Expanding the Mission
aint Lucy expressed her great desire for the work of evangelization: 'As for me, I long to be present in every corner of the earth to be present everywhere and plead with all peoples of every sex, age, and condition: Love God! Love God!'
Regarding missionary activities on an international level, the Religious Teachers Filippini of the Province of Saint Lucy not only have representation at the Generalate in Rome, but also help staff the foreign missions, where the work of evangelization and human promotion continues. On February 20, 1921, Pope Benedict XV addressed a group of Religious Teachers Filippini before their departure for the United States: '...like the Apostles, you will be able to sow seeds of evangelical truth, of culture and of Christian education.'
In 1954, Pope John XXIII asked them to help him keep his promise to dialogue and collaborate with the poor in Brazil, to train catechists, to assist them spiritually and materially. The Religious Teachers Filippini responded to the Holy Father's plea. They went to Brazil, exchanged ideas and experiences and cared for the spiritual and physical needs of the poor, thanks to the generosity of so many mission-minded individuals. Saint Lucy responded with generosity to the Lord, who called her to be a missionary. Today her daughters bring the Gospel to many lands and witness with their lives to God's all-embracing love. Their missionary labor extends to Brazil, Ethiopia, and India, where they serve God's poor with dedication through varied apostolic activities. Numerous have been their works both educationally and socially.
In the newest mission in India, they conduct a literacy program, teach Christian doctrine to children and adults, visit families, distribute food and clothing, assist the aged and abandoned, visit lepers and perform basic tasks of charity helping the poor spiritually, materially, and financially. They are totally involved and concerned with spreading Christianity. The record shows that the establishment of the American foundation of the Religious Teachers Filippini in the United States must be attributed to the combined efforts of Archbishop Walsh and Mother Ninetta. Little did the founders dream, when they started schools in 1692, that their followers would soon spread from Europe to South America, Africa and Asia.
In the United States, there are two Provinces: Queen of Apostles and Saint Lucy Filippini, with schools in Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The Sisters in the Province of Saint Lucy minister in ten Dioceses and two Archdioceses. A woman of vision and great faith, Mother Ninetta was a born leader. She drew many priestly and religious vocations to the Church; she shouldered enormous responsibilities with courage and strength of spirit. As spiritual mother and leader, Mother Ninetta never failed to exhort the Religious Teachers to holiness; she never tired of speaking of God, of the marvels of His glory, of love for one another. In the face of suffering, she proved to be a true spouse of Christ and a passionate lover of the Pontifical institute of the Religious Teachers Filippini.
Under the guidance of Archbishop Thomas Joseph Walsh, the Religious Teachers flourished in New Jersey. Not only did he see the great gifts of education which they would share with his diocesan family, but he saw also that vast numbers of immigrants from Italy needed to feel at home here so that they would continue to identify with the Catholic Church. Archbishop Walsh was aware that women have always been good missionaries. Indeed, ltalian-American religious personnel were essential to work with the hundreds of thousands of Italians arriving on our shores. Archbishop Walsh was the new Cardinal Barbarigo, His love for the Sisters and his dedication to their welfare is truly one of the great stories of episcopal vision in the history of the Catholic Church in America.
Many thousands of people have been touched by the Religious Teachers Filippini. They have fulfilled the vision of Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo who, in October of 1704, summarized the motto and vision of his life when he said to the Religious Teachers: 'The Church of God is not a restful garden but a working vineyard.' Lucy Filippini lived by those words and so have her daughters. We thank God for the hundreds of Religious Teachers whose lives and loving service have graced the world. We pray that Lucy's vision will grow stronger and more vivid in the years ahead. For three centuries, the Popes have blessed the Religious Teachers in a special way. Pope John Paul II our present Pontiff, congratulated them 'for the educational and evangelical work that has been accomplished, and continues to be performed. ' In 1910, Saint Pius X invoked the Archangel Raphael to accompany them in their service to the Church in America, May he continue to grant them the consolations of a blessed apostolate!