At the end of the nineteenth century, Italy lived one of the greatest crises in its economic, social and political history, with mass emigration particularly to the United States of America a time in which this country built the largest railroad system in the world. The Italian Immigrants found great opportunities to work in the USA, in the fastest growing industrial cities in the world such as Chicago.
It was not until the arrival of the Scalabrinian Missionaries in the city, in 1903, that the Italian immigrants had priests to minister to them. The growing number of Italian – American communities and the urgency to have American – born Scalabrinian priests to minister to them, led to the foundation of the Sacred Heart Seminary in 1937, in Stone Park, Illinois, for the formation of future Italian American missionaries.
In 1940, there was the need of the collaboration of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo-Scalabrinians. The Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of Saint Charles asked the Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles, Scalabrinians for the collaboration of four Scalabrinian Sisters to work in the Sacred Heart Seminary. The Superior General of the MSCS Congregation considered appropriate to send Sisters from the Province of San Giuseppe in Italy. Four Italian Sisters were prepared to work in the Seminary. But the processing of their documents was stopped due to Italy’s involvement in the II Word War.
Finally, in 1941, four energetic young sisters left the General House in Brazil and journeyed to the first Scalabrinian mission in North America. The sisters who pioneered to the mission were Sister Caetana Borsatto, Sister Albertina Vezzaro, Sister Laura Migliorini and Sister Marina Paggi. They arrived in New in Chicago on April 22, 1941, and were taken directly to the Seminary in Stone Park, Illinois. They were immediately introduced to the work at the Seminary. They carried out their mission convinced that they were helping to build the Kingdom of God among the Italian – American communities, by contributing to the formation of the futures Italian American Scalabrinian Missionary Priests.
Within six years, they were joined by four North American women who were attracted by the sisters’ life of work and prayer, dedicated to the mission of the Congregation and of the Church. Sister Concetta (Candida) Appuzzo entered in 1942. She was followed by Sister Antoinette (Jeanette) Luongo in 1945, and Sister Michael (Josephine) Spinelli and Sister Augustine (Josephine) in 1946.
In 1947, the first group of Scalabrinian Sisters from Italy joined this group of Sisters. These Sisters were Sister Marcolina Campagnolo, Sister Bertilla (Elsa), Sister Gabriella Lucietto, Sister Pierina (Maria) Caeran, Sister Aurelia (Luigina) Bordignon, Sister Raffaella Chiovini, and Sister Giovanna Morosin.
With the growing Congregation, the Sisters petition the Holy See for permission to establish the first novitiate of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles, Scalabrinians in the United States. And in 1948, Sister Caetana Borsatto was nominated the First Novice Mistress.
Since 1941, the Sisters faced many difficulties but made their first mission a success. From their mission in the Mid-West, in 1947, they set out for the East Coast to Providence, Rhode Island, to take up a parish work with the Scalabrinian Fathers. And in 1949 a community was founded at St. Charles Seminary, Staten Island, New York, with a mission similar that of the Sacred Heart Seminary.
In the area of EDUCATION, the sisters began to work in the field of early education for children of Italian immigrants. A a Kindergarten school was opened at the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Melrose Park, in 1945; then St. Michael’s nursery school was opened in Chicago, in 1952, which was eventually expanded to a school; and Saint Joseph Kindergarten opened in Melrose Park, Illinois, in 1959. In 1982, the sisters accepted the administration of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Melrose Park, Illinois. In the year 2000, the Blessed Scalabrini Institute in Fairview, Quezon City, Philippines, was opened primarily for the education of children of overseas’ workers.
The first mission OF NURSING AND CARING FOR THE AGED and Pastoral Care of the Sick began with the opening of Villa Scalabrini, Northlake, Illinois, in 1951. Then Villa Rosa Home for the Aged was in Washington D.C., in 1966. And, in 2008, the province directed its health pastoral ministry to the course of chaplaincy work.
