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Local Venerini Sisters get ‘new life’ from the missions

Posted By January 23, 2014 | 12:53 pm | Featured Article #2

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

WORCESTER – The Religious Venerini Sisters is an order founded in Italy by Saint Rosa Venerini. In its 300 years of existence, it has spread throughout the world, with communities in other parts of Europe, as well as in the United States, Asia and Africa.
In 1909, Venerini sisters came to the Worcester Diocese in order to teach the children of Italian immigrants. They established a presence in the parish schools at St. Anthony di Padua in Fitchburg, at St. Anna in Leominster and in Worcester at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
They are still here, working in the diocese, but, recently, they’ve been joined by two sisters from India and another sister from Nigeria.
“It’s very, very exciting,” said Sister Loretta Ciccarelli  who serves as local vocations director. “We have new life from the missions. We’ve always reached out to the missions and now we’re getting back from them.”
“They’re the young ones,” she added. “They’re coming to help.”
Venerini sisters have a long history of traveling to distant parts of the world, in order to spread the Gospel and to teach the faith. Saint Rosa’s motto was “Educate to liberate.”
Regional Superior Sister Hilda Ponte said the recently arrived sisters are now living in the convent in Rutland, along with some of the older community members.
She said a decision was made six years ago, at the order’s General Chapter, to send sisters from foreign countries to America, where many of the sisters are elderly and there are no new members.
One congregation in India and another in Africa were asked to send sisters. Right now, she explained, the two sisters from India, who are trained as teachers, are helping out at Venerini Academy in Worcester.
“We’re hopeful that, perhaps, in the coming year, they will be able to do some teaching in the classroom in the academy,” said Sister Hilda.
She said the women from India, Sister Roslin Cyriac  and Sister Angela Kavil, learned English when they were growing up. Sister Justina Anaele worked as a hospital nurse in her native country. Sister Hilda said she’ll need additional training in order to be certified for employment in the medical field in the United States.
“They (the sisters) are really treasures for us and a real help to have them here,” she added.
Sister Hilda said Africa is still considered mission territory, but the Venerini congregation is thriving in India, with about 130 sisters in 20 different communities.
She said local Venerini sisters have been praying for a long time for younger sisters to come here to help.
Sister Hilda said the hope is that the overseas communities will continue to provide sisters.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but I presume there will be others coming in later years,” she noted.
Sister Roslin, now working at Venerini Academy, a private Catholic elementary school, has been in the United States since the summer. She comes from the Kerala, a state in the southwest of India, where she worked teaching grades 11 and 12. She said this is the equivalent of a junior college in the United States.
Sister Angela, she noted, taught at the middle school level.
Everything is different, but we enjoy it, she said. Although Kerala is far away, she said she is able to communicate with other members of her former community by Skype.
Sister Loretta said the newest sisters are now a vital part of the community, and have also gotten to know the Venerini lay associates.
“They’re just so happy to be here,” she said. “They just fit in so well.”
“It’s so exciting for our order,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful exchange. We’ve always sent our sisters to the missions and it’s come back full circle.”