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Holy people
Servants of God, Mother IGNAZIA ISACCHI, founder and mother, MARGHERITA LUSSANA, cofounders
Ursulines of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - Asola

Mother Ignazia Isacchi and Mother Margherita Lussana: notwithstanding their two different life experiences, as a result of their identical responses to their common vocation to consecrated life, Divine Providence caused them to meet. Then Providence guided them on a path of mutual support; along the way that support was transformed into a communion of affection, of thoughts, of aims, and of works that originated first in the Heart of Jesus and found there the ultimate perfection of that very vocation


Fotografia Mother Ignazia Isacchi
 
Fotografia Mother Margherita Lussana

 

These two lives cannot be fairly understood without considering their perfect complementarity within a joint project of God’s grace, which took shape in the foundation of a new religious family.
After their long and very busy lives, they rest together in the chapel of their spiritual daughters’ motherhouse. In 1988, the beatification and canonization causes of both of them were opened. After the prescribed diocesan enquires “on the life, virtues, and reputation for sanctity” – and for Madre Ignazia also a “super miro” – were completed in 1996, their causes are now under consideration by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
MADRE IGNAZIA ISACCHI (1857-1934)
The foundress was born in Stezzano (Bg) on May 8, 1857, tenth of the eleven children of Giovanni, Count Moroni’s bailiff, and Olivia Sigoli; she was christened with the name Angela Caterina; later, Ancilla was added informally to those names. From early girlhood in her family, she was imbued with full and firm piety, added to a humble industriousness.
In 1864 her family moved to Treviolo, following their brother, Father Luigi, the parish vicar there. From 1883 to 1898 he was spiritual director at the seminary of Bergamo and therefore also the director of Giuseppi Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, who mentioned him affectionately in Journal of a Soul. In 1874 Ancilla was in Vercurago, still with Father Luigi, who had been appointed parish priest in that little town. There she attended the local boarding school of the Ursuline nuns for whom Father Luigi was confessor and ecclesiastical superior.
The Sanctuary of Saint Jerome Emiliani, father of the poor and orphans, is in Somasca. The memory of Caterina and Giuditta Cittadini, co-foundresses of the Ursulines, remained part of the locale. Here Ancilla lived the best years of her youth. She acknowledged the many influences from those blessed places. Having matured in her religious vocation, on November 21, 1879, she entered the Institute of the Ursulines of Somasca. In the following two years she donned the religious habit, with the name Sister Maria Ignazia (December 4, 1880) and pronounced her vows (December 15, 1881). Meanwhile she completed her education and earned the diploma of an elementary teacher.
Between 1883 and 1885, she taught in the Collegio Cittadini of Ponte San Pietro (Bg) and then become its headmistress. She deeply embodied the mode of teaching passed on by the Cittadini sisters: a spiritual maternity in educating girls and very lively devotion to the Eucharist and to meditation on the Lord’s Passion.
She showed special abilities for relationship with young girls and, at the end of every school year, brought her sisters and students to the Marian Sanctuary of Stezzano, in order to offer thankful prayers to Mary, to whom she was deeply devoted.
On October 14, 1889, Sister M. Ignazia was appointed by Bishop Guindani of Bergamo as vicar general of the institute and novice mistress: among the novices was Sister Maria Margherita Lussana.
In 1892 a noblewoman of Gazzuolo (Mn), through Bishop Bonomelli of Cremona, asked Bishop Guindani of Bergamo to send some sisters to open a private school for academic and vocational education in Gazzuolo. Bishop Guindani took this request to the Institute of Somasca. The general superior agreed, but on condition that the sisters leave the institute, changing the rule and the name. The bishop agreed and, on September 5, 1803, sent a group of seven sisters guided by Sister M. Ignazia to Gazzuolo, where they were warmly welcomed. Sister Margherita Lussana was among those who had offered themselves to fulfil the noblewoman’s wish. The “holy adventure” had begun.
On the request of Sister M. Ignazia, they were allowed by Bishop Guindani to keep their religious habits and to profess the rule of the Ursulines, each of them in their rank of religious life at that time.
