Michel, Teresa Grillo, Bl.

views updated


Baptized Maddalena Grillo, widow, foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Divine Providence;b. Spinetta Marengo, Alessandria, Italy, Sept. 25, 1855;d. there, Jan. 25, 1944.

Maddalena, the youngest of five children, was born into a life of privilege. Her mother, Maria Antonietta Parvopassau, had been born into the local aristocracy, while her father, Giuseppe Grillo, was chief physician at Alessandria's hospital. Her mother moved the family to Turin following her husband's death. Maddalena attended grammar school in Turin before being sent to the Ladies of Loretto boarding school in Lodi (Lombardy). Having completed school (1873), Maddalena returned to Alessandria for her debut into society.

She married (Aug. 2, 1877) Giovanni Battista Michel, a captain of the Bersaglieri. During 14 years of marriage, the couple lived in Acireale, Catania, Portici, and Naples. Her sorrow at the death of Giovanni from sun-stroke might have turned to despair had she not read the life of Saint Joseph cottolengo. His life inspired her to share the grief of the abandoned: orphans, the elderly, and the sick.

She turned her home into a shelter for those in need. As the numbers grew, she sold her home in order to buy and renovate a large building on the Via Faa di Bruno (1893) that became the "Little Shelter of Divine Providence." She continued her work despite opposition and enlisted the aid of others. On Jan. 8, 1899, Maddalena and eight co-workers received the religious habit and new names in the shelter's chapel, becoming the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Divine Providence.

Almost immediately the institute grew exponentially: houses were established in Apulia, Liguria, Lombardy, Lucania, the Piedmont, and Veneto. Eighteen months after the institute's foundation, a house was opened in Brazil (June 13, 1900) and, at the request of Blessed Luigi Orione (18721940), houses in Argentina (1927). Thereafter, Teresa crossed the Atlantic eight times to establish homes for the aged, hospitals, nurseries, orphanages, and schools in Latin America.

She was beatified in the Piazza Vittorio, Turin, Piedmont, Italy, by Pope John Paul II, May 24, 1988.

Bibliography: v. cÁrcel ortÍ, Martires españoles del siglo XX (Madrid 1995). j. pÉrez de urbel, Catholic Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, 19361939, tr. m. f. ingrams (Kansas City, Mo.1993). a. pronzato, Una donna per sperare: madre Teresa Michel fondatrice delle Piccole suore della Divina Provvidenza (Turin 1978).

[k. i. rabenstein]