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Blessed Teresa Grillo Michel

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  • Description:
    Bl. Teresa Grillo Michel founded Little Sisters of Divine Providence to care for poor children. She was beatified on May 24, 1998.
  • Larger Work:
    L'Osservatore Romano
  • Pages: 2
  • Publisher & Date:
    Vatican, May 27

Bl. Teresa Grillo Michel was born in Spinetta Marengo (Alessandria), Italy, on 25 September 1855. She was the fifth and last child of Giuseppe, the head physician at the Civil Hospital of Alessandria, and of Maria Antonietta Parvopassau, a descendent of an illustrious family of Alessandria. At Baptism she was given the name of Maddalena.

After the death of her father, the family moved to Turin, where Maddalena attended elementary school and her mother supervised the university studies of Francesco, her elder brother. When Maddalena finished elementary school, she was sent to a boarding school run by the Ladies of Loretto in Lodi, where she passed her final exams at the age of 18.

After leaving school, she returned to Alessandria, where, under her mother's guidance, she was introduced to society. It was here that she met her future husband, Giovanni Michel, a cultured and brilliant captain of the Bersaglieri.

After their wedding on 2 August 1877, they moved first to Caserta, then to Acireale, Catania, Portici and, lastly, Naples.

After her husband died of sunstroke during a Naples parade in 1891, Teresa sank into a depression which bordered on total despair. Her sudden, almost unexpected recovery, due to reading the life of the Ven. Cottolengo and to the help of her cousin, Mons. Prelli, led her to embrace the cause of the poor and needy.

Teresa began to open the doors of her family home to poor children and people in need. At the end of 1893, seeing that the numbers of the poor continued to grow, she sold the Michel family home and purchased an old building on Via Faa di Bruno. Here she began her work of rebuilding, adding an upper floor and buying some modest dwellings nearby. Thus began the "Little Shelter of Divine Providence". The work Teresa had begun was certainly not without difficulties, which came not only from the authorities but especially from friends and relatives. Nevertheless, the solidarity and affection of the poor, of generous persons and of the women who worked with her were evident. Following many requests to the ecclesiastical authorities, on 8 January 1899 Teresa Grillo was clothed with the religious habit in the small chapel at the Little Shelter, together with eight of her co-workers, and founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Divine Providence.

In her remaining 45 years, her primary concern was to spread and build up the institute. In fact, immediately after its foundation, her community opened houses at various places in Piedmont, and soon spread to the Veneto, Lombardy, Liguria, Apulia and Lucania. On 13 June 1900 the institute was extended to Brazil, and in 1927, at the request of Bl. Luigi Orione, she also established houses in Argentina.

Sparing no effort, Teresa inspired and encouraged her sisters with her caring and charismatic presence in the community. As many as eight times she crossed the ocean to visit Latin America, where at her request numerous foundations sprang up with nurseries, orphanages, schools, hospitals and homes for the elderly. She made her eighth voyage in 1928, at the age of 73.

On 8 June 1942 the Holy See granted the Congregation of the Little Sisters of Divine Providence apostolic approval.

Bl. Teresa Grillo died in Alessandria on 25 January 1944, at the age of 89. By then her institute had 25 houses in Italy, 19 in Brazil and 7 in Argentina.

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