Maria’s Motherhood and the Birth of theCongregation of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ
Feeling life within the wombis a privilege of Mothers, butall women in some ways havean intuition of it, predisposedas they are to this miraculousgift. The acceptance of theother, the nurturing, thegenerosity and empathy are allcontained in the vocation ofMotherhood, but is not theexclusive province of thewoman who has physicallygiven birth.
Maria De Mattias was not anexemption. It was conceived in herbeing the Love of Jesus Crucifiedand the Passion to Collaborate withHim in His work of Redemption. OnMarch 1, 1834, just after her 29thbirthday, she began her labor painsof seeing herself out of Vallecorsa(her birthplace), from her father whotearfully offered her to God. Herpains during the travel were theforetaste of the cost of discipleship.Yet, the power to give birth iscoming from within that made eventhe Bishop to bless her in awe,seeing in her a prophetic woman farbeyond her time.
Finally on March 4, 1834,Maria gave birth to theCongregation of the Adorersof the Blood of Christ, in asmall mountainous place ofAcuto. It was the impulse ofthe Spirit that gifted herwith a special charism thatthrusts Maria to give it aname that contained it all.The Congregation has to be avisible sign of God’s lovemade perfect through theBlood of Jesus.
From then shebegan herSpiritualMaternity; awitness to God’slove in her ownlife and ledothers to theknowledge andlove of thePaschal Lamb.
Acuto had become the home thatwitnessed how Maria lived out hermaternity. Her witness became thelight and the voice of the spirit forher first daughters who recognized their own vocation in her. These daughters who were well takencared of became the first daughters who shared in her apostolic enthusiasm. “May the Lord bless this work of His and provide me with the members according to His heart, since there is much to do for thesouls of my “dear neighbor.” (L 97)
The Adorer had to spend much time in contemplation and be ready to challenge the storms and distrust, to move from one place to another, to speak to the people, to hold conferences, recollections, retreats,catechesis and others works that was believed to be out of her capabilities as a woman of that time. Through her letters, Maria does not ask the Adorers who followed her only to carry out a ministry, innovative and responsive to new needs as it might be. She demanded Apostolic Passion that gave birth to Missions.
In November of 1840, Maria went out fromAcuto. The opening of the first community in Vallecorsa was just thebeginning. The requests toopen school all throughoutItaly rapidly increase andthus Maria was always in “haste” to respond to theneeds of the Church in her time.
A special significant expansion was the schoolestablished in Rome in the house of the convertedRussian Princess Wolkonsky in 1847. Thismovement brought the New Congregation to theattention of prominent persons including PopePius IX who entrusted to the Adorers the Hospiceof San Luigi in Rome and an orphanage inCivitavecchia.He received Maria in audience several times and in1855 he granted the Decree of Praise for theCongregation.
The Adorers did not have as its goal a particular ministry.Rather it took its inspiration from the Mystery of the Blood ofChrist and sought to bring its power to God’s people, especiallywomen and girls. Her plan for the Congregation included morethan the variety of ministries that she projected. To her ministryof founding, organizing, leading and guiding the growth andexpansion of the “new kind of Congregation”, Maria dedicatedall her strength. This example saw and experienced by herdaughters, the formation they received and the proposal of lifeideal which they accepted and shared made of them “women wholike Maria are born to give birth themselves.” They themselvesconceived in their being the charism which God gave first toMaria herself. Eventually, the seeds sown in Acuto wasscattered all over Italy.
Expansions AbroadBesides the remarkable development in Italy, the Congregation ofthe Adorers also expanded abroad. Already in 1847, a group ofGerman speaking contemplative Adorers of the Most PreciousBlood in Steinerberg, Switzerland, at their request wasaggregated to the Italian Foundation through the Missionariesof the Precious Blood.
This was another beginningof giving birth to a fartherland. This group of Adorerssame with the one of Marialack no suffering broughtabout by persecution andexile from their own land.Brought to disband fromGurtweil, a small group hadgone to the United States ofAmerica. Extreme povertyand difficulty accompaniedthem but the expansions ofthe exiled Adorers wereincomprehensible.
Ruma Center - Ruma, Illinois Ruma Province in Illinois after its expansion in the nearby places went as Missionaries to China. In later decades their missions abroad included Puerto Rico, Bolivia and Guatemala. It was also from this Province came the Five ASC Martyrs of Charity who were killed in Liberia, Africa on October 1992. Although there have been no Adorers working in Liberia since that year, the people of Liberia have remained close to the heart of the United States Adorers.
This rapidWichita Center - Wichita, Kansas expansion gave Brazil birth to the establishment of the Wichita Province. From there some went to Amazons in Brazil and later this group was Korea established to be an independent province. In the late 1970’s, Wichita Adorers gave birth to a mission across the Pacific in Korea.
