Saturday, June 15, 2013

98 and 53

On this day 98 years ago a young priest in the town of Alba, in the Piedmont region of Italy invited Teresa Merlo to begin a new work for God.
When Teresa emerged from the sacristy of the Church of San Damiano in Alba, her mother asked her,. "What did the Theologian ask you? What did you say?" Teresa answered, "I said 'yes'."  That "yes" was the starting point for the new congregation of Sisters dedicated to media evangelization, the Daughters of St. Paul. Their beginnings were modest to the extreme. Even today the building where the first women of the "Pauline" group gathered in Alba looks uninviting, to put it mildly.
A very young Father Alberione

Father Alberione was called "The Theologian" to mark his having earned a doctoral degree in theology.
Alberione had invited Teresa Merlo to join him to reinforce a feminine branch of the group of young men he had formed only the previous year, the Society of St. Paul. As St. Paul evangelized even through his letters, so the sons and daughters of St. Paul in the newly formed congregations were to evangelize by putting the words of the gospel in printed, broadcast, spoken, and digital formats. Alberione directed the new "Paulines" to use every form of mass media to preach the Good News.
Mother Thecla Merlo at Prayer
I thank God for Teresa Merlo's generous "yes" that day in Alba. She became Mother Thecla Merlo, first Superior General of the Daughters of St. Paul. Father, now Blessed, Alberione gave Teresa the name Thecla in memory of St. Thecla whom tradition says was Paul's first woman convert.
I had the privilege of meeting Mother Thecla even before I entered the Daughters of St. Paul. She visited the Sisters in the Youngstown, Ohio book center while I was still in high school. I met her again when she stayed an entire month with us in Boston just after I had made my fist vows. I am glad that I saw her every day for that month. She was always serene, cheerful and playful. May she now intercede for us with the Divine Master in heaven.
On June 25, 1960 I entered the convent of the Daughters of St. Paul at 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, kin the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, Massachusetts. At that time there was one building and a new chapel was under construction. A visiting Cardinal, Giovanni Montini had just visited the new chapel. I entered about a week after that historic visit of the man who was to be Pope Paul VI.  I thank God for introducing me to the Daughters of St. Paul, and granting me these 53 years as one of them!

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