Illiterate But Wise, a Healer of Body and Soul

Church to Beatify Italian Teresa Manganiello

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

By Carmen Elena Villa
BENEVENTO, Italy, MAY 20, 2010 ( Despite her little formation, she was known for her great spiritual wisdom and, despite her short life, her reputation for holiness continues to cross borders, echoing today 133 years after her death.

Such is the legacy of Teresa Manganiello, who will be beatified Saturday in Benevento. She is known as the cornerstone of the Franciscan Immaculatine Sisters.

The prefect for the Congregation of Saints’ Causes, Archbishop Angelo Amato, will represent Benedict XVI in presiding over the beatification ceremony.

Teresa Manganiello was born in the small village of Montefusco, in the province of Avellino in southern Italy.

The youngest of 11 children, she never went to school and like many peasant children of the time, was dedicated to work in the home and in the fields.

At age 18 she expressed her desire to consecrate herself to God. On May 15, 1870, at 21, she was clothed in the Franciscan tertiary habit and the following year she made her vows, taking the name Sister Mary Louise. She received spiritual direction from Father Ludovico Acernese, who left numerous writings on Teresa’s virtues.
The postulator of her cause, Monsignor Luigi Porsi, told ZENIT that among Teresa’s most admirable traits were her «innocence of life, her great devotion to the crucified Lord, in a spirit of penance, in reparation for the sins of the world.»
Brimming generosity
With a noble and abnegated heart, and an ability to put herself in the place of others, Teresa was always concerned about the poorest, both in the material as well as the spiritual sense. «She never refused help to anyone who came to her. She distributed bread and clothing and had, by her own initiative, a sort of rudimentary pharmacy with herbs she cultivated for minor illnesses that were spreading at the time,» the postulator explained.

Franciscan Immaculatine Sister Daniela del Gaudio recounted: «To her door came the poor, the sick, the oppressed of all types and she received them with a smile and a warm word, giving medicines and love; medicines for the healing of the body and the soul.»
Her life was not exempt from trials and sufferings such as misunderstanding because of her austere lifestyle and the project of the foundation of a religious community. Moreover,

Teresa also practiced great mortifications and physical penances. In the community’s motherhouse are the instruments of her penances. She constantly said that she did this «because the Lord asks it of me.»
Her time of prayer was her priority over all else. Neither rain, nor snow, nor unbearable sun would keep her from walking each day the three kilometers (1.8 miles) to the nearest church.
Wisdom in ignorance
Many called her «the illiterate wise woman.» Monsignor Porsi titled his biography of her «Una contadina maestra di vita» (A Peasant Teacher of Life), and said that despite her scarce academic formation, «she was very wise theologically and very profound.»
«She wasn’t naive; she was innocent,» he said. «She couldn’t read or write but retained everything she learned.

«She had a spirit of meditation and contemplation and when she met people she was simple and profound and amazed learned persons.»

The postulator called hers a «supernatural wisdom.»

Fulfilled dream

She was only 27 when she caught tuberculosis, which brought her death in 1876. According to Sister Daniela, Teresa was able to transform «her deathbed into a chair of wisdom, life and love.»
Five years after her demise, her spiritual director founded the Franciscan Immaculatine Sisters, inspired by Teresa, knowing that she dreamed of the birth and flourishing of this community. Hence the religious of this order call her the «cornerstone» of their community.
Today, these sisters live the charism of professing a singular love and filial veneration of the Virgin Mother in her privilege of the Immaculate Conception.
They work in the academic and doctrinal education of youth, especially girls. They are also dedicated to catechesis, pastoral and parish collaboration and the missions.

They are active in Italy, Brazil, the Philippines, Australia, India and Indonesia.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation