International Institute of the Sisters of  Saint Marcellina


1. Motivation  leading to the Foundation of the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Marcellina

“Prior to the arrival of the Marcelline Sisters the Diocese of Milan had no other religious institutes devoted to youth education. At the time, youth education was in the hands of ladies and mistresses who were giving a superficial and teaching with little substance under the cover of apparent modern methods and sciences. With the general suppression of the religious institutes in 1810, lay women controlled the education of elite young girls in the diocese of Milan, an education which was of a frivolous and less caring  outlook.

These ladies under the pretence of being more professional than the former nuns, were issuing, through public favour,  false diplomas  to their student girls  thus cheating  the parents and spoiling the coming  generations.
'Being in Milan myself, it pained me to see   such serious and universal harm inflicted on the education system. With God’s help, I reflected on the possibility to begin a religious institute which would blend the methods and science of the time with Christian school laws and evangelical practices.' ”
 (Mother House Archives)


2. Aim of Education

“The goal of this Institute is your sanctification plus the good of others, especially through youth education”. (Rules 1853,  page 50)

“This Pious Congregation was started in order to offer young girls a proper Christian and  civil education. The good of the Church and of the State depends on it”. (Rules 1853  Prologue)

“Always keep in mind that the main objective of education, is the fostering of   virtuous and saintly students”. (Rules 1853, page 100)

3. The importance of Education

“Since the aim of the Congregation is that of  Education of the youth, you, my dear daughters must be convinced of the importance of your own vocation and to live  it with zeal”. (Rules 1853, page 54)

“Be enthusiastic in your work, accomplishing it with great  zeal and with a saintly love for  your students. If you love them in Jesus Christ it will diminish the worry which this work sometimes leads to. You  will be free from impatience (or annoyance ) which can come through this work”. (Rules 1853, page 99)

“Sometimes a teacher can impress others more that a preacher” (Rules 1853, page 100)

“I recommend that you teach catechism in the parish and instruct any women who come to you, whether by themselves or sent by the Parish Priest”.(Rules 1853, page 81)

“Evangelisation is a wonderful activity which allows us to be missionaries and apostles of Jesus Christ!” (Rules 1853, page 81)

“You have great merit in educating the youth well.” (Letters to her spiritual daughters, n° 14, 1838, vol. I, page 91)

“Happy are you who fulfil with zeal and perseverance this saintly and difficult mission, for  you will receive in heaven both the reward of the virgins and that of the Saints Apostles and Martyrs”. (Rules 1853, page 54)

"Happy are you to have the great privilege to foster happiness in so many souls and to greatly improve human conditions as well as to merit Heaven". (Rules 1853, page 36.)

“I strongly insist on freedom of education and of teaching”. ( Talk with the Earl Gabrio Casati, president of the provisional government, Letters to her spiritual daughters,  Vol  2, page 372)

4. The methods used in the education process

“Any educator has a duty which is holy and difficult and requires a lot of tact, good examples, great detachment and constant sacrifices”. (Rules 1853, page 15)

“For this very demanding and difficult mission, beside being in constant intercession, you also need much vigilance, lots of understanding and firmness while applying these healthy principles”. (Rules 1853, pages 55-55)

“In order to pass on a sound education, you need to acquire not only the religious virtues, but also civil and social qualities. It is of first importance for you to possess a good and sound education. Each of you should endeavour to study all the sciences needed, under the directive of the Superior and according to your individual possibilities” . (Rules 1853, page 50)

“Be convinced of the value of such sciences which are good and just in themselves, and as the means and tools to do much good. By these same disciplines, students will learn to look for a proper occupation, occasions to make themselves useful to their families, and to be respected everywhere”. (Rules, 1853 , page 51)

“In your teaching of catechism always have two aims…a clear formation of the spirit and of the heart (culture of the heart)”. (Rules, 1853, page 51)

“Your very way of thinking and speaking will influence the students in their formation.
Teach them respect for parents, veneration of the priests, obedience to authority as well as discretion when hearing confidential subjects, how to love, to live a sober, serious  laborious, and humble life, to have compassion for the poor, and humility towards everyone, with a generous and sincere spirit and a solid piety.
Be firm and tender when correcting them, and help them to act always with justice, reflection and love”.
(Rules, 1853, pages 97-98.)

