Assunta Caterina Marchetti was born in Lombrici di Camaiore, Lucca, Italy, on august 15, 1871. She was the daughter of Angelo Marchetti and Carolina Ghilarducci. The Marchetti Family was poor in material resources, but rich of faith and children.
Assunta from a young age felt the call to become a cloistered sister, however, her entry in the contemplative life was postponed because of these family issues, and also because her brother Joseph went to the seminary, became a priest and later missionary for the Italian that migrated to Brazil.
Assunta, however, grew in faith and serving charity in the family and beyond. She believed that God would also provide for her the fulfillment of her good desires. And, in fact, God’s providence reached her in 1895, through the invitation of Father Joseph, her missionary brother.
Those were the years when Europe saw many of its patriots leave, in a situation of extreme poverty and lack of protection, in search of bread in the Americas. The Bishop of Piacenza, Italy, seeing this great exodus, founded several institutions, among them the Congregation of the Missionary Priests of Saint Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinians, and the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinians.
The assistance needf of migrants were many. Father Joseph Marchetti began by helping migrant populations on coffee farms and picking up the abandoned orphans he found. With the collaboration of many he built the first orphanage on the hill of Ipiranga, SP. Soon he noticed the lack of “maternal hearts” that would watch over the good of the little ones. He returned to Italy with the aim of gathering some young women to serve fellow nationals in foreign lands. He knew Assunta Caterina, his sister, wanted to be all for God in the cloistered life, but he dared to invite her to embrace the missionary life. He said to her: “There in São Paulo I am alone with almost 200 orphans”, and pointing to the painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus he said: “Look at the Heart of Jesus, listen to its appeals and then answer me: are you coming or not to Brazil to take care of the orphaned children of migrants?”
There was a great silence! After praying and discerning, Assunta pronounced her missionary yes to God who was challenging her through her missionary brother. Her yes was definitive and total! She was then 24 years old. Her missionary brother also invited their mother Carolina, who was a widow, and two other girls, Angela Larini and Mary Franceschini, who formed the first group of sisters to serve orphans in Brazil. He led the small group gathered by him to Bishop Don John Baptist Scalabrini who, with apostolic zeal, welcomed the group and the vows they had made in his hands. The founder Bishop exhorted them to live in the certainty of faith and, handing them the crucifix of missionaries, said: “Here is your indivisible companion on your apostolic pilgrimages, comfort, strength, your salvation”. It was the 25th of October 1895. Thus, was born a new Religious Institute in the Church, with a specific mission of evangelical and missionary service to migrants in Brazil.
The following day, the missionaries, blessed and encouraged by the founder and accompanied by the co-founder, Father Joseph Marchetti, left to Brazil with fellow nationals: “Migrants with migrants”. During the long journey by ship, Assunta and her companions exercised their missionary vocation, preparing 83 children to the first Eucharist and reviving the faith and hope of the exodus companions – like Moses and Miriam – in the ocean crossing!
Arriving in São Paulo as “Servants of the Orphans and Abandoned Abroad”, they took on the care of hundreds of orphans, especially the children of Italian migrants and the children of the former slaves who roamed the streets of São Paulo. The young nun, used to serving, spared no effort to be a caring mother, nurse and catechist for those little ones that Divine Providence brought to the Cristóvão Colombo Orphanage, in Ipiranga, São Paulo, through her missionary brother, Father Joseph Marchetti. He, not satisfied with one orphanage, started the construction of another orphanage in Vila Prudente, destined to orphaned girls. Father Joseph in his zeal feared nothing and serving among those contaminated by the typhus epidemic, he died at just 27 years old, in 12/14/1896. Gradually, Mother Assunta took over the direction of the nascent Institute and, with her co-sisters, continued the service at the Orphanage with all that that entailed: food, health, education, debts!
The Institute of Servants of Orphans and Abandoned Abroad, in its early years, went through great difficulties and danger of extinction. Mother Assunta was strong and persistent in preserving the Charism of the congregation from undue interference, and she won, because she had the conviction that: “God tests us, but he does not abandon us”. This is why we consider her the “strong and holy woman of our origins”. A kind of cornerstone of the Congregation the now is known as: Missionary Sister of Saint Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinians.
The lifestyle was simple, devout and helpful. The holiness they expressed in their mission attracted many young women to whom God had given the gift of a religious vocation. Thus, the Congregation grew and expanded in Brazil and abroad, expressing the evangelical charity between migrants, a mission proper to the Scalabrinian Charism.
Mother Assunta Marchetti, a migrant since the beginning of her life as a consecrated religious, continued her migration in Brazil, serving in different cities of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.
In love to Eucharistic Jesus, to the loving Heart of Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, she found her strength to live all the events in the light of faith and this was the case throughout her humble and loving existence. Exercised the mission of general superior for two periods, was a nurse, administrator, mother of little orphans, cook in Orphanages, asylums and hospitals. An exemplary religious, always ready to “extend her arms to the unfortunate and open her hands to the needy” (cf. Pr 31,20).
When she worked in hospitals, she had little time to rest, as the sick wanted her close, either to heal their wound or to heat a word of wisdom from her. She knew how to prolong her moments of prayer day and night, without running away the disinterested service of those in need, which never lacked her. She had the deep conviction that “God loves us, that it why he visits us with his crosses”. Attentive to do the holy will of God, she wanted to extend this ideal to the entire Congregation, writing: “The motto of our Congregation is to do the will of God!”
Blessed Assunta Marchetti had a strong character, but she learned to control herself and treat everyone, especially the smallest, with the tenderness of a mother. She was moderate in eating, poor in dressing, always trying to do the hardest work to benefit her sisters. She experienced the serenity of those who know that “the sufferings of the present time are out of proportion to the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rm 8,18)
After a long life, 76 years, died at the Cristóvão Colombo Orphanage, Vila Prudente, São Paulo, on July 1st, 1948. The orphans who were there exclaimed: “Today charity died! A saint died today!” Beautiful truths intuited by the minors who knew Mother Assunta well.
After a long process in which her heroical virtues and the miracle of God achieved through her intercession were recognized, Pope Francis declared her worthy of beatification. For this reason, the beatification ceremony was held on October 25, 2014, at the Metropolitan Cathedral of São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Sr. Leocádia Mezzomo