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 | By Candace Bryant-Lester, Faith Catholic

St. Benedetta Cambiagio Frassinello

1791-1858 | Feast: March 21

Despite a mystical experience at the age of 20 that left her with a burning desire to consecrate her life to the Lord through prayer and penance, Benedetta Cambiagio submitted to her parents’ wishes and married Giovanni Frassinello at age 25 in the city of Pavia, south of Milan in northern Italy.

After a couple of years of witnessing his wife’s devotion to God and wish to enter the religious life, Giovanni agreed to living chastely with Benedetta “as brother and sister.”

The two of them cared for Benedetta’s ill sister through her death, at which time Benedetta entered the Ursuline Congregation of Capriolo. A year later, however, she fell ill and was forced to leave the congregation. When she returned to Pavia, she experienced miraculous healing by St. Jerome Emiliani, the founder of the order that Giovanni had entered.

Upon regaining her health, Benedetta also received the bishop’s approval to begin educating young girls. With a vow of perfect chastity between the husband and wife at the hands of the bishop, Benedetta worked with Giovanni to educate the poor and abandoned girls of Pavia.

Despite the efforts she pioneered, gossip and opposition followed Benedetta and Giovanni, which prompted her to hand over the school to the Bishop of Pavia. But she couldn’t be stopped – Benedetta set out with Giovanni and five companions to the Genoa region of Italy to open another school for girls. Sometime later, Benedetta founded the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Providence, whose charism is the education of young girls. Today, the Benedictine Nuns of Providence are present in Italy, Spain, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Peru and Brazil.

Benedetta died on March 21, 1858, but her example of courage and fidelity to God’s will live on.