Assunta Maria Liberata Pallotta 1878-1905 Italy-China Died Age 26 Sister Assunta was the first non-martyr missionary sister to be beatified in the history of the Church. Maria Assunta Pallotta was born on August 20, 1878 in the little town of Force, Italy. She was baptized the day after she was born and was confirmed at the age of two. Assunta's father was a common laborer who was chronically out of work. