those arts that the girls should learn, but also it was to benefit the towns that the girls came from, because they in turn erected new schools or helped those in need, with such great morality that the parish priests looked up the Ursuline teachers in Somasca, who were the principal benefactors of the people.”
The whole life of Caterina is always accompanied by trials. In 1840, just only at the age of 37, Giuditta her sister with whom she shared everything from family sufferings, formation, ideals and plans, dies suddenly. In 1841, don Giuseppe Brena and the cousin priest, Antonio Cittadini pass away, and so do other valid support pass away too.
In 1842 Caterina herself is smitten by a grave illness, and miraculously cured through the intercession of Modonna of Caravaggio and St. Jerome Emiliani.
In 1845 she has to leave her teaching job at the public school, to entirely dedicate herself to the boarding school, and to care for the orphans and to be the guide of her companions who live with her, decided to share not only the educative activity but also the will to consecrate entirely to the Lord, in religious life.
In 1844, Caterina, to give legal stability to her work, writes up with her three companions a “ Strumento di Società e di Sorte e anche di donazione reciproca o Vitalizio”, which has much similarity to a religious Institute. In 1850, she obtains from Pio IX the Decree of erection of a private Oratory where the Blessed Sacrament was kept. In 1850-51, she applies to the Bishop of Bergamo, Msgr. Carlo Gritti Morlacchi, various supplication to obtain the approval of her “small religious family” and the rules, but the time is not yet mature. In 1854, Caterina has a meeting with the Bishop, Msgr. Pietro Luigi Speranza, who encourages her to write the rules by herself and promises his help. Caterina writes the rules based on the Constitution of the Ursulines of Milano, but, when presented to the Bishop, it was not accepted.
Without being discouraged, she prepares another one, which forwards to the Bishop on the 17th of September, accompanied by the request in which she asks the approval of the Institute with the title, Orsoline Gerolimiane. Msgr. Speranza approves the rules, ad experimentum, promising the definite approval of the new Institute. Caterina waits the day with much trust, but the difficulties, worries, sufferings, have seriously taken their toll on her and her health deteriorates little by little until it brings her to the end of life.
Always clear thinking, trustful and in continuous prayer, she exhorts her companions to accept with serenity the will of the Lord, because everything would still be continued. She dies on May 5, 1857, after a day of agony, serenely and in a holy manner, surrounded by a fame of sanctity and greatly grieved by her daughters, by the boarders and by the people, leaving to everyone her shining example and profound spiritual maturity.
A little time after her death, precisely on December 14, 1857, the decree of the canonical erection of the Institute arrives from the Bishop of Bergamo.
The Institute had its pontifical recognition on July 8, 1927.
In the first ten years, the intense educative apostolate of the Institute of Caterina and Giuditta Cittadini is concentrated in Somasca and Ponte S. Pietro, a big village in the province and the diocese of Bergamo.
From 1902 it gradually extends in the many parts of Italy and other national boundaries: today her spiritual daughters fulfill their educative mission also among the Italian immigrants in Switzerland, and in Belgium, among the poor of Latin America (Brazil, Bolivia) and of Asia (India, Philippines).
Although the fame of holiness lasted in time, the cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God was only begun in 1967, when with the Decree of April 21st 1967, the Bishop of Bergamo Msgr. Clemente Gaddi constituted the historical Commission that concluded his works on May 5, 1969. On August 5, 1971, the Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal is constituted for the regular Process that was concluded on December 1978.
On January 2, 1979 the Process was opened with the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints.
The Decree on the writings of the Servant of God was approved on January 2, 1981, after which it was brought to the drawing up of the Positio.
The Positio Super Virtutibus was completed on 28 September 1989, on December 19, 1989 the session of historical Consultants was convoked and on January 16, 1996, the special Congress of the Theologian Consultants was celebrated with a positive result. On December 3, 1996, the ordinary Congregation of the Cardinal and Bishops, and on December 17, 1996, the Decree on the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, Founder of the Ursuline Sisters of Somasca was emanated by his Holiness, Popoe John Paul II.Eventually, on December 20, 1999, the Decree of the “super miraculo” was emanated for the healing of Samuele Piovani, attributed to the intercession of Caterina Cittadini. With her beatification the Pope indicates Caterina as a model of “santita` feriale” as shining example of a true maternity in Christ and of unconditional dedication for the young generation.