Paola Elisabetta Cerioli
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|Saint Paola Elisabetta Cerioli|
January 28, 1816|
|Died||December 24, 1865
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||March 19, 1950 by Pope Pius XII|
|Canonized||May 16, 2004 by Pope John Paul II|
Saint Paola Elisabetta Cerioli (January 28, 1816 – December 24, 1865) is a saint in the Roman Catholic Church from Soncino, Italy and founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Family and the congregation of the Family of Bergamo.
Cerioli, the daughter of Francesco Cerioli and Francesca Corniani, was born January 28, 1816 into an Italian noble family, the youngest of 16 children. At the age of 11, she was sent to school in Bergamo where she would be educated for 5 years. She was a frail child plagued by a heart condition throughout her life. Though she became lonely, the experience helped her religious convictions.
Cerioli returned to Soncino where an arranged marriage awaited her. At the age of 19, she married 59-year-old Gaetano Busecchi, the widower of a countess. She accepted the proposal and was married on April 30, 1835. During the marriage, which lasted for 19 years, she had to deal with her husband's difficult character and poor health. Of the 4 children she gave birth to, 3 of them died prematurely. Her only child, Carlo, died at the age of 16 due to a serious illness in January 1854. That same year, her husband also died.
Following the death of her husband and son, she entered into a deep mourning period. She was able to find guidance in God and religious life. At the age of 38, she began to assist the poor and shared her material possessions with the young and orphaned children.
Cerioli decided to devote the remainder of her life to charity and contemplative prayer. She took a vow of chastity on December 25, 1856 which was soon followed by her vows of poverty and obedience on February 8, 1857. In December 1867 she founded the Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Family in Comonte to care for abandoned children and to assist new parents. It was during this time that Cerioli took the name of Paola Elisabetta. The men's Congregation of the Holy Family was founded on November 4, 1863.
Paola Elisabetta died in her home in Comonte on December 24, 1865 at the age 49.
In a homily on 16 May 2004 John Paul II said, "Paola Elisabetta understood that families remain strong when the bonds among their members are sustained and kept together by sharing the values of faith and a Christian way of life."