St. Lucy Filippini
Lucy Filippini was born on January 13, 1672 in Corneto-Tarquinia – a city that existed centuries before Rome was built. She had not yet reached her first birthday when her mother died and was buried in the Church of San Marco. Her father, whom she loved dearly, also died six years later and was buried in the Church of Santa Margherita in Corneto.
Now orphaned, Lucy went to live with her aunt and uncle. As a child Lucy would prepare small altars and pray devoutly. It was soon clear that she possessed a precocious intelligence, an inclination toward the spiritual life, and a modesty that was truly angelic.
Her vision was set on God. Notwithstanding her aristocratic upbringing, she always conducted herself with modesty and its practice.
At times Lucy would seek for a serene atmosphere in the nearby Benedictine Nuns’ Monastery of Santa Lucia where the daughters of the nobility were educated. Lucy visited frequently, drawn there by her desire to be among those whose lives and goodness she admired. It was here that she received her First Communion.
Here, too, Lucy received the spiritual nourishment of which she never had enough and listened attentively to the explanations of the divine mysteries. The grace she felt can be understood from the joy and enthusiasm expressed later as she led and instructed others.
Desirous of penetrating the innermost meaning of the truths brought by Christ to mankind, she showed in her speech and her understanding a wisdom beyond her years. She spoke with much fervor, and her words of compassion and love brought tears to the eyes of her companions. They were a prelude to Lucy’s future mission.
When Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo made his first pastoral visit to Corneto, he made a lasting impression on Lucy and she followed him to Montefiascone. Entrusting herself to the Cardinal’s guidance, Lucy was eager to leave behind all worldly things. Lucy had a special devotion to Our Lady, her spiritual mother, and throughout her life her deep love for Mary and her faith sustained her when Cardinal Barbarigo’s plans were to be implemented in his dioceses.
He had envisioned her as a key factor to bring about a rebirth of Christian living. He had already begun by establishing a seminary where young priests might study and train for the ministry of the Word.
The next step was to develop a Christian conscience and encourage the practice of virtue in the home; this he resolved to do by opening schools for young ladies, particularly the children of the poor, in whom he saw hope for the future.
Lucy would head the schools they founded to promote the dignity of womanhood and help influence a healthy family life. Together they looked ahead to fulfilling their generous, ardent and profound mission of faith and charity. In 1692, teachers were trained to staff the rapidly expanding schools.
The young ladies of Montefuscione were taught domestic arts, weaving, embroidering, reading, and Christian doctrine. Twelve years later the Cardinal devised a set of rules to guide Lucy and her followers in the religious life.
Fifty-two schools were established during Lucy’s lifetime.
As the Community grew, it attracted the attention of Pope Clement XI who, in 1707, called Lucy to Rome to start schools, which he placed under his special protection. Here she completed the work of founding the schools.
To complement the work of the schools, Lucy and her Teachers conducted classes and conferences for women, who were strengthened in their faith as they took part in prayer, meditation, and good works.
Her focus for the social apostolate was to encourage her Teachers to minister to the needs of the poor and the sick. Her method of teaching attracted widespread attention.
History records that Saint Paul of the Cross was ‘pleased to discover, even in the most humble villages, small and fervent centers of spiritual renewal where…the Religious Teachers kept alive the flame of faith, a wholesome fear of God, and an appreciation of educated life.’
Lucy’s spiritual and educational adventure resulted in countless conversions through the gift of grace.
The social apostolate was an extension of the classroom.
She testified that the young ladies were the coordinating element that underlies family life: ‘Having learned in school those things that were necessary, they repeat them to parents and relatives at home and thus become so many young teachers.’
Lucy died at sixty years of age, March 25, 1732, on Feast of the Annunciation For three centuries the example of Christian womanhood that marked the lives of her Teachers and students was recognized by Holy Mother Church.
In 1930, Lucy Filippini’s saintly life was adequately acknowledged. Not only was she officially declared a Saint of the Church, but she was given the last available niche in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome.
The Institute, which bears the name of Lucy Filippini, owes its birth to the solicitous good shepherd who loved schools and to the holy teacher who committed her entire life to the educative-apostolic mission.
This mission initiated by the Cardinal and Lucy 300 years ago, continues today through the schools and the Religious Family to which they gave life.
Its mission has spread beyond Italy into Europe, the United States of American Brazil, Ethiopia and India.