Our founders


Blessed Luigi Biraghi.

Luigi Biraghi was born in Vignate, near Milan, Italy, on 2 November 1801. He was the fifth of eight children.

At the age of 12 he entered the Minor Seminary of Castello sopra Lecco and continued his studies for the priesthood at the Major Seminaries of Monza and Milan.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milan on 28 May 1825.

The young Fr. Biraghi was then sent to teach at the Seminaries of Castello sopra Lecco, Seveso and Monza until his appointment in 1833 as spiritual director of the Major Seminary of Milan.

In 1855 he was named a doctor of the prestigious Biblioteca Ambrosiana and an honorary canon of the Basilica of St. Ambrose.

In 1864, he was appointed Vice-Prefect of the Ambrosiana and in 1873, Domestic Prelate of His Holiness Pius IX.

The Pope held Mons. Biraghi in such high esteem that n 1862 he wrote him a personally-signed letter asking him to exercise his influence as a mediator and peacekeeper among the Milanese clergy.

At that time of political turbulence the clerics tended to be divided into two factions: the champions of the new Italian unity that was taking place, with the return of Lombardy to the Kingdom of Italy from Austria, and the supporters of the temporal power of the Popes.


The Marcelline Sisters

Mons. Luigi Biraghi was a very cultured man with a profound inner life and a scholar of patristics and archaeology. His idea of founding the institute of the Sisters of St. Marcellina sprang from his knowledge of and admiration for, Christian antiquity as well as his devotion to St. Ambrose.

St. Marcellina was born around the year 330 and was the elder sister of St. Ambrose and St. Satyrus, with whom she worked as a consecrated virgin. She died on 17 July 400, three years after her brother St. Ambrose, and was buried in the Basilica named after her brother, alongside his tomb.

In 1836, with the assistance of Mother Marina Videmari (1812-911), Mons. Biraghi founded the Institute popularly known as the "Marcellina Sisters" at Cernusco sul Naviglio.

He had met Marina Videmari at a spiritual retreat and contributed to her formation. She tuned out to be the Institute's first superior and ensured its continuation after Mons. Biraghi's death.

The "blessed method" became the badge of the Marcellina Sisters whose Constitutions, written by Mons. Biraghi, required no extraordinary acts of penance but rather ordinary fidelity in daily life.

One of their first pupils was Bl. Maria Anna Sala, who climbed the ladder of sanctity by adhering to the Founder's Rule in the simplicity of community life, earring the nickname "the living Rule".


A cultural and moral education

The Institute was concerned with the cultural and moral education of young women of noble birth, but also educated poor girls free of charge. As Mons. Biraghi had no other pastoral assignments or commitments, he was able to dedicate all of his time and energy to the Sisters' spiritual formation and the organization of the new Congregation.

The foundation of other houses it Italy and beyond rapidly followed: they included Vimercate (1841), Milan (1854), Genoa-Albaro (1868) and Chambéry, France (1876). It later spread to Brazil (1912), Switzerland (1919), England (1954), Albania, Canada (1958) and Mexico (1984). According to the Institute, Africa is their next place of foundation.

Mons. Biraghi died on 11 August 1879, at the age of 78. He was buried in the family grave in Cernusco sul Naviglio, but in 1951 his remains were translated to the chapel of the Marcellines' Mother House, also in Cernusco.


Cause of beatification

Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, then Archbishop of Milan, introduced his Beatification Cause on 27 October 1971.

Pope John Paul II declared him "Venerable" on 20 December 2003.

He was beatified on 30 April 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI; recognition celebrated in Milan, Italy.


Madre Marina Videmari

Marina Videmari was born in Milan on August 22, 1812. She met Blessed Luigi Biraghi during a retreat in 1835. It was the beginning of a new mission.

A person of strong character, hard-working, generous and obedient, Madre Marina lived a life of charity devoted to the education of girls. Co-founder of the Sisters of St. Marcellina, she was the first Superior General until her death in Milan on April 10, 1891.


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