Saint Mary di Rosa was born in 1813, in Brescia, Italy. At first glance, one would expect that this girl had a promising life ahead of her. Her father was a wealthy industrialist, her mother a countess. With her other sisters she was educated by the nuns in the same town.
But when she was only eleven years old, she lost her mother due to a terminal illness. Then as a young teenager she had to leave the pursuit of further education to help her father with the running of his business in the spinning industry.
From the beginning, her main focus was the welfare of the workers, especially the women and those suffering from poverty and disease.
Her young life was surrounded by turmoil. In 1836, when she was 23 years old, a cholera epidemic broke out. Cholera is a serious disease spread through contaminated water with people dying just within hours of having it.
Then in 1848 Brescia went through a time of war known in history as the “Ten Days of Brescia. Troops sacked the city and massacred many of the inhabitants.
In both situations Mary di Rosa did not hesitate to leave her ‘comfort zone’ to be able to assist and give support, both moral and spiritual to those dying of cholera and on the battlefield.
Eventually, she started a Congregation, known as the Handmaids of Charity, to serve the ill, the suffering, the destitute. Mary di Rosa was a pioneer in social work.
Today, social work is recognised as a profession. The aim of the social worker is to help people by understanding their difficulties and to help them in various ways to resolve their difficulties. Nowadays young people study at University to become social workers.
This wealthy lady helped and served the poor, the needy and the sick and the ill even when the cholera epidemic devasted Brescia in 1836. She was a great front liner, wasn’t she?!!