Celebrating Mother Gemma Giannini
The Sisters of St Gemma remember Venerable Mother Gemma Eufemia Giannini
On Saturday 26 August 2023, the commemoration of the transit of the Venerable Mother Gemma Eufemia Giannini, foundress of the religious institute, took place in the park of the Mother House of the Missionary Sisters of St Gemma.
The Life Of Gemma Euphemia Giannini
The Venerable Gemma Eufemia Giannini was born in Lucca on 27 October 1884 and died in Camigliano (LU) on 26 August 1971. In June 1899 she met for the first time Gemma Galgani, the young mystic from Lucca, who began to frequent her house in Via del Seminario 10, where she settled permanently until her death on 11th April 1903. The friendship that developed between the two young women, as well as the relationship with the Passionists who were regularly welcomed into the Giannini house, contributed to the Passionist vocation that arose in Euphemia, which was realised on 21 November 1905, a few months after the arrival of the first Passionist nuns in the city.
On 25 March 1906 she took the religious habit and as a sign of her change of life left her own name to take that of Gemma Magdalene of Jesus.
She spent about thirty years in the monastery, but poor health and some strong spiritual experiences led her to leave her community to undertake the foundation of the Missionary Congregation Sisters of St Gemma. This was on 4 May 1939. She arrived at this decision after discussions with several prominent personalities of her time, namely Pope Pius XII, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and Fr Giacomo Alberione. The Venerable did her utmost to ensure that the new community was consolidated and recognised by the Church.
We can affirm that the charisma of Mother Gemma Eufemia Giannini was to understand the ‘spirit’ of St. Gemma Galgani, to inherit it as a gift from the Lord, to assimilate it, to relive it personally and to give it continuity over time through the religious Institute of the Sisters of St. Gemma.
In fact, Mother Euphemia traces this inheritance of the Spirit of St Gemma back to the Lord. One day He, in an intellectual vision, showed her what He wanted of her, namely that the places where St. Gemma was born, lived and died be guarded by souls consecrated to God under the direct protection of the Saint and dedicated to the works of charity under her guardianship.
Moreover, even humanly speaking, it could only be so, considering the friendship and intimacy that bound these two women. In the Giannini household, Euphemia had become St Gemma’s favourite friend and confidante and was also the stenographer of her ecstasies. She knew the young stigmatised Saint well and in depth.
In 1960, Gemma Euphemia was confronted with suffering: a progressive paralysis forced her to immobility in bed for ten years, until the end of her earthly life.
On 15 March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI authorised the promulgation of the Decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints concerning the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Gemma Giannini.
The Remembrance Of The Daughters And Lay Brothers And Sisters
On 26 August each year, the Congregation, in all communities, in Italy and in Africa, opens the celebrations with a liturgical celebration and a subsequent convivial moment open to all.
This day of great festivity is generally preceded by three evenings of prayer and reflection centred on the teaching and reading of the spiritual testament, which the Foundress left to her daughters and to every man and woman of good will who wish to draw something from it for their journey of faith. This year, they wished to emphasise the value of the family in the Church and society by proposing the following themes for personal and community reflection:
- Keeping the memory in the family understood as a gift received to be shared with the brothers and sisters without borders and without limits, through a rereading of the journey made by the Foundress since her birth. In her family she was welcomed as a gift and later included in the large family of God’s children that is the Church through the sacraments of Christian initiation, as well as her vocation and even her illness, all of which she welcomed as a gift.
With amazement, during the first evening of prayer, we listened to the testimonies of two lay brothers who knew the Venerable and told us of her as a mother. Particularly when, now paralysed in bed, she continued to communicate through her gaze and sweet maternal smile. A memory that often resurfaces even among our older sisters who lived with her.
As the evening was dedicated to prayer for families, we could only be in the company of the Virgin Mary Queen of the Family through the recitation of the Holy Rosary aided by the Word of God and the writings of the Venerable Gemma Eufemia Giannini centred on her relationship with Mary first disciple of her Son.
- Cultivating relationships with all starting from the relationship we have with ourselves and with God. This was the theme proposed on the second evening. A time lived in front of Jesus in the Eucharist, in adoration, in silence, listening to the Word of God and some phrases of Mother Euphemia. One of her exhortations reads: ‘When you meditate, let your soul be alone before God… and make great silence in your interior so that you can hear God’s voice more easily’.
Certainly also the place chosen, facilitated meditation, Jesus was placed above the well in the Motherhouse park and the faithful around it. The reference to the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman as reported by the Evangelist John in chapter four was almost immediate: “He therefore came to a town in Samaria called Sicàr, close to the land that Jacob had given to Joseph his son: here was Jacob’s well. Jesus therefore, tired from the journey, sat by the well. It was about noon. Meanwhile a woman from Samaria arrived to draw water. Jesus said to her: ‘Give me a drink'”. It all starts with a chance encounter and an anonymous place, a well. This is often how our friendship with others is born, even though those who believe, know very well that there is no such thing as chance, but Providence!
It always amazes us that every year, before we start thinking about how to organise the feast, we receive phone calls and messages from various believers who, mindful of previous years, express their desire to take part in the celebrations, inform themselves and make themselves available to help with the organisation. For us Sisters of St Gemma, this becomes a very strong encouragement to prepare everything well. Moreover, the presence of so many people at moments like these fills our hearts with joy, and to the Lord goes all our gratitude.
- Bringing joy into our living and working environments. This was the theme for reflection during the last evening of preparation and prayer, at the end of which the missionary mandate to be bearers of joy was delivered!
An evening as intense and beautiful as the others, which saw us around Jesus in prayer, to learn from Him, as it was for the Venerable to know how to withdraw and pray each time before acting, doing something very important or making decisions for us or for others. The prayer also emphasised the importance of knowing how to kneel as the first missionary work, which is absolutely necessary for all the baptised. We are all sent to bring Jesus to souls and souls to Jesus starting from our family and work environments.