“The important thing is to do every little thing with faith, love and enthusiasm”
Suor Maria Laura
Born at Colico (Lecco) on the 20th August 1939; baptised in the parish of Villatico, a district of Colico, on the 22nd August. Orders of Confirmation would follow on the 13th October 1948.
A few days after her birth, her mother Marcellina sadly dies; despite knowing that she was risking her life, she had wanted to continue her tenth pregnancy to its conclusion. Father, Stefano was to find himself alone in bringing up his children, with the help of his eldest daughter Romilda just 12 years old, but his steadfast faith allowed him to tackle the difficult situation he would face. Later, he would remarry with Martina Della Bianca and further children would gladden the already sizeable family. In October 1951, thanks to the discreet efforts of Sister Maria Amelia, a Daughter of the Cross and old friend of her mother, alongside the generosity of another lady, who had suffered the early loss of her beloved daughter Laura, Teresina was able to continue her studies, at the Middle school and then the Istituto Magistrale, run by the Daughters of the Cross.
HER YOUTH IN THE CONGREGATION
August 1957 saw her beginning at the Postulate at Rome, at the Provincial House of the Daughters of the Cross. Then in February 1958, when she enters the Noviziate, her religious name became that of Maria Laura, undoubtedly as a sign of gratitude towards the mother of Laura, whose generosity had allowed her to stay in Parma and to become familiar with the charisma of the Daughters of the Cross.
Sister Maria Laura made her first vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience in Rome on the 15th August 1959. At La Puye (diocese of Poitiers in France) in the Casa Madre, on the 25th August 1964, she was consecrated definitively with Vows in perpetuity.
“You must do something beautiful for others.”
She herself shared a vision of her calling on the occasion of a vocational meeting: “One enters a religious life essentially because of Christ, discovered as “the precious pearl”, or indeed the “treasure”. It is He, God, who is calling. We are not the ones who choose first. Initially it is a feeling of being loved by God, a sensation of being regarded with faith. An interpersonal relationship is established with Him: all other riches , other rapport, without being denied or disregarded, are put behind for Christ, in Him they find their rightful place. The path along my religious life is very simple. I was very young… One day during confession a priest asked me: “But what do you want to do in life?” I had never thought about it: I had lots of boy and girlfriends, one in particular “was always behind me” and kept telling me that he loved me more than the others… I responded immediately to this same priest, but I don’t know where it came from (I believe it was the Holy Spirit within me): “I think I’m doing something beautiful for others”. And the priest replied “Then think carefully. How? You have to do something beautiful for others”. There was an imperative in this statement: moreover its resonance within filled me with joy. I felt that it would give full meaning to my life.
In one’s rightful land, a community of Daughters of the Cross.
And in my community there were the Daughters of the Cross: I saw them smiling, generous, always available. I thought that the Lord wanted me to be a sister of the Daughter of the Cross. After some family concerns, nothing exaggerated however, this was the choice…
Daughter of the Cross means that the CROSS is my Mother. Not the wooden cross that you see hanging on the wall. But I am the bride, daughter and sister of Jesus, not crucified and dead, but living, risen and who regards me, hears me, loves me even if I can’t see him with my own eyes. It is all for me. He is my treasure, the Love of my life and I am a like a little child, I learn everything from Him, from his Gospel”. And it was INSPIRATIONAL.
Woman of humanity and faith.
Sister Maria Laura undoubtedly did “something beautiful for others”. Soon she was to bring her capacity for humanity and spirituality to work amongst children, as an elementary school teacher in the communities of Vasto (CH), Rome, Parma and Chiavenna (SO). She specialised in pathophysiology and worked at the E.N.A.O.L.I. supporting with sensitivity and love, children with intellectual-behavioural difficulties, often orphans.
At Chiavenna, with virtuosity and dedication, she headed up the boarding school for girl students; in order to be qualified and give of her very best in this particular mission, she repeatedly attended demanding refresher and training courses. Forever aware and open, and involved in ecclesiastical life, in every parish she was a catechist, companion on young people’s journeys, always available to listen and to serve any families who requested help.
She would also quietly help parents struggling with a child who had a problem with alcohol or drugs. Every day she found a way to visit the sick, lonely or elderly; she was a diligent, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and always with complete discretion, in silence, and with a perpetual smile.
Occupied by the Word
The Word of God has guided her life: “….let us love one another, because love is from God: whoever loves has been engendered by God….. because God is love…. if God loved us in this way, so we too must love one and each other. No-one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains within us…. And we have recognised and believed the love that God has in us. God is love; whoever remains in love remains in God and God remains in him” (1 Gv 4:7-16).
“YOU MUST DO SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR OTHERS”: these very words prompted Sister Maria Laura towards a decisive turning point, a direction and a new narrative. For her they were an invitation, a programme, a dispatch, an imperative. Her entire life would become coloured and illuminated.
And now a road spread right out ahead of her, sometimes hard, exhausting but always full of light and joy, so much so that she confesses to a friend shortly before her death:
“I am so happy…. I have already experienced Heaven here on earth”.
“Others are my Jesus”
DAUGHTER OF THE CROSS
She lived the charisma of her religious Family deeply and radically. To understand Sister Maria Laura you have to appreciate just how much the virtue of being a Daughter of the Cross meant. From the 15th August 1959, the very first day of her religious Profession, she would sign herself in full “Sister Maria Laura Daughter of the Cross” with immense pride.