Three months later, Bishop Bonomelli of Cremona signed the decree of approval of the new congregation, called “Institute of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”; on September 5, 1894, he approved the new Rule of that institute. Meanwhile a school called “Santa Clara” was opened tuition was paid by the girls coming from well-off families but was free for the poor.
A little more than a month later, the first general chapter was held and Sister M. Ignazia was elected general superior and novice mistress. The vicar was Sister M. Margherita Lussana. So Gazzuolo became the seat of the motherhouse and of the novitiate. Everything went on properly. Therefore, after beginning a shared road in the fulfilment of the divine project, their responsibilities were assigned. While Mother Ignazia had the hard duty of training the sisters according to the charism given by God for the Church, Mother Margherita assumed the responsibilities of the educational activities of the congregation, which, besides the school, immediately extended to an orphanage and a boarding school.
Meanwhile the religious community began to grow with the first new vocations: reception of the habit and professions followed one another with the approval of Bishop Bonomelli.
The institute outgrew the noblewoman’s house; in 1903 Mother Ignazia and Mother Margherita found, still in Gazzuolo, a new house which would be their motherhouse until 1917. Before then (1900), a pre-school had also been opened in Seriate (Bg), along with a Sunday school and evening classes for working women. The institute began to spread with the increase of new religious communities for education in schools and aid to sick people in hospitals or at home.
However, a series of hard times made the years 1915-1916, already tragic because of wartime events, painful for the institute too. The new bishops of Cremona and Bergamo, Bishop Cazzani and Bishop Marelli, motivated by more or less selfish rumours, and, not being well acquainted with the events which had brought Mother Ignazia and the other sisters to Gazzuolo, raised doubts about the validity of the novitiate, the motherhouse and even the foundation decree of 1893.
The superiors did not hesitate to address Pope Benedict XV. They were immediately reassured:”The self government of your congregation will not be removed”. On August 24, 1916, the Holy See invited the bishops of Bergamo, Cremona and Mantua (dioceses where other houses had been established in the mean time) to agree upon a definitive rule for the institute. As of February 1, 1917, the new motherhouse of the congregation was in Asola, in the diocese of Mantua, where Bishop Origo had already welcomed the nuns as “sent by Providence”.
The new Constitutions were approved on January 17, 1922. In the “Cronaca” written by Mother Ignazia, we can read:”The small ship, hit by storms and breakers, passed from one storm to another, but it did not perish, as the omnipotent Pilot, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, did not allow it to be lost. God gives trials to those whom He loves”.
Meanwhile, in 1918, Mother Ignazia had been reconfirmed as general superior for another six years. It was another time of strenuous work, of spiritual satisfaction, but also of material problems, even though all of them were solved with a great trust in Divine Providence and with the support of Mother Margherita, always standing by her.
However the strong constitution of the foundress began to wear out and so, for health reasons, in the general chapter on October 2, 1924, Mother Ignazia was succeeded by Mother Margherita as leader of the congregation and, at the same time, named by Bishop Peruzzo, the auxiliary bishop of Mantua, as honorary general superior for life in recognition of her special merits in the institute.
She continued as the charismatic guide of her sisters, asked prayers for her “poor soul” and showed, in her writing, her great love for them. In her deep and sincere humility, she signed herself as “poor in every good thing”.
She returned to the house of the Father on August 19, 1934, leaving to everybody the indelible memory of a life full of many good qualities and becoming a steady point of reference because of her well-established reputation for goodness and charity.
“Her memory will be always an everlasting blessing”, a reporter wrote in “L’Eco di Bergamo”, telling about her “holy death” and her “very noble legacy” and the very large crowd gathered at her funeral. At the end of the funeral, Father Luigi Salvi, the coadjutor, addressed the people after the last blessing of her coffin: “Those who want to obtain favours should come here to pray at her grave”.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Up to now there are no biographies about Mother Ignazia Isacchi written on the basis of scientific principles. However, there is a large amount of published journalistic material, made up of individual contributions, some of them abundant and valuable, which would be too many to list here.
