Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Coffee break's over,
Sr. Mark. It's chili time! 
On Superbowl Sunday, like many other people here in Boston, the Daughters of St. Paul expected to watch the Patriots carry the ball to victory. Sr. Domenica and Sr. Margaret Timothy set up the visual and sound system in Cushing Hall, Sr. Martha prepared enough enchiladas for two Superbowls, while Sr. David helped her sister, Sr. Mark, to serve up her famous chili. Sr. Joan took up a collection in the community to buy the essential chips and guacamole. We even rearranged the afternoon schedule to accommodate the 6:30 kick-off. Some sisters came for the game, some for the food, and others, like Sister Bernadette, ’fessed up to coming for the commercials. (With at least some of us, ads with babies and polar bears scored high.)

Feb. 5 was also a special Sunday for Daughters of St. Paul the world over. We marked forty-eight years since our co-foundress, Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo (1894-1964) won her own personal victory and entered into eternal glory. Born in Castagnito, Italy, not far from Turin, she later collaborated with Blessed James Alberione in giving birth to not only the Daughters of St. Paul, but to the other three feminine congregations and secular branches of the Pauline Family. Before sending his men to the foreign missions, he sent them to her, to supply them with what she could for their immediate needs. With him she endured the privations, contradictions, and misunderstandings that seem to be the lot of founders. With him she praised God’s tender care and celebrated every step in the Family’s growth. She circled the globe four times, rejoicing in the good the God was doing in and through her Daughters, and urging them on to great holiness and great initiative in the mission. “It will do good” was her motivation for risking any initiative in that mission. For a glimpse of the early days of her story and ours click here to go to a blog post from last June.

In front of the second FSP building to go up in Boston.
Sr. Paula Cordero is second from left; M. Thecla is
third from right.
I joined the Daughters only nine years after her death, and her spirit was very much alive within the walls of the novitiate house here. She was not only “Prima Maestra,” (“First Teacher”), a title that Fr. Alberione gave her and that every one of her Daughters acknowledged. Because of Sr. Paula Cordero’s leadership in the U.S., she was “Saintly Prima Maestra,” though no one would have addressed her that way to her face. The title reflected her priorities and her legacy.

As early as 1931 she had resolved to “seek only the glory of God, the Blessed Trinity, and peace to all people.” On the feast of the Blessed Trinity in 1961 she formalized it and included us in her gift to God by making an offering of her life “for the entire congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul so that everyone may become saints.” The following Christmas, she made her gift known to her sisters: “I write these things to you not only with the pen, but also with my heart. I wish you all to be saints: for this I have offered my life—for everyone, that we may achieve the holiness God wants of us.”

Nor were the Daughters her only concern! On a visit to the U.S. only 18 months before her death, she said to our community:
“Do you want to be saints? Seriously—great saints. The Lord gives the graces for this. This nation needs saints, and I always ask the Lord to give saints to the United States....from among the Americans. So that no one can say, ‘Oh, these saints are imported,’ they must be from this place, from this place! The United States has a lot of things and has made a lot of progress, but it especially needs saints. Women and men saints, no? And when it has this, it will have everything. The Lord gives you the graces, rest assured. Keep up your courage, never get discouraged, always go forward, day by day taking up the cross….”
Prima Maestra Thecla loved everyone, but she was especially fond of the U.S. and grateful to the people here who had been generous with our communities all over the world. Americans supplied life’s necessities for them wherever they had been ravaged by the Second World War. Then they donated toward the construction of the Queen of Apostles Basilica in Rome—fulfillment of Fr. Alberione’s vow to Mary for having protected his Pauline sons and daughters. In 1955 Cardinal Cushing gave us permission to come to Boston so we could grow, and then throughout the fifties and sixties, sent personal contributions to Mother Thecla for the construction of our hospital outside Rome. The list goes on and on….

Now it seems to be payback time. Always a mother, always concerned about what worried her children, she still comes to the rescue, helping them to do what they can and picking up the slack when they can’t. Here are some testimonies:
“I have a prayer card that has to be years old. I started saying the prayer to Mother Thecla. About four months ago I made requests to lose weight. I lost 76 lbs. I prayed for my daughter, who has been an alcoholic and lately on drugs. She went into rehab within 2 weeks. She never went to church. Now she goes on Sunday and signed up her kids in a Christian academy. I prayed for my son-in-law to quit drinking. Four months later, he is in A.A. I prayed for my son’s back; it got well. A house on our street was on sale for two years. I put it on the prayer list. It sold two days later” (OH, August 2007). 
“You cannot believe the special favors received by people I’ve given Mother Thecla’s medal and prayer card to over the years.  People who could not have children are now parents. Several who have cancer are doing well. People who lost jobs are now employed. Those who lost loved ones have found a purpose through her. I hope I will see the day when she is made a saint” (NJ, December 2006).

“My daughter, Diane, had lupus. On June 29, 1987, Diane was rushed to the hospital, and they gave her only four hours to live. A heart specialist appeared and began working on her….Hours passed. As I stood there, helplessly leaning against the door, I began praying to Mother Thecla.
“The doctors pulled Diane through. After two months in the hospital she was able to return home. She later confided to me that she kept seeing three people near her bed—her grandmother, St. Anne, and a nun dressed in black. My daughter lived another ten years” (C.B., December 2008, paraphrased from a phone conversation).
“I want to thank you so very much for sending me the prayer cards of Mother Thecla Merlo. I can’t begin to tell you the stories of favors and graces granted to all those who placed their trust in her. These were not only Catholics, but people of all religions.
“There was a man who knew he was dying and couldn’t accept it. After receiving the medal, he went back to work for a while, got his life in order, and was ready to accept his destiny. A woman is singing Mother Thecla’s praises after her cancer went into remission. I’m privileged to be able to spread the word about her graces and favors. I hope she becomes a saint during my lifetime...” (NJ, January 2010).
“I am a priest suffering from recurring sciatica, which at times almost incapacitates me.
“One morning when I awoke, I could hardly stand upright. I prayed to God and invoked Mother Thecla Merlo, asking that I be relieved of the sciatica long enough to celebrate the Mass. Within minutes the affliction passed off and I went to celebrate and preach.
“I returned home and within an hour the sciatica returned and ran its usual course” (J.D., MA).

If you would like a free prayer card and a medal of Mother Thecla, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope at:
Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP
50 St. Paul’s Ave.
Boston, MA  02130
You can also ask to receive gratis our annual newsletter about Mother Thecla. Otherwise, you will not be placed on any mailing list.

“Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one” (1Cor. 9:25). Touchdown!

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