As the Constitutions of the Congregation states:
“This name speaks of our deep-rootedness in the mystery of Christ and must inspire our whole life. He invites us:
– to contemplate the Father, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son
– to follow Christ, who gave himself up to bring together the multitude of brothers,
– to embrace the Spirit, gift of the Father and the glorified Son, source of new life
– to play our part in building the Church, born of the open Heart of Jesus” (EV 6).
Thus Sister Maria Laura rationalised the name she bore, recounting the historic period in which the Daughters of the Cross were born: “… precisely because they were brought about in a period of suffering, of darkness, at the end of the French Revolution, only the cross could bring light and hope”. Indeed, the Founder, Saint Andrew Uberto Fournet, wrote: “Cross, source of light and life, ocean of mercy, origin of grace”.
Embrace the love of the Crucified Risen
Sister Maria Laura found her treasure in the Cross, the greatest revelation of a love without limits, and in the simplicity of her life, she fulfilled the Word: “… let there be no other pride than in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Gal 6:14).
As she will note: “…the Via Crucis is for you to contemplate, to welcome your love, crucified love, in the depths of my existence”.
Truly for her, as Pope Benedict XVI says:
“At the outset of being a Christian there is no ethical decision or grand plan, but rather an encounter with an event, or a Person, which gives life a new horizon and with this a determining direction”.
Along this journey, Maria Laura adopted the “company” of MARY, the Mother of the Crucified: “Mother of the pierced heart, upright at the foot of the Cross”, lived her “Life” until the very end, in her humble position, with an unyielding faith …. appreciating more than any other the heart of her Son and introduces us all to it” (EV 5).
She herself personifies these words in her daily actions: “Like Mary at the foot of the Cross, we are summoned to be next to the “crucified” during our time in order to share, serve, evangelize the hardships we encounter along the way”.
But the Cross, to be profoundly understood, must be seen in the reality of its glory: the Resurrection. Sister Maria Laura feels it in herself as a life force; she defines it “… Bing Bang! It’s a dynamic wave which for 2000 years has travelled the world over, through all its historical events, offering up meaning”.
Yes, the Crucified Risen changed her life, giving it strength and direction. But she cannot keep it to herself, feeling a need to communicate this light, this power and her life becomes with Him a source of life, of creation, or resurrection.
Hence, Sister Maria Laura, Daughter of the Cross, can today be a message of resurrection for a wounded and hopeless humanity.
SISTER MARIA LAURA
AND “HER YOUNG PEOPLE”
Sister Maria Laura, of young people, declares:
“the only purpose to my life”.
So why this propensity?
In another passage she expands:
“… in today’s society they are the poorest of the poor because they are so easily influenced”.
Yes indeed, poor because they are often disorientated, uprooted, fragile, coerced, stifling a cry of life which will remain unspoken. Be it your hand, your action, your extension. She feels the urgency to support them and asks help from Jesus:
“Mt 9:36 describes the situation of the multitude: disorientated, without a shepherd. And today it remains the same, especially the young who have no points of reference. Jesus please do something! – Let us understand how we can be your right hand, your actor, your extension – Give us your Spirit of Light – Give us the wisdom and intelligence that comes from You! The unsettled crowd draws forth the compassion of Jesus and elicits a prayer to the Father and the dispatch of disciples with a purpose”.
She recognised how to love them, believed in young people, to the point of giving her life for them. She felt at ease and loved to hang out with them, be it in organised fashion or casual get-togethers. Aware of her deficiency, she prayed:
“Jesus help me to recognise you in them, and to lead them to You”.
Yes, Sister Maria Laura was amongst the young, and for the young. It’s difficult to explain what type of person attracts them, certainly you have to be genuine, and Sister Maria Laura was a genuine woman. They clearly need an “incarnate” truth. But to be true and of substance, in a time that leans more towards appearance, the virtual, the relative, fixed points are required: her fixed point was Jesus Christ.
Maria Laura had always remained young, because youth is not a matter linked to age, but to the heart: hers was a young heart amongst young people. Her youth had a secret: she lived within the bounty of self and in her daily engagement with Jesus, alive in the Eucharist and in brotherly love. There are many attestations from the same young people about her:
“… the ordinariness of daily life in her hands became like GOLD because she loved so much. She was attracted to Jesus because she could see him”.
“In a desperate time when I had no family, she was the only person who showed me love, took care of me …. she spent nights next to my bed, while I was crying in despair, she never abandoned me, she believed in me”.
“She was at my side to support me, to watch, to pray, to show me the way; I would call her “the nun at the frontier”. Without fuss, with humility, she took herself where the poor existed, all manner of the destitute who were in need”.
Anyone who came close to her was attracted by the virtues that illuminated her life.
On the 6th June 2000 she was tragically killed in Chiavenna (Sondrio) by three juvenile girls and joined Jesus, her Spouse.
“One of those most rare of figures, who demonstrate that not everything is necessarily material, personal interest, money and consumption. As long as this type of figure remains, hope in the future will not die. They are the lights of the world”.
Dr. G. Avella, Procurator di Sondrio
For further information on the life and work of Sister Maria Laura, visit the website: www.figliedellacroce.it and www.fillesdelacroix.com
Sister Maria Laura was beatified on 6 June 2021 in Chiavenna in the presence of more than 2000 people, with direct internet TV on national and international channels.