Witness to My Life in the Institute of the Incarnate of the Sacred Heart
By Sister Maria Pierina Guido
I was just 7 years old when I met our first Sisters who came to my city of Cosenza, Italy. Sister Dorothy and Sister Maria Cristina, prepared the children in their convent to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I went immediately to join them because I too was to make my First Holy Communion. In fact I was soon prepared and accompanied numerous girls at the altar to receive Jesus whom I yearned for so much. Their dedication, goodness and tenderness touched my heart deeply.
The Holy Eucharist was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Crucifix of the Reform.
After I received Jesus for the first time I felt a very strong emotion and my heart was flooded with so much love of Jesus then I heard a whisper in my soul, with infinite gentleness: “You must belong to me completely” where and how the sisters had prepared me. I was so happy and told my mother and father that I wanted to be a nun, they were moved and smiled. They embraced me and said: ” You are still small you need to grow be good and pray.”
As the years passed by I felt my vocation call always more. I went to see the sisters every day and felt happy. They were preparing with performances and songs for the arrival of the Mother Foundress. My sisters and my little brother Franco attended with me. By then I was 10 years old. I revealed my secret to Sister Dorothy that I wanted to be a nun and she told me to take advantage of the Mother’s visit and speak with her. I told her that I was ashamed and she gave me a monologue: “My secret to the light”, to learn and recite, and this is what I did.
The Mother listened attentively and gave me a hug and said: “You’re too young right now, you must grow to love Jesus and to pray and when you are 15 I will be very happy to receive you at our convent in Rome”. I remained happy and I was so touched by the person and her goodness of the maternal mother that she conquered me.
Having reached the age of 15 years, accompanied by Sister Dorothy I left for Rome on May 8th. At 12.00 noon the priest came for the Prayers to Our Lady (the Angelus) and I got ready to receive Jesus.
I am still in the Congregation at the age of 91 years and my life has not been easy. When I was 25 years old an opportunity came up to open a mission and in my youthful enthusiasm I felt I was called to a second as a second vocation, to go into a foreign land and make known Jesus and His Gospel. I volunteered to go because I had heard in my heart this invitation from Jesus: “You have detached yourself from your family and also from your land to be completely mine.”
In November 1951, in a ship which was very old called the Camporra, along with three other sisters: Sister Happy, Sister Maria Stella and Sister Wilhelmina, from Genoa, I left for Brazil. It is not possible to mention here all the difficulties, renunciations, sacrifices, not finding even a house and having no financial means, but while the others were crying, I felt great joy. Everything was fine for me even though naturally I suffered too.
At a certain point the mission was about to collapse because the sisters, due to the many hardships and lack of essentials fell ill with tuberculosis and I, to save them, offered with all the zeal of my heart my life to Jesus who heard my prayers. I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Operated in the hospital in Sao Paolo, Brazil, I was given just two months to live, but because of insistent supplications and nocturnal adoration of the Sisters and novices (who loved me very much) my lungs were miraculously healed from the mestizas.
I continued to work by the grace of God, I have worked for the Congregation in many ways (despite my personal limitations) and in many positions: Superior General for 18 years; local Superior for several years; the Mistress of Novices; Vicar general and councillor. I can testify that Jesus, my teacher was at my side, and He did everything.
As I reflect on this I feel increasingly small and not worthy of so much love! And from my heart arises only thanks to the Giver of all good things, and I ask forgiveness for my lack of correspondence.
But my joy increases in belonging to my beloved Institute of the Sacred Heart of the Incarnate Word and if I were to be born a thousand times again, a thousand times I would repeat my yes to my total donation to Him, my highest and only Good.
Sister Maria Pierina Guido
1- The convent-church complex, situated in the historic Cosenza, is commonly called “Reform” because the eighteenth century was the convent of the Reformed Friars, one of the many Franciscan families. These promoted the devotion to the statue of the Crucified Christ that proved to be miraculous since then. Such devotion was increased by the Capuchin Friars, to the point that, the people of Cosenza now identify where the church is venerated with the title of Sanctuary of the Most Holy Crucifix or simply the Church of the Crucifix, even if it is dedicated to Maria Santissima of Constantinople.