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Bl. Maria Rosa Pellesi (1917-72)
Religious of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Christ


Bruna Aldina Maria Pellesi was born on 11 November 1917 at Prignano sulla Secchia, Italy, the last of nine children. Good humour and sweetness, joy and peace marked her early years as well as a later courtship that seemed to pave the way for the earthly "happily ever after".

But the lasting courtship to which she gave her heart was tinged with a pre-sentiment of suffering.
During Bruna's late teens two of her sisters-in-law died, leaving six children, all under 4 years of age. Without hesitation, she assumed her share of responsibility for their growth and development.

Leaving these nieces and nephews to enter the convent was a heart-rending experience. Only by responding to a higher love could she make such a choice.

On 27 August 1940, at age 22, she joined the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Christ, at that time known as the Franciscan Sisters of Sant'Onofrio. She was in religious formation from 1940 to 1942, cultivating the interior life in the hope of a future harvest.

On 25 September 1942, Sr Maria Rosa of Jesus made her first vows in Rimini, and was then transferred to Sassuolo to teach in an elementary school.

She thus spent the war years of 1942 to 1945 working in the education apostolate, while also fighting her own ego; she did the latter by toiling without sparing herself. If her fellow Sisters showed their concern for her non-stop efforts, she would respond:  "Do not worry. I come from the country; I am used to it".

After this three-year assignment, Sr Maria Rosa was transferred in May 1945 to Ferrara to work in the parish elementary school. In July of that year she opened a nursery school, but by 5 September 1945 she had to be admitted to the local hospital for tuberculosis.

She remained hospitalized until 15 November, when she was transferred to the "Pineta" sanatorium in Gaiato which, unknown to her, would be her next "three-year assignment".

In December of 1948 she left the "Pineta" sanatorium only to enter another one in Bologna, this time definitively.

She thus spent 22 years at home, two years in religious formation and three years in pastoral service in her religious community. The second half of her life was spent in a sanatorium.

That meant passing 27 years living in a few square meters:  in front of the same window, the same view, the same mountain to close the horizon. She battled each day with her own health, which was continually slipping away, with lungs that would not breathe, a heart that tired easily and aches that tiredness paralyzed. Add to this the ongoing suffering and painful treatments that increased her trials but never solved the problems. This was her life.

As the years passed her clinical situation worsened. For relief it was necessary to continuously extract the pleural fluid from that "inexhaustible font" she carried within herself. Once, the needle broke and after useless attempts to extract it, it remained splintered within her from that day, 28 October 1955, for the next 17 years to the end of her life.

Her extraordinarily prolonged "Way of the Cross", although marked by solitude and suffering, became her canticle of divine mercy through her union with the One for whom she had left everything. Her broad smile was constant, natural and sincere, the result of the divine life within her. Regarding her failing health she would say, "In recompense, my heart sings and I am very happy".

Between the operations and treatments that marked her long illness, Sr Maria Rosa made three pilgrimages to Lourdes and two solemn acts of consecration of herself to the Mother of God, the latter on 16 July 1946 and 8 December 1961.

She celebrated her 25th anniversary of religious life on 4 October 1967 as well as her 25th anniversary of marriage to the Cross on 1 September 1970, after a quarter of a century in the sanatorium.

On 6 November 1972 she was transferred to the community of her first assignment in Sassuolo. She died there on 1 December 1972.