Bentivoglio, Maria Maddalena
BENTIVOGLIO, MARIA MADDALENA
poor clare foundress in the United States; b. Rome, July 29, 1834; d. Evansville, Ind., Aug. 18, 1905. Born Anna Maria Bentivoglio (nicknamed "Annetta"), twelfth of sixteen children of Angela Sandri and Count Domenico Bentivoglio, a lieutenant-colonel and eventual general in the papal carabinieri. Annetta received her initial education in the convent school of the Religious of the Sacred Heart at the Trinita dei Monti, Rome. In 1842 she traveled to Turin with Madeleine Sophie Barat and continued her studies until the 1848 revolution when the members of the convent were forced to flee. Returning to Rome with her sister, Agata, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Annetta followed her father and her family into exile as the revolutionary forces captured the city. Domenico died in 1851, Angela, her mother, in 1860. In 1862 Annetta and two of her sisters, Constanza and Matilda, took up residence in Rome at the monastery of the cloistered Dominican Sisters at Santa Caterina da Siena. Constanza entered the Roman convent of the Poor Clares, San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and Annetta followed on July 16, 1864, taking the name Maria Maddalena. After a one year novitiate, Maddalena professed on Oct. 4, 1865, and in the following years was decisively influenced by Bernardino da Portogruaro who was her spiritual director and, after 1869, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor.
Intensely religious and desirous of following the ideals of the primitive Rule of Saint Clare, Maddalena and Constanza, under Bernardino's direction, began to return to a rigorous observance of evangelical poverty. Commissioned by Pius IX to establish the primitive rule of St. Clare in the United States, Maddalena, accompanied by her sister, left for America on Aug. 12, 1875. After searching for examples of the observance of the rule in Assisi and Marseilles, she arrived in New York on October 12, but Cardinal John McCloskey refused the pilgrims' admittance into the archdiocese of New York because of the overwhelming need for active, not cloistered contemplative, religious. The two wandering sisters attracted several aspirants and after a brief settlement in New Orleans were invited by the Provincial of the Franciscan Observants to come to Cleveland. They suddenly departed that city after only six months (August 1877–February 1878) when the Provincial placed the new home under the authority of Poor Clare Colettines from Germany.
On Aug. 15, 1878, Maddalena arrived with two novices in Omaha, Nebraska, where they had been accepted by Bishop James O'Connor. With the philanthropic help of John Creighton, the sisters found a permanent convent and formalized canonical enclosure on July 5, 1882. Outside of a trip to establish a foundation in New Orleans in 1885 and early 1886, Maddalena remained in Omaha until July 1897 when she went to a third new monastery in Evansville, Indiana. She remained there until her death. In subsequent decades, her foundations became the sources of numerous other Poor Clare monasteries in the United States and abroad. The archive of her writings is housed at the Poor Clare monastery in Evansville.
Bibliography: m. fiege, The Princess of Poverty (Evansville, Ind. 1900). m. zarrella, I Will God's Will, Life of Mary Maddalena Bentivoglio, O.S.C., Foundress of Poor Clares in the United States (Evansville, Ind. 1975). a. kleber, A Bentivoglio of the Bentivoglio, The Servant of God Mary Maddalena of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Countess Annetta Bentivoglio, 1834–1905, Poor Clare Abbess, Foundress of the Order of St. Clare of the Strict Observance in the United States of America (Evansville, Ind. 1984).
[j. p. chinnici]