Maria Crocifissa Curcio: Her Life

Founder of Carmelite Missionary Sisters to Be Beatified

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2005 ( The Holy See issued a biography of Maria Crocifissa Curcio (1877-1957), founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who will be beatified Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. An adapted excerpt of the biography appears below.

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Maria Crocifissa Curcio, founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, was born in Ispica, Sicily, in the Diocese of Noto, on Jan. 30, 1877. Her parents were Salvatore Curcio and Concetta Franzò.

The seventh of 10 siblings, she spent her childhood in a highly cultural and social home environment, in which she quickly exhibited lively intelligence and a pleasant personality. Strong-willed and determined, in her early teens she developed a strong tendency toward piety, with specific attention toward the weak and marginalized.

At home she was raised under the strict moral guidelines. But according to the customs of the era, her father did not permit her to study beyond grade six.

This deprivation cost her greatly. However, eager to learn, she drew comfort from the many books in the family library, where she found a copy of the «Life of St. Teresa of Jesus.» The impact of this saint enabled her to come to know and love the Carmel, and so she began her «study of celestial things.»

In 1890, at age 13, she succeeded, not without difficulty, in enrolling in the Carmelite Third Order. Because of her regular attendance at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and her deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who «had captured her heart since childhood» by assigning her the mission of «making the Carmel reflourish,» her knowledge of Carmelite spirituality made her understand the divine plans in store for her.

She desired to share the ideal of a Missionary Carmel, which unites the contemplative dimension with that of a specifically apostolic dimension. So she began an initial experience of community life with a few fellow members of the Third Order in a small apartment in her ancestral home, which her siblings had bequeathed to her.

She then transferred to Modica, where she was entrusted with the management of the «Carmela Polara» conservatory for the acceptance and assistance of young females who were orphans or in any way needy. Maria had the firm resolution to turning them into «worthy women who would be useful to themselves and to society.»

After several years of trials and hardships in the vain attempt to see this undertaking of hers in some way supported and officially recognized by the local ecclesiastic authorities, she finally managed to obtain the support and agreement of her missionary ideal in Father Lorenzo Van Den Eerenbeemt, a Carmelite Father of the Ancient Order.

On May 17, 1925, she came to Rome for the canonization of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and the next day, accompanied by Father Lorenzo, she visited Santa Marinella, a small town on the Latium coast north of Rome. She was struck by the natural beauty of this region, but also by the extreme poverty of a great number of this town’s inhabitants. It was here that she finally realized that she had reached her landing place.

Having obtained an oral permission «of experiment» from the bishop of the Diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, Cardinal Antonio Vico, on July 3, 1925, she definitively settled in Santa Marinella. On July 16, 1926, she received the decree of affiliation of her small community with the Carmelite order.

In 1930, after many sufferings, her small nucleus obtained the recognition of the Church. Cardinal Tommaso Pio Boggiani, ordinary of the Diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, established the Congregation of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus as an institute of diocesan rights.

«To bring souls to God» is the objective that brought to life the numerous openings of educational and charitable institutions in Italy and abroad. For this reason Maria urged her daughters to bring a Christian point of view to families.

She was able to achieve her missionary yearning in 1947 when she sent the first sisters to Brazil with the mandate to «never forget the poor.»

With her entire life marked by poor health and diabetes, which she forced herself to always accept with strength and a serene adhesion to the will of God, she passed the last years of her life in illness, continuing to pray and to give of herself to her sisters, to whom she offered a precious example of virtues.

She intensely cultivated the union of love with Christ in the Eucharist by giving all of herself to make amends «for the immense number of souls who do not know and do not love God.» She urged her sisters to «love with holiness the treasures with which the Divine Goodness entrusts you; the souls of the youth, the hope of the future.»

She died on July 4, 1957, in Santa Marinella.

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