While these foundations fromthe nucleus of exiled GurtweilAdorers in US and expandedto Missions Abroad, a verysmall group who has opted toremain in Europe developedin other directions. Mostlyaged and ill, they enduredexile in Austria for severalyears and then received aninvitation to settle in Bosniaand later establishedcommunities in Germany,Austria, and Switzerland.
St. Joseph Convent/ From here, another group wentColumbia Center – to US that gave birth toColumbia, Pennsylvania Colombia Province in Pennsylvania. After a great suffering of the aftermath of WWII, civil strife and communist oppression, the Provincial Center of Bosnia was relocated in Zagreb which is now the Schaan Region. From there in 1963, Sisters left to take up an apostolate for Croatian emigrants in Australia, work which has expanded and continues today.
From the foundation inBosnia, yet more expansionsoccurred. After WWII someof them who were Polishdescent were able to returnto Poland in Bolesławeicwhich was also developedinto Province. Today, Sistersfrom this Province areworking also in Belgium aswell as in Siberia andUkraine. Since 2006, St.Maria De Mattias hasbecome the patroness of theCity of Bolesławeic.
The time had come also forItalian Adorers to realize their Tanzaniadesire for foreign Mission. In1969, two Adorers from AcutoProvince and two from RomeProvince arrived in Tanzania.The arrival of other Adorersopened up for apostolicpossibilities. Later, developmenthave given the Congregation 2more communities and now, inA celebration that took placeyesterday, together with thecelebration that marked the177th year of the Congregation,Tanzania is declared a RegionAd Experimentum.
India Region The Indian Region was formerly part of Florence Region of Italy. The seed of mission was sown to 8 Indian young women set out to begin their formation in Italy. Eventually after an integral formation comes another milestone in the life of the Congregation, the establishment of the Indian Mission in Bangalore in 1981. Other communities followed. Detaching itself from the mother branch and with the readiness to give birth, it became a region in 2005 with its independent administration. The Sisters also render their services in the General Administration and in health services in Rome.
Having received a requestby a young Filipina to beable to enter theCongregation and tocomplete her formation inher homeland, the provinceof Bari in Italy exploredthe possibility of openinghere in the Philippines. OnMarch 4, 1991, Baribegan a mission here with2 sisters from Italy. Withthe passing of time, otherItalian and FilipinaAdorers joined the firstgroup.
The realities of extreme poverty whichdistorts the face of dignity of a person,involved the Adorer’s choice to be, by thepower of the charism received, women ofreconciliation and solidarity called topromote and generate life precisely wherethe wounds are deepest, where life itselfand human dignity, made precious byChrist Bloodshed, are offended anddestroyed. This marked the birth of theGiovanni Merlini Apostolic Center whichis now St. Maria De Mattias MissionClinic providing not only a medicalassistance to the less privilege but awholistic approach to healing. With theDOTS (Directly Observed Therapy Shortcourse) Program- TB patients found cureand attention from the Sisters.
“I recommend the care of all,especially the poor. How many poorlittle children are abandoned, let us have compassion on them” (MDM, Letters)
These words of St. Mariaaccompanied the steps of the Adorersto streets where it is easy to meetchildren abandoned by parents andleft on their own. Compassionbecomes action: on April 2001, 8 littleones find the warmth of a familyagain in the hospitality of the Sistersin “St. Gaspar Orphanage” and whichis now the place where we gathertogether, the St. Maria De MattiasCenter Orphanage. In Addition tothis ministries are catechesis andformations. Today we celebrate the20th year of ASC’s presence here inthe Philippines.
To give an idea of the amazing, rapid development of the Adorer’saction, we need only to recall that in 1866, the year of Maria’s death,there were 66 places of ministry scattered all over Italy but also inGermany, US and England. Now there are almost 2000 Adorers presentin 27 countries all over the world.
The burden on Maria’sshoulder was no smallmatter but it was a laborshared by her daughters.Maria was truly a“Mother” for them, amodel, a concrete presencewhich stimulated all ofthe Adorers to generosityand availability but alsothe cement that kept themunited at all times eventhe most difficult.
St. Maria De Mattias was canonized a Saint in 2003, a model of Holiness in the Church.She is not just a Mother to the Adorers but to all of us.
Maria wasted no timeand so all the Adorerswho conceived in theirwomb the Blood ofJesus Crucified thataims always to bringback “the beautifulorder of things”. TheBlood that flows togive life to the world.
The Adorers, worldwide, wear the symbol of the heart with a cross mounted above. Drop of blood are engraved on the heart to remind them that they are called to “retract” (draw in) and reflect a living image of that divine charity with which the blood of JESUS wasshed and of which it was and is sign, expression , measure and pledge. “(MDM in ASC Constitution, L.C.2)