VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued a biography of Maria Pia Mastena (1881-1951), founder of the Sisters of the Holy Face, who will be beatified Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. An adapted excerpt of the biography appears below.
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Maria Pia Mastena was born in Bovolone in the Italian province of Verona on Dec. 7, 1881.
Her parents were exemplary Christians and very fervent in the practice of the faith and in works of charity. Of their four children, the last, Tarcisio, entered the Capuchin Franciscans, and he too died with a reputation for sanctity.
The future blessed received her first Communion on March 19, 1891, with great fervor, and on this occasion she made a private vow of perpetual chastity. On Aug. 27, 1891, she received the sacrament of confirmation. During her adolescence she was assiduous at religious functions and at parish activities, especially as a catechist.
Shortly afterward she sensed a calling to religious life, and she pursued this ideal that was characterized by a strong Eucharistic devotion and devotion to the Holy Face. She requested to enter religious life at age 14, but she was only accepted as a postulant in 1901 in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Verona.
With the permission of her superiors, on April 11, 1903, she made “a private vow to be a victim soul.”
She was vested with the religious habit on Sept. 29, 1902, and on Oct. 24, 1904, she professed vows of religious life and received the name Sister Passitea Maria of the Child Jesus.
The blessed lived this phase of her life with particular spiritual intensity and she would also recall that it was a time of grace and blessing. The fervor which she experienced in the institute would be an inspiration for her to take a vow to seek perfection in all things.
She was a teacher in various places in the Veneto region, in particular for more than 19 years in Miane, where she dedicated herself to an intense apostolate to students of every age, infirmity and disability.
With the authorization of her superiors and the “nulla osta” of the Holy See, on April 15, 1927, she entered the Cistercian monastery of Veglie, to fulfill a deep desire for the contemplative life.
On Nov. 15, 1927, with the encouragement of the bishop of Vittorio Veneto, she left the monastery, resumed teaching and proceeded toward the foundation of a new religious institute called the Sisters of the Holy Face. It was canonically recognized on Dec. 8, 1936, and, after great suffering, it was recognized as a congregation of pontifical right on Dec. 10, 1947.
The entire apostolic ministry that followed was dedicated to the establishment and the expansion of the congregation, through promoting new initiatives for the poor, the suffering and the sick.
The blessed entrusted to the institute the mission to “engender, restore, and rediscover the image of the gentle Jesus in souls.”
She died in Rome on June 28, 1951.