Founder of the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence were the first and indispensable companions of St. Luigi's adventure; at first they were just Friulian volunteers called upon to lend a helping hand. Then, he gradually developed the decision to found a religious community, which he matured in 1845. While his brother was still alive, he thought of a possible aggregation with some "religious family": preferably, the Sisters of Fr. Antony Rosmini, of whom Fr Carlo was a friend and that Padre Luigi admired his writings and works, or some other Congregation. But none of that came through. A sign of Providence, explained Padre Luigi to his brother, who eventually gave him the consent to provide them by himself. Thus, the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence was born under the protection of St. Cajetan of Thiene, the saint of Providence. In reality, Padre Luigi, devoted to many saints, would place them also under the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Holy Virgin Mary, "the tender Mother and guide" and St. Joseph. The Son of God, present in the Eucharist was their only point of reference.

The first collaborators were simple and generous souls, totally devoted to God and neighbour. He wanted his Sisters to be docile instruments of Providence, in full appreciation of their feminine nature. He was not a commanding father of the Sisters, but their most humble "servant", just as he wanted to be of the poor and the sick. So much so a servant, he did his "last" novitiate, the one for heaven, under the direction of a Sister, just before he fell ill and died.

He wanted the Sisters to be courageous: out on the streets of Udine in 1848, when the Austrian siege and bombardment raged, to help the wounded, no matter of which side they were. Fear of death? Sure, but the love for Jesus overcame even the fear. After blessing them, he would say: "If God so wishes, see you in Heaven."

In 1855, they were out again, on the streets of Friuli, when cholera broke out and people went on dying like flies. The Sisters went around looking for the sick in the houses and cared for them without any fear of succumbing to the plague.

Apart from spiritually being strong, he wanted them prepared professionally as well. Foreseeing the Austrian bombardment and the need of helping the wounded, Padre Luigi was anxious to call Dr. Giacomo Zambelli to prepare the Sisters with basic knowledge in nursing. The same concern he had for any other charitable activity: opened a teachers' training school for the Sisters who would be teachers, sent others to learn auxiliary nursing, still others to learn the sign language of the deaf & dumb and Braille, some to prepare themselves for the care of the mental patients. Every new initiative was studied in detail, so as to find themselves well prepared.

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