“Finally, make sure that the students can feel that it is their good you really want. This will open the door for eventual confidences later in life so as to receive healthy advice from their teaching mothers”. (Rules, 1853, page 68)

“Continue that blessed tradition to be among them, in dormitories, dining rooms and at recreation.Young girls learn more from good examples than  from continual admonitions”. (Rules, 1853, page 61)

“During recreation, let the sister be among the girls, alert, and present avoiding somnolence, personal reading or isolation in order to pray. On the contrary, let her try to occupy the girls with honest games, subjects of conversations. Help them to shun unhealthy games and dangerous issues.
At all times, let her be concerned with the physical and moral health of the students. To intervene wisely….What are you saying,? What are you doing here?  Where were you before coming here?”
(Rules, 1853, pages 95-96)

5. Negative aspects of a wrong education

“ Today, one of the failure in education is precisely this: a premature and affected trust, leading to a false notion that the children of today are already mature adults full of wisdom. What will happen afterwards? Without any training in submission, respect for elders, denial of one’s personal tastes, how to face difficulties, these children once adults will be unable to obey or respect others. Proud and selfish adults will be a constant sorrow for their ageing parents”.(Rules, 1853, page 61)

“Young girls belonging to a social high class are usually used to an easy, idle and comfortable life . They also receive very little formation in justice, Christian teaching, modesty which is so important for women, or  morals based on the Holy Gospels . Therefore, in most cases, the result is an apparent goodness which remains only superficial”. (Rules, 1853, pages 55-56)

“The world demands science and often uses it to commit wrong doing. You, as wise virgins should use it to conquer the world and to do good”. (Rules, 1853, pages 51-52)

“Science without humility is vain”. (Letters to her spiritual daughters n° 198)

“Avoid considering yourself as theologian specialists, but rather humble disciples in the school of our great Master, Jesus Christ”. (Rules, 1853, page 53)

“Nourish yourself with holy principles from The Word of  God and that of the Holy Church”. (Rules, 1853, page 56)

“Be eager to teach catechism. It has saved the world and it still has the power to save. In school, work or recreation, keep in mind the image of our Savior, who sitting among children and illiterate people was patiently instructing them with simplicity”. (Rules, 1853, page 35)

“Follow our good tradition to take the children occasionally to hospitals. They will come   in contact with sick people suffering from both physical and mental illness. Take opportunities to relate to them some true and concrete events likely to help them become wise and thoughtful so as not to be seduced by the world”. (Rules, 1853, page 66)

“Transform these visits of charity to the sick into a pleasant event for the students so as to induce in them the desire to continue one day. It will help them appreciate their well being and become compassionate at the sight of illness and misery”. (Rules, 1853, page 80)

“It is advisable as well to provide them with an early orientation for a life choice. Firstly, bring to their awareness that it is better to decide when one is younger what one wants to do with her life. Otherwise, once they are adults and still with the parents, they often will feel dejected and gloomy”. (Rules, 1853, pages 66-67)

“When you are opening their spirit with civil learning, you are also opening up to them the love of their religion and the practice of virtue. This will be achieved through the example of your life as well.. Be of constant mood, happy, yet dignified. Let them see that you want their good only, and that you would be saddened by their refusal to put in their own efforts”. (Rules, 1853, page 99)

“The best time to impress in them the great gift which is our catholic faith and  the duty to be  faithful to it , is in their reading and commenting  on authors. At the same time, let them be aware of life dangers: the futility of fashion and of pleasure which can only lead to later disillusion”. (Rules, 1853, pages 99-100)

6. Considerations regarding Education and Teaching

“Believe me,  there is no fatigue nor  penance  which  is harder on our body than teaching”. (Letters to  spiritual daughter, vol. 1, n.° 56)

“Any knowledge or science or endeavour not geared towards the greater glory of God, and the good of others is useless and vain.” (Rules, 1853, pages 35-36)

“Remember that when you are studying a profane subject, it can often foster dryness of the heart and an unwanted distraction of the mind, Therefore, you must  be more intense  in your prayers and other devotions. My dear daughters, constantly lift up your heart and mind to Jesus, the eternal Wisdom, and to the Holy Spirit the Divine Love. Pray that He the Lord, may teach you the science of Heaven, while your are studying or teaching the science of this world”. (Rules, 1853, page 53)

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