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Catherine Nicolai Foundress of the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi

Caterina Nicolai, a simple woman of great faith, founder of the Franciscan Institute

Caterina, daughter of Salvatore Nicolai, was born in October 1571 into a simple family in Anchiano in the municipality of Borgo a Mozzano, Lucca, Italy.

Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi
Sister Ansila Feot

She was baptized on October 8, 1571, in the parish of San Jacopo. She was a happy child, because in her simple family the faith was alive, so she grew up in Franciscan activities.

She was a pious Franciscan lay tertiary, but she was not satisfied with the lifestyle she led. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she decided to withdraw from the world to live only for God and began to live “prayer, contemplation and penance” to better discern God’s will.

On Aug. 25, 1609, Catherine took the habit of St. Francis, making her first religious profession to live in “PRAYER, WORK, CONTEMPLATION and PENITENCE” with: “GIFT, ASH and CHERRY,” for the salvation of souls, and after a year came her first follower who was Angela Guasparini.

Catherine founded the congregation of: “THE WOMAN OF PENITENCE,” which later became “Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi.” (Institute Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi).

Approved by the Bishop of Lucca, Bishop Alexander II Guidiccioni, in early 1611 under the direction of the OFM fathers during the pontificate of Paul V.

According to history, on October 4, 1619, Mother Catherine with the three sisters took the vow of perpetual chastity/profession in the chapel of St. Elizabeth at the OFM convent of Borgo a Mozzano in Lucca, in front of many faithful and delegates from the dioceses.

Mother Catherine joyfully goes to meet our sister who died on July 25, 1620 after receiving the sacraments.

“It is a miracle for us, even though our foundress is not yet a saint, but we believe we live today on her example (prayer, contemplation, work and penance). Thus our congregation is still celebrating 413 years today.”

Although the members of the congregation are always few, God’s mercy is always in action. We thank God for these gifts of life.

Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi (2)
Sister Ansila Feot

In 1620, a few months before her death, Mother Catherine decided to buy a house. So together with the other sisters, early followers, they bought a property from Ippolito Benedetti of Borgo with the money that was received from many benefactors. That house is located in the center, near the Market Square of Borgo a Mozzano, the heart and soul of the whole town, where the Daughters of St. Francis still live today, according to the will and teachings of the foundress Mother Catherine, who set the example in solitude of “serving God and loving the brothers and sisters around.”

The foundation house of our Congregation, in the community of Borgo a Mozzano, after making the choice to follow the Reform and to commit more and more to the ideas of St. Francis, became a destination for many followers, more than six hundred.

Like the nuns of the Third Order, the Franciscan sisters, in following their rule, had spiritual and material tasks and were “Missionaries” of God’s Love and Mercy among our fellow citizens.

Mother Catherine Nicolai is a mirror for me and for all of us. As her sister and daughter, I always ask her to pray for us and me and to intercede for her Congregation so that God’s Love and Mercy may expand, extend and spread in the mission land.

Following the example of Catherine and the other sisters, we are missionaries in different places, countries, nations: Italy, Philippines, India, East Timor and Indonesia.

The purpose of our life is to be peacemakers, a channel of God’s peace, of God’s mercy, contemplating, embracing and touching God Himself even through the lepers of East Timor. Although it is not easy, I believe that Mother Catherine always implores strength and courage from the Holy Spirit, to make me and my sisters always ready and able to do God’s will.

I personally dedicate my time for those in need in the mission land I am called to serve, Timor Leste.

July 25 is the anniversary of the death of our foundress.

On October 1, 2011, we celebrated the 400th anniversary of our founding.


Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi (4)
Sister Ansila Feot

Sister Ansila Feot

Institute Daughters of Saint Francis of Assisi


  • Sister Ansila Feot


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