Sisters for the Third Millennium
by Sr. Carolyn Cossack, smmi
After a long illness, with her life hanging on a thread, Mother Maria Elisabetta Patrizi from Rome, Italy, was invited by Fr. Bernard Geiger to speak at the MI Marian Congress sponsored by Marytown for the close of the 1987-88 Marian Year. Not able to stand without support, Mother came to America. Her frailty was hidden behind her joyous countenance and magnetic personality. No one guessed the physical cost as she leaned against a pillar or wall, or casually linked arms with someone near.
The Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate (SMMI) which Mother Maria Elisabetta was inspired to found during Eucharistic Adoration in the Chapel of the Casa Kolbe in 1982, where St. Maximilian Kolbe was inspired to found the Militia of the Immaculata (MI), was still only a Public Association of the Faithful.
Yet, when Mother left Marytown to return to her little flock, she did not return home alone. The first Americans accompanied her to Switzerland for a retreat in the Alps under the direction of Fr. Elia Bruson, ofm conv., MI national director (Father Elia had been appointed by the Conventual Franciscan General to assist Mother Elisabetta in this "Divine Adventure.").
From Switzerland, the little group made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, "the fountainhead of the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate," before arriving in Rome to begin their religious formation, in the shadow of the Vatican, at the Central House of the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate.
Only eleven years after the conception of the Sister Minor of Mary Immaculate in the heart of Mother Maria Elisabetta, the Church officially recognized the Institute as a Congregation of Religious Women for the Diocese of Rome, and gave permission for the Sisters to make a fourth vow of Total Consecration in addition to the traditional religious vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.
Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, after a Papal Mass, presented Mother with an approved copy of the definitive Constitutions for the Sisters. On July 4, 1993, during a Mass at which the Pope's Vicar presided, Mother Maria Elisabetta and all of the professed Sisters renewed their vows as members of this new congregation.
The Immaculate is Queen and Patroness of the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate. Prominent among their other patron saints are St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Therese of Lisieux. The spirituality of the SMMI is the fruit of the union of the richness of the Franciscan and the Carmelite spiritualities. It is a full expression of the MI3, and identical to the Militia of the Immaculata in the life of total consecration to the Immaculate. It also incorporates the teachings of St. Therese on "pure love as trusting surrender
to God's love, the universal and heroic mission without limits."
Of prime importance is the contemplation and adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The possibility of the apostolate is unlimited, as long as the Sisters are able to be involved as instruments of the Immaculate bringing the spirit of her maternal love. They live this instrumentality by promoting consecration of all to Jesus through the Immaculate, to bring about, "as quickly as possible, the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the greatest glory of God."
Among the various apostolates, the Sisters are involved in youth work, religious education, retreats, nursing homes and health care, sacristy work, pre-school, assistance of pilgrims at Marian shrines, writing, publishing, Catholic school education, animation of MI groups and holy hours, MI work in Rome, preparation of meals in seminaries, and speaking on total consecration and related topics.
Currently, in the Congregation there are about seventy Sisters from fourteen different nations. The Sisters serve in Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Turkey, France and the United States.With St. Maximilian, "they foster creativity in continunity, innovation in tradition, and the use of technology and professional
skills for the development of 'man considered whole and entire.' They do this without neglecting the life of prayer and penance necessary if human beings are to be authentically 'repaired' in Christ. They make use of all licit means offered by circumstances in order to foster and encourage the promotion of Truth, and to open 'new paths' for the Gospel. They bear witness that 'only truth can be, and is, the basis of happiness for both individuals and for the whole of humanity."