Cimatti, Maria Raffaella, Bl.

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Baptized Santa Cimatti, virgin of the Congregation of Hospital Sisters of Mercy; b. Celle di Faenza near Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, June 6, 1861,; d. Alatri, Italy, June 23, 1945. Santina, as she was called by her family of modest means, was the eldest of six children, three of whom died in childhood. When her mother was widowed (1882), Santina helped to raise and educate her younger brothers: Venerable Vincenzo Cimatti (18791965), who became the first Salesian missionary in Japan (1925); and another, who also became a Salesian priest.

Until her brothers and mother were safely settled, she responded to her vocation by teaching catechism and working with children. Then, she joined the Hospital Sisters of Mercy in Rome (1889), professed her initial vows (1891), and received the name Sister Maria Raffaella. Thereafter she devoted herself to the care of the sick and poor, first as a pharmacy assistant at Alatri, and later at Frosinone. She was elected superior of the house at Frosinone (192128), then superior of Alatri (192840). Renouncing her position in 1940 after fifty years of religious life, she spent the majority of her time in prayer. At the age of eighty-three, she became known as the "Angel of the Sick" for the comfort she gave the wounded of the Second World War. Her courage in personally confronting the German Field Marshal Kesselring prevented massive bombing of Alatri. Her cause for canonization was opened in 1962. Pope John Paul II beatified Maria Raffaella (May 12, 1996) "as a humble religious who constitutes a shining example of femininity plainly realized in self-giving."

Feast: June 23.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 12 (1996): 55153. L'Osservatore Romano, no. 20 (1996): 1; no. 21 (1996): 45.

[k. i. rabenstein]