However, for a well-constructed and adequate narrative of the life and works of the Servant of God, one can read Angelo Montonati’s “E Dio la prese per mano.... Madre Ignazia Isacchi fondatrice delle Suore Orsoline del Sacro Cuore di Gesù di Asola”, Alba-Edizioni San Paolo-Collana “Fondatori e riformatori” pp.191.
MOTHER MARGHERITA LUSSANA (1852-1935)
Mother Margherita Lussana was born on November 14, 1852, the third of six children of the second marriage of Andrea, a widower, already the father of eleven children, and Eurosia Quassi. Her family owned some land; Andrea was the public manager of the town council. The baby was christened with the name Teresa Caterina, but she was called Anna by her family. She grew up sweet and wise, showing special gifts of intelligence which won her admittance to the first-rate teacher training school for girls, started in 1861 by the provincial council in order “to elevate women’s education from its low level”.
With very good marks, she obtained a diploma “of superior quality” for teaching in elementary school (1870), followed ten years later by the diploma for physical education; Anna began at once to teach in Seriate’s public school.
The educational charism was engraved in her; also, on account of the sweetness of her nature, the most eminent families of the small town wanted her as a private governess for their children.
When her father died (1878), she lived alone with her mother. “From the age of thirteen” she wrote in a letter to Bishop Morelli of Bergamo in 1915, “I had felt the disposition for a religious life, but I was persuaded by my director to stay with my mother, who was old and sickly”.
Eurosia, lovingly assisted by her daughter for all those years, died in March, 1888, and Anna, consistent with her deep inspirations, knocked at the door of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded by the Blessed Teresa Eustochio Verzeri in Bergamo.
She was immediately welcomed and, at her confessor’s suggestion, prepared herself for entering the convent with a course of spiritual exercises given by the Ursulines nuns of Somasca at Ponte San Pietro. “At Ponte San Pietro” she wrote, “I was surrounded, I can say even begged...as I was a teacher and they needed one. I let myself be persuaded...”.
On October 21, 1889, at thirty-seven, she entered the Institute of Somasca. She had had a long teaching experience. “When I entered the convent, I wasn’t a young girl anymore.... In Somasca I was at once assigned as a teacher and headmistress of the boarding school. It was the right place for me, as the education of young people had always been my ideal”.
She donned the religious habit on October 21, 1891, and took the name of Sister Maria Margherita in honour of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, being, like the saint, in love with the Sacred Heart.
Meanwhile Bishop Guindani of Bergamo had made the novitiate move from Somasca to Ponte San Pietro, where the vicar and novice mistress Sister M. Ignazia lived and Sister M. Margherita was sent as a teacher.
So there was the heaven-sent meeting of two chosen souls, destined to produce so much good fruit.
In 1892 a noblewoman of Gazzuolo (Mn), through Bishop Bonomelli of Cremona, asked Bishop Guindani for some sisters, in order to open a private school for academic and vocational education in Cremona. The latter turned to the Institute of Somasca. The general superior agreed, but on condition that the sisters leave the institute, changing the rule and the name. The bishop agreed and, on September 5, 1803, sent a group of seven sisters guided by Sister M. Ignazia to Gazzuolo, where they were warmly welcomed. Among those who had offered themselves to comply with the noblewoman’s wish was Sister Margherita Lussana. She had been urged to join by the same bishop and by the superior of Somasca herself, on account of her teaching credentials “of superior quality”, so as to be able to “avoid the difficulty of having a coeducational upper school entrusted to an atheist teacher”.
The “holy adventure” had begun.
By request of Sister M. Ignazia, they were allowed by Bishop Guindani to keep their religious habits and to profess the rule of the Ursulines, each of them in their rank of religious life at that time