In the area of PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS, expanding the mission from coast to coast, the San Conrado Mission was opened in 1964, in Los Angeles, California, for Catechetical Instruction and social services. In 1985, the Province extended to the Mexico – United States border of Baja California and opened the mission of Santo Angel de la Guarda, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico for the pastoral care of migrants, particularly of women and children in the diocese of Tijuana. Extending its services, in 1994, it opened Casa Madre Assunta in the same city. Moreover, in 1995, the community of the Albergue San Vicente, in Ensenada, Baja California, was also opened to give welfare and spiritual assistance to people in need specifically, deported migrants from the United States.
The mission in Chicago was reinforced with the opening of:
Moreover, in 2008, Our Lady of Fatima Province initiated its participation in the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, at the national level, of the United States’ Catholic Conference of Bishops. And, in 2018, accepted the invitation to participate with a mscs sister in the United Nations Organization’s (UNO) Membership Group of Religious Orders. The mission of the member-Congregations is advocacy on behalf of migrants and refugees.
CATECHETICAL MINISTRY has always been a priority in all areas of the sisters’ action. In 1973, the community of Holy Cross, San Jose, California was opened for Catechetical Instruction of the youth, Coordination of the Catechetical Center and Social Action. In 2005, a sister was appointed Catechetical Coordinator of the Westchester Region of the Archdiocese of New York.
In the Archdiocese of Chicago, a sister was director of the catechetical program of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Melrose Park, Illinois, from 2012-2014. Another Sister coordinated the Catechetical Program of St. Stephen’s parish, Des Plaines, Illinois, from 2013-2017 and now Directs the Catechetical Program of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Church, Melrose Park, Illinois since 2019.
The Novitiate was canonically established in 1948 in a small house. But in August 1965, the new Bishop Scalabrini Novitiate and Retreat House was opened. Many efforts were made in the area OF VOCATION PROMOTION AND FORMATION, the province went beyond the US border, to Canada, where Mother Assunta community was opened, in 1977, in Toronto, Ontario, to carry out parish pastoral ministry and for vocation work. In 1979, the sisters moved to Mississauga, Ontario.
Subsequently other communities/missions were opened for vocation work and formation:
In 2009 the province participated of the Congregation’s program “joining of the novitiates” of the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Subsequently there occurred the union of the novitiates of the Philippines and North America in 2011.
The Sisters were established as a Province on the North American Continent, in 1954 at this time the first provincial Superior appointment was given to Mother Idalina Baratter.
The Province also provided for THE AGED AND RETIRED SISTERS by building the Fatima Home, in Melrose Park, Illinois, whose community was opened in 2000.
The directive of the XIII General Chapter of the Congregation, the implementation of “a Process of Reorganization of the Congregation,” took the Our Lady of Fatima Province to participate of the Internal Reorganization Process, beginning in 2015. The process resulted in the establishment of the “Asian Delegation” comprised by the MSCS communities in Asia, and most Asian Sisters and all formands. Moreover, the reorganization process concluded that the Congregation’s Missionary presences in Central America and Caribe would be integrated in Our Lady of Fatima Province. These communities of sisters that integrated Our Lady of Fatima Province, in 2019, and were joyfully welcomed are:
It was 82 years ago that the first four young Sisters left their family in Brazil and journeyed to North America. Their love was boundless, spreading from coast to coast, to other countries and crossed continents for a more aggressive initiative in view of obtaining vocations and inserting formative communities in places of migration.
Fewer members, the increasing aging and death of sisters resulted in a lack of personnel and resources. Since the reorganization of the Congregation, the province was no longer able to maintain all its existing communities. Therefore, it proceeded to close some of them in view of the fidelity to the Scalabrinian Charism. The human mobility continues to present ever greater challenges, but our mission gradually reshaped not only the membership but also the institutional dynamics and expectations as well.
With faith, hope and determination we continue to live and expand our vocation “to be migrant with the migrants” so that migrants may keep their faith and find their “homeland in the land that gives them bread”.
Sister Marissonia Daltoé