Paula Frassinetti (1809-1882)
Paula Frassinetti becomes a child of God on the same day she is born. She receives baptism in the Parish of Santo Stefano in Genoa, her native town.
The third child after Giuseppe and Francesco, Paula grows in the peaceful atmosphere of her home which is later blessed by the birth of two other boys: Giovanni and Raffaele. Her mother is a model of virtue for her, and little Paula delicately opens herself to divine grace which works marvels in her according to God's plan. Angela, her good mother, does not live to gee the realization of God's plan on her daughter. She dies leaving Paula, who is only nine years old, to take care of the house. Days of bewilderment and sorrow follow, during which she does not spare herself as she gives her father, Giovanni Battista, and her brothers, loving, delicate attention which demand of her many sacrifices.
Her first Holy Communion and her brother Giuseppe's ordination are moments of deep reflection for her who already feels, in the depth of her heart, the divine call. Within the family circle she learns to read and write, and she also receives her basic formation.
Her brother Giuseppe, who is advanced in his theological studies, speaks to her about the things of God, and Paula listens and accepts his teaching. She hears the call to follow God more closely, and the Master's words: " Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me", find a deep echo within her.
But her father is not very enthusiastic: How can he live without his Paula?
And Paula tries to silence her desire as she awaits God's time, and the occasion presents itself.
At the age of 19 she is physically tired owing to the strenuous rhythm which her life as a precocious mother imposes on her, and her brother, Father Giuseppe, who is parish priest at Quinto, a small seaside village, offers her hospitality for some time. The pure air of Quinto proves beneficial to her delicate health. Parish life affords her the opportunity of doing good, as little by little, her gentle ways attract the youth of the neighbourhood. Every Sunday they go to the woods to speak about God. These encounters occur often and soon other young girls join the group. Paula reveals to them the secrets of a life totally dedicated to God, and she discovers her vocation as an educator. An enthusiastic group which lives in communion of love, forms itself around Paula. In her mind the idea of a new institute becomes clear and she confides it to her brother, Father Giuseppe.
Notwithstanding obstacles and sufferings, her ideal soon becomes a reality, and six of her companions overcome the first difficult moments. Paula is determined and she initiates her work marked by that cross which she will love throughout her whole life, and which will cause her to exclaim: " Those who suffer most, love most ". Thus on August 12, 1834, in the sanctuary of San Martino in Albaro, seven young girls dedicate their lives to God. Father Giuseppe, who had prepared them for this important step, celebrates Mass for them. They are happy, as within a few hours they will have laid the foundation stone of the Institute and start to live in community placing their trust in God alone. In fact they possess nothing; at Quinto, in the small house they have chosen as their first dwelling, there is poverty. They open a school for very poor children and they are obliged to work even at night in order to survive. Enthusiasm is not lacking and this causes the school to flourish. But God's ways are not our ways: for Paula, sufferings are an evidence of God's will. Cholera breaks out and rapidly spreads in Genoa and Paula's daughters are there to bring help and comfort.
In 1835 a priest from Bergamo - Father Luca Passi, a friend of Father Giuseppe - having known Paula's apostolic zeal asks her to assume the Pious Work of Saint Dorothy, which he had founded with the aim of reaching the poorest and most needy youth in their work and life environment. In this work Paula finds her educational trend, and the apostolic dimension of her consecration, and she does not hesitate to assume it. Her sisters will no more be called Daughters of the Faith ", but Sisters of Saint Dorothy. It is an important moment in the life of that first group who sees the initial inspiration become more concrete: " To be fully available in the hands of God to evangelize through education, with a preference for youth and the poorest ". Others houses are opened in Genoa, then attention is turned to the centre of Christianity, and just seven years after the foundation, on May 19, 1841, Paula arrives in Rome accompanied by two novices. Even here she encounters many difficulties. The first house comprises two rooms above a stable at the Vicolo SS. Apostoli, but she accepts everything and a great reward awaits her: she is received in audience by Pope Gregory XVI who is pleased with the work of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy. The Lord has spoken to her, and she is happy.
Hardships and sufferings increase: poverty and sickness afflict the brave sisters who do not have enough money to buy medicine.
In 1844 the Pope entrusts Paula with the direction of the Conservatory of S. Maria del Rifugio at S. Onofrio. By her gentleness and charity Paula transforms the place, and because of her presence and activity S. Onofrio becomes the Mother House.
In 1846 an anticlerical spirit spreads throughout Italy. In Genoa even the Dorotheans are molested and the daughters of Paula are exposed to suffering.
Persecution reaches Rome: Pius IX, who has succeeded Gregory XVI, is obliged to take refuge at Gaeta, and Cardinals, Bishops and Prelates all leave Rome. Paula remains alone at the head of a numerous community and with courageous faith she overcomes those dramatic moments.
The storm calms down. It is 1850 and Paula obtains the desired audience with Pius IX who is like a father to her. Moved by a great love for the Pope and for the church, she goes to Gaeta, thus repeating the gesture of Saint Catherine of Siena.
Paula begins the last thirty years of her life which can be defined as the period of great expansion since the Institute, besides firmly consolidating itself in Liguria and in the Pontifical State, also extends its work to other parts of Italy and the world. In fact, various educational centres are established in Rome, and Paula starts thinking of opening a house in Naples, a boarding school in Bologna and an orphanage at Recanati.
In 1866 the first missionaries leave for Brazil and in the same year Portugal is also reached.
She lives in complete abandonment to the Will of God "the unique gem we must seek", as she says, and which constitutes her paradise: "Will of God - my paradise "!
In 1878 Pius IX, the Pope who in his many encounters with Paula always had words of great esteem and encouragement for her apostolic work, dies.
Paula feels that her earthly days are coming to a close. It is the dawn of June 11, 1882: She is serene, and her passing away is tranquil thus bringing into evidence the richness of her life, as she invokes the Blessed Virgin whom she has always loved so much: " My Mother, remember I am your child ".
On June 8, 1930 Paula is declared blessed!
Today, March 11, 1984, the bells of Saint Peter's ring out again to announce that Paula is a Saint.
Paula lives on in the Congregation through the deep spirit which animates it: to seek always and in all things the greater glory of God by a greater service of humanity.