After praying the Divine Office this morning, I read the life of a truly great woman and one whose entire life could be summed up in one phrase, “God will provide.” That woman? St. Mary Joseph Rossello, foundress of the Daughters of Mercy.
St. Mary Joseph Rossello was born in Savona, Italy, to a poor grocer and his wife. She was a pious child who cared deeply for the less fortunate in her neighborhood. For example, there was a young girl that limped along the road who was her friend. One day, Mary Joseph and her friends were walking to a shrine and the young girl was lagging behind. Exercising heroic charity, Mary Joseph not only walked the two miles with her, but even carried her to the shrine. Such was the love of those that needed help.
When she was a teenager, Mary Joseph went to work for an old man and woman in the neighborhood, who had no children. She took such good care of them that the man promised that he would leave her some of his money. Mary Joseph, of course, refused it and the man understood.
It was after taking care of the elderly couple that Mary Joseph went around various convents wanting to become a nun. However, no convent would accept her. The reason was because she had no dowry and a dowry was deemed extremely important in those days. However, Mary Joseph continued to always repeat the phrase: “God will provide.”
It was around this time that Mary Joseph met with the bishop of her diocese, who asked her if there was something she could do for the poor young women that were in need of education and spent most of their time begging on the streets. Mary Joseph got together with three of her friends and they established a school. Eventually, this school grew and Mary Joseph became superior of a group called the Daughters of Mercy. Coincidentally, Mary Joseph never asked for a dowry from the young women who entered her convent. Rather, she only asked for one thing: a charitable heart.
Eventually, Mother Rossello’s school had grown so much that she established others in nearby cities. She also established a seminary for young boys who couldn’t afford to go to a seminary.
Yet life was not easy for Mother Rossello. One day, the money ran out. Mother Rossello gathered the students, orphans from the House of Providence, and the sisters. She asked them to pray together. After a few minutes, she asked one of the Sisters to check the cash box. Sister came back with two coins and two buttons.
“We’re not praying hard enough,” Mother Rossello said. “We need to pray harder.”
So they did for an hour. Once again, Sister went back to the cash box and found to her surprise all of the money that was needed for the Sisters to survive. Such was Mother Rossello’s belief in Divine Providence.
Yet like Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Therese of Lisieux, Mother Rossello also experienced spiritual dryness. In fact, she experienced it for the last decades of her religious life. Only on her death bed did she receive consolation from God. After her death, her body was found to be incorrupt.
In 1949, Mother Rossello was canonized by Pope Pius XII.