EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 15, 2006

Pope to bestow sainthood on founder of Venerini Sisters Local ministry with ties to Rose Venerini cheered by Vatican's decision

LAWRENCE - At 4:30 a.m. tomorrow, Sandy Giuffrida will be glued to the television set as prayers and joy fill St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

At that time, Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Rose Venerini, founder of the Venerini Sisters.

Her canonization has a special meaning to Italian-Americans in the city, as Lawrence was the first city where four Venerini sisters came in 1909 to start their mission in the United States.

"She deserves to be a saint," said Giuffrida, a Lawrence resident. "She was certainly a pillar in the church and we all looked up to her. The nuns were constantly teaching us about her and her good works."

Venerini, who died in 1728 in Italy, is one of four people who will be elevated to sainthood at St. Peter's Basilica.

Giuffrida knew the Venerini Sisters well, attending their nursery school on Garden Street and their summer programs. They also taught her how to speak Italian.

Marie Sommovigo also is elated about the canonization.

"I cannot contain my joy because I feel this is a gift from God to have our foundress in heaven," she said.

Sommovigo, of Salem, N.H., attended the nuns' nursery school in the 1940s. She was so inspired by them that she joined the religious order for 20 years before leaving because of a family crisis.

"They (the nuns) touched my life in such a way that I was trying to imitate them and fulfill her (Venerini's) wishes to educate children, and I'm still doing the work at 72," said Sommovigo, who teaches religious education at St. Matthew Church in Windham, N.H., and serves as a missionary in Venezuela.

Venerini's sainthood is the very end of a long process.

Joseph Kelley, provost at Merrimack College, said it usually takes 50 to 60 years to declare someone for sainthood once they have been beatified, as Venerini was in 1952.

"The church wants to be sure if you're going to hold a person for emulation and imitation, that they have given it a lot of thought," Kelley said.

"A saint is a declaration that someone has entered into the full and loving presence of God in heaven; a person whose life was exemplary of imitation."

The Venerini order has 500 sisters worldwide. There are two Lawrence women in the order stationed in Worcester.

Venerini's canonization and her connection to Lawrence is a strong statement for Catholics, Kelley said.

"Instead of being far away, aloof and distant, we see it as something that is here and now," Kelley said. "It shows us that we too can live in such a way to imitate her."

BOX:

Lawrence's Saint

Name: Rose Venerini

Life: Born in Italy Feb. 9, 1656, died May 7, 1728 in Italy

Beatified: May 4, 1952

Becoming a saint: Tomorrow at St. Peter's Basilica

Tie to Lawrence: The order she founded, the Venerini Sisters, began its ministry in the United States in Lawrence in 1909. They ran the Venerini Sisters Nursery School for many years.

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