On the road again...DAY 1 of the Pauline Pilgrimage

Checking out the route
Time to pack the suitcases again...we're on the road to Piedmonte! Back to visit to the land of our origins, the land which exhales our charismatic history. It's all very exciting, especially for those who are making the journey for the first time. After participating in the Eucharist with the community, preparing our picnic (it's an 8 hr journey more or less), we piled into our minibus with Sr. M. Micaela at the wheel!
A few prayers to our Lady and to our Guardian Angels later, we were on the way! Leaving early was a great idea and thus beating the traffic. Cruising along the picturesque Italian countryside is indeed a feast for the eyes. Our journey brought us through four different regions: Lazio, Umbria, Tuscany and Piedmonte, each one of them with their particular characteristics. A common characteristic to them all were the bountiful harvests of corn, various grains, fruit and the general sense of the Autumn season reminding us of creation and the generosity of our God. My favourite region has to be that of Piedmonte which boasts fields upon fields of perfectly aligned hazelnut trees, as well as the laden vineyards!
Piedmontese countryside

Our PDDM sisters in Sanfrè
The journey actually passed quite quickly, thanks to the various multilingual sing-a-longs, abit of reading, praying and general chatting! Arriving at Sanfrè we received a wonderful welcome from our sisters. Located in Villa Loreto, this community is known as the 'missionary community', firstly because of the number of elderly sisters who have been the foundresses of our PDDM communities throughout the world, together with many sisters who have selflessly given their ministry in other countries. Secondly, it is a reminder that our mission doesn't end! Even if our steps become a little slower, our breathing more laboured...our contribution is even more precious! Sanfrè is fondly known as the 'noviatiate' in preparation for Heaven but it is also the powerhouse of prayer which sustains many initiatives of the Pauline Family through the 'apostolate of suffering' which many sisters are called to live in this stage of their lives.

Shrine to our Lady of Loreto

Our presence in Sanfrè can be traced back to 1928-1929, though its history goes back even further to the 16th century. It is narrated that the Count of Caraglio's son, Tommaso Isnardi become gravely ill and promised our Lady that he would build a shrine in her honour if she would restore his son to health. The son was healed and thus the Count constructed the shrine in honour of our Lady of Loreto. Soon after this the Minor Friars relocated there and constructed a convent. The shrine is still in existence today and many people still pray there. In 1928, the land which was propriety of the aunt of Sr. M. Augusta Arlorio, pddm, was passed over to the Pauline Family with the presence of the Sister Disciples from the very beginning. Because of its altitude and location, the house quickly assumed the function as a sanatorium for sisters and brothers of the Pauline Family who were sick with TB. In 1935, it became the novitiate for the Society of St. Paul for 4 years. After this, it assumed its original function as rest-home for the elderly and sick priests.

Villa Loreto, Sanfrè
As the years passed it was deemed important to reconstruct the house and make it more welcoming and bring it up to the civil and sanitary norms of the time. In 1949 it was officially recognised at a juridical level. In 1964 the ownership of the property passed into the hands of the PDDM, who recently restructured the older buildings so as to render them more accommodating and functioning for the elderly and sick sisters who are housed here.  It is here that many sisters, in humility and simplicity prepare for the Final Journey. It is a sacred place where many have received the sacraments, where sisters continue to sanctify time and space with their faithful presence before the Blessed Sacrament, offering the daily sacrifices for the needs of humanity. It is in this same house that our two 'saints', Venerable Andrea Borello, SSP (deceased- 4th of September 1948) and Servant of God Mother M. Scholastica Rivata, pddm (deceased- 24th of March 1987) passed to eternity, accompanied by the goodness of the PDDM nurses and the prayers of the community. Indeed the time here at Sanfrè was like a prolonged retreat, being called to reflect on the essential things in life: the journey of sanctification, the beauty of a life given in complete donation and unconditional love, and the JOY and the GRATITUDE of being chosen to serve Jesus as disciples.

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