Yad Vashem Names Abbess of Assisi Convent 'Righteous Among the Nations'

Mother Josephine Biviglia Honored by Holocaust Museum

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The Yad Vashem Museum of the Holocaust of Jerusalem conferred upon Mother Josephine Biviglia, abbess of the Sisters of Saint Quirico in Assisi during the World War II years, the title of “Righteous among the Nations” for having saved numerous Jews even at the risk of her life. An awards ceremony will take place in the forthcoming months, probably at Assisi’s Museum of Memory.

Josephine was born at Serrone di Foligno on March 31, 1897, and died at 94 on March 31, 1991. She entered the convent on May 13, 1922, in the capacity of teacher of the manufacture of electrical goods, work that made possible the upkeep of the Community. On September 8, 1922, she asked to begin her probationary period and on March 18, 1923, she was clothed in the religious habit with the name Sister Mary Josephine of Jesus the Nazarene. On March 19, solemnity of Saint Joseph, of 1924 and of 1927, she made successively her temporary profession and her solemn profession. Mother Josephine led the Community as Mother Abbess from 1942 to 1945, from 1945 to 1948, from 1964 to 1967 and from 1967 to 1970.

At the end of the second three-year period of her service as Abbess she left in the convent’s book of memories her recollections of the War period.

“While from the end of September 1943 the Anglo-American aerial offensive was intensifying over Italy to everyone’s great surprise, while in the homeland political persecutions, personal vendettas and odious orders were issued against Jews and soldiers faithful to the spirit of the armistice, our institutes were becoming places of refuge for the dispersed, the politically persecuted, refugees, Jews, and evaders of the concentration camps. Our convent played its part. It goes without saying that we ourselves, being incapable of understanding all that was happening amid so much confusion, obeyed only a sentiment that arose spontaneously from time to time when unfortunates presented themselves: in face of each one’s pain every desire of judgment was silenced, even if we were able to give one: in every case mercy would have triumphed as it triumphed. And it triumphed for love for God and for our neighbor: the first gave the impulse to help the weak; the second almost always for innocents living in those days under the constant worry of arrests, of concentration camps, of execution by firing squad or worse! I must say, however, that sometimes I opposed somewhat the acceptance of these persons, feeling all the responsibility of my position in face of the Community and fearing, because of this, some consequences: however, in those moments I was always encouraged by our Venerable Superior, by other priests and by my own fellow Sisters to act in favor of those poor little ones.

“The persons who were sheltered with us, by the grace of God, in our opinion were all honest, correct, good and also religious, both the Catholics as well as the Jews. Some Fascists came during the Badoglio Government and after the entry of the Americans, some Socialists in certain moments of danger during the Social Republic. Immediately after September 8 we had officers and soldiers of the R. Army loyal to the constitutional oath, and a bit later a large number of Jews (it was in fact a Noah’s ark).”

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