The Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo – Scalabrinians has as their Protector Saint Charles Borromeo, who lived in the years 1538-1584. He was born in Milan (Italy), more precisely in Arona, a neighboring city. From a noble family, he renounced the wealthy and dedicated himself from a very young age to the priestly vocation. Charles Borromeo was ordained priest, Bishop and Archbishop of Milan and, successively, Cardinal. He lived only 46 years, but enough to mark his life by the testimony of humility, donation and good!
More than three centuries later, on the October 25th, 1895, the bishop Don John Baptist Scalabrini founded our Congregation in Piacenza, Italy, and chose as Patron Saint Charles Borromeo for his love shown towards people, especially with regard to culture, love for the faithful, especially the poor and sick. His motto consisted of a single word: Humilitas. An old popular proverb, whose authorship was lost in time says: “words convice, but the examples drag”.
The life of Saint Charles was immortalized, above all, at the time when an epidemic known as the “Italian Plague” (a disease contracted from human contact with fleas infected by the bacteria Yersinia Pestis, present in rats) reached Milan in 1576 and he was Archbishop of that Archdiocese. Milan, since that time, was the center of the country’s wealth. The noble and the rulers left the city to protect themselves from the contagion of the plague, abandoning the people. No one sympathized with the sick, poor and hungry. Confusion and fear ravaged the city that was left deserted and in ruins. About 60,000 people died in Milan, and those who remained were impoverished.
Compassionate, the Archbishop personally visited the contaminated confined at home, washed their wounds, consoled them and gave them the Sacraments. His activity was prodigious, as organizer and inspirer of religious confraternities, works of charity, charitable institutes; organized the religious to care for the sick, as around 60,000 people were fed a day, in an initiative funded by the cardinal; used all his goods (and there were many!) in the construction of hospitals, shelters for the poor; he organized sanitary services, founded and renovated hospitals, sought money, basic necessities, decreed preventive measures, assistance to the sick and buried the death with dignity. Charles used everything he owned to ease the sad fate of the sick. A large part of his revenue went to care for the poor and sick. Inheritances or icome that came from family assets, he distributed with them among the needy. Finaly, having exhausted all sources of resources, he himself asked for alms for the poor and opened up sources of help.
The plague lasted about a year (1576-1577). In this long time of epidemic, Milan was depopulated, not least because a third of the population had died and the rest of the people were confined to their homes. The Cardinal Charles Borromeo, concerned that the people were without mass, ordered that about twenty stone columns be built in the main squares and crossroads of the city, with a cross in order to allow the inhabitants, from the windows of their houses, to participate in public masses and prayers.
However, this long period of tireless donation consumed his strength. He had high fevers that weakened him greatly. Fragile, after this epidemic, his activity was more restricted and, a few years later, he died at just 46 years old. Before dying, he revealed that he was happy for having followed, throughout his life, the teachings of Christ. Died November 4, 1584. His canonization was celebrated by Pope Paul V in 1610.
“O God, who associated with your shepherds Saint Charles Borromeo,
animated by ardent charity and the faith that overcomes the world,
grant us, through his intercession, to persevere in charity and faith,
to share in your glory.
By Our Lord Jesus Christ,
your son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Charles Borromeo,
Pray for us!
Sister Marileda Baggio