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Costanza Starace was born at Castellammare di Stabia, Naples, Italy, on 5 September 1845, to Francesco Starace and Maria Rosa Cascone.

As a young girl she attended a boarding school run by the Daughters of Charity. This atmosphere prompted her to consecrate herself to the Lord. Poor health, however, required her to return to her family and continue her studies at home.

Along with her studies she also began to cultivate a strong prayer life. When her health stabilized she announced to her parents her desire to enter a cloistered religious community; they, however, remained opposed to it.

On 8 June 1867 she made her profession in the Third Order of the Servants of Mary, taking the name Sr Maria Maddalena of the Passion. Bishop Francesco Petagna then asked her to direct the Daughters of Mary and teach the faith to the local children.

This experience coupled with the cholera epidemic that afflicted the area led the young Sister to found the Compassionist Sisters Servants of Mary in 1869; their charism: "to share the compassionate Jesus and the Sorrowful Mother, to assist one's neighbour in all his needs, spiritual or corporal".

Together with her love for Jesus Crucified, she also had a strong devotion to his Sorrowful Mother. Her rosary was her constant companion, praying it numerous times daily.

Throughout her life Sr Maria Maddalena exercised the theological and cardinal virtues which enabled her to live in faith and abandoned to God's will in everything. She was known to exclaim: "The will of God is the only goal of my life", and "The will of God is my paradise".

The Lord permitted Sr Maria Maddalena to undergo many physical and spiritual trials, which served to strengthen her faith and commitment to the work she had begun.

Prayer, work and holiness

For Mother Starace prayer was not something to relegate to a private sphere, but was the font from which daily activities flow. In her own role as Superior she testified: "Prayer is the only means to govern well".

She had a strong and clear sense of personal sanctification through the faithful execution of one's duties: "The world is not renewed when people conceive holiness as something different from fulfilling the duties of one's own state. The worker will be sanctified in his place of work, the soldier will become holy in the army. The patient will be sanctified in the hospital, the student through study, the farmer on the farm, the priest through his ministry, the administrator in his own office. Each step forward on the road to holiness is a step in the sacrifice of fulfilling one's own duty".

Her life of duty to God and neighbour came to its holy end on 13 December 1921 when she died of pneumonia. A spontaneous witness to her holy life immediately ensued.

Her process for Beatification began on 4 April 1939. On 7 July 2003, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her "Venerable", and on 21 October 2004 the miracle for her Beatification was approved.