The Charism of a Founder, a Founder, is always deeply engaged in the very affairs of their lives. It is through study and reflection on these vicissitudes that we perceive and make clear the legacy that they wanted to leave to their religious family. It is then to recount the events of Maria and Giustina Schiapparoli that reveals the lesson of life and apostolate they have left to their daughters: the Benedictine Sisters of Divine Providence.
The reflection on the Charism must, therefore, start from historical, precise, clear data, which do not leave room for arbitrary and fanciful interpretations.
Below, we can find the main characteristics that make up the Congregation’s Charism.
- Love of poverty, not misery. The Founders taught that the misery that leads man to become miserable, beggar, must be combated with the recovery of his own dignity, through work, study and effort. For this reason, they offer girls a serene environment, where there was no superfluous, but the necessary was never lacking; they taught girls to support themselves with their own work and to learn a service for the future.
- At the base of his activity, there is a continuous prayer, silent, constant and hidden. They prayed in the Church, but they also prayed working or walking around the city. If we had to define the lines of their spiritual physiognomy, which constitutes the inheritance they passed on to their Daughters, we must say that they were distinguished by their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament; for Mariana piety; by a humble prayer, made also like those formulas.
- They were certainly not speculative. They knew how to harmonize a life of hard work well with the contemplative dimension of Religious Life; they probably did not even have the time to read and meditate on the works of the great mystics and the masters of spirit. It is likely that the day would be enriched with rosaries, chanters, brief thoughts raised to God, while the hands were to work, sew, wash, attend to the girls. They reserved, perhaps, the hours of evening and night, when, finally, everything was silence and the little girls slept, for prolonged and silent prayer, before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The older sisters remember, in fact, that when they entered the community, the practice of night worship, transmitted by the Founders, was very much in use.
In the letter sent by Mother Giustina to the Vicar of Religious of Tortona, on August 30, 1869, she reveals very well her care so that, in the Chapel of the House, in addition to daily Mass and the possibility of administering the Sacrament of Confession, it was possible to give the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament, in the solemn feasts.
- The two Sisters had a deep confidence in Divine Providence, even when all roads seemed to close; they never lost their courage and determination to resume their service of love and welcome. How many transfers from one house to another, with precarious means, in houses that, even large, were well destroyed, old; but it was enough for them to be large enough to fill them, as much as possible, with girls and young people. They never refused a girl, always welcoming the last one to arrive, with joy and party.
- The Founders were distinguished by their humility and silence. In fact, they never tried to make their Institute shine, opening grandiose works, as evidenced by the very term with which they defined their Foundation: “Poor Schiapparoli Institute; Poor Derelite Daughters Institute”. They never built their own headquarters. In perfect harmony with their option of humility and service, they maintained their religious habit. And they placed, in the first place, the reception and service to poor abandoned girls. For the Schiapparoli Sisters, the important thing was to work, to do good; it certainly did not interest them to go down in history as the initiators of a new Religious Family, but only to open a path that others, after them, would follow, in service and in charity.
Of the Founders, we don’t have many documents; they did not leave large volumes of writing; all that remains of them are documents that testify to his great charity and trust in Divine Providence: “In this I experience the action of Divine Providence, on which our work is based”, writes Mother Giustina to the Bishop of Tortona, on December 10, 1862 , thanking the subsidy received; and also: “I trust in Divine Providence – he writes to the Bishop on June 14, 1867 – that he will not fail to help the needs of this poor House”.
Poverty, humility, service, silence, prayer and trust in Divine Providence are the spiritual inheritance that the Founders left to their branches; that inheritance, that Charism that these Daughters must live in today’s world, in the service that is asked of them today, bearing in mind that, like Giustina and Maria Schiapparoli, poor youth, alone, marginalized and in difficulties must be the favorite, the favorite of the Benedictine Sisters of Divine Providence.
“The spirit which animates it is a trusting abandonment to Divine Providence, in simplicity and humility of life for the service of others. From prayer, the Sister draws those lights and graces which make her contact with her brothers and sisters effective. By her consistent work she bears witness to her vow of poverty and offers her contribution to the providential fatherhood of God. In this way, she fulfills the motto of the Institute: Ora et Labora.” (Art. 03, Const. BSDP)
“Trusting in Divine Providence, the Sister fulfills her vocation through her profession of the evangelical counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty in community life and through the observance of these Constitutions. In this way she inserts herself in a special way into Christ’s work of salvation. She follows Him, as her only necessity, with joy and serenity in her life, guided by the teaching of St. Benedict who advised his children not to put anything before the love of Christ.” (Art. 05, Const. BSDP)