Three months later, Bishop Bonomelli of Cremona signed the decree of approval of the new congregation which was called the “Institute of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, and, on September 5, 1894, he approved the new rule of that institute. Meanwhile a school called “Santa Clara” was opened: tuition was paid by the girls coming from well-off families but was free for the poor.
A little more than a month later, the first general chapter was held and Sister M. Ignazia was elected general superior and novice mistress. The vicar was Sister M. Margherita Lussana. So Gazzuolo became the seat of the motherhouse and of the novitiate. Everything went on properly. Therefore, after beginning a shared road in the fulfilment of the divine project, their responsibilities were assigned. While Mother Ignazia had the hard duty of training the sisters according to the charism given by God for the Church, Mother Margherita assumed the responsibilities of the educational activities of the congregation, which, besides the school, immediately extended to an orphanage and a boarding school.
He job required constant professional updating. In 1897 in Verona she earned the diploma of “nursery school teacher”, and in 1900 she become headmistress of Asilo Bolognini of Seriate, being qualified for such an important job as “she has all the most distinguished certificates and is much loved by the people”.
Her time in Seriate was the fundamental period of her life as a religious and an educator and covered all the remaining years of her life. Intelligent and loyal, she was fully successful in her collaboration with the local authorities, in the common purpose of doing good, sometimes in difficult situations which she always overcame and settled with the help of the divine Providence and her steady personality, prepared and determined in thinking and acting.
Moreover she went on keeping herself up to date with new didactic methodologies. In the evening classes she taught prevention of pellagra; she taught lessons in economy and domestic science to working women. Still working in Seriate, she began an experiment in after-school programming for elementary school children. During the First World War, she helped the children of “richiamati” (soldiers recalled to arms) and then those of the Friulan refugees. She took care of everything with unceasing activity, being involved also in an oratory for girls, a place for human and Christian formation for youth. As vicar of the institute, then, she was often present among the sisters who were increasing in number, as were their houses, not only in the province of Bergamo, but also in Mantua.
When, in 1924, the congregation experienced the risk of being suppressed, Mother Margherita stood bravely by the foundress. She did not shrink from travelling and writing, meeting with bishops and influential people, all the way to the decision to address Benedict XV, from whom came a positive solution.
Later (August 6, 1932), she wrote: “I love this congregation so very much and think that the Divine Heart will not undo it, as it bears His name and He has always protected and defended it and always will protect it”.
In 1924 she was elected general superior, thus succeeding Mother Ignazia in responsibility for the institute, which she guided with loving kindness and wise resolution until her death. Under the bishop’s direction, she carried on her activity as headmistress of Bolognini, but meanwhile she took care of the training of other sisters, making sure that they obtained suitable diplomas.
On February 27, 1935, only six months later than Mother Ignazia, she too went back to the house of the Father. She was buried in Seriate, next to the foundress, after a very crowded funeral, as testified by “L’Eco di Bergamo” on March 4, which mentioned her “noble character...rich in every endowment of humility”. Moreover, on the same day, from Agrigento Archbishop Peruzzo, former auxiliary of Mantua, praised her as “a holy soul, a fervent religious and a superior according to the heart of God”.
Along with Mother Ignazia’s grave, hers too became a place of prayer and requests for fulfilment of such graces as cures and spiritual favours.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Up to now there are no biographies about Margherita Lussana written on the basis of scientific principles. However, there is a large amount of published journalistic material, made up of individual contributions, some of them abundant and valuable, which would be too many to list here.
However for a well-constructed and adequate narration of the life and works of the Servant of God, one can see Angelo Montonati’s “Dove tu mi vuoi.... Madre Margherita Lussana cofondatrice delle Suore Orsoline del Sacro Cuore di Gesù”, Alba- Edizioni San Paolo- Collana “Fondatori e riformatori” pp.201.

16 settembre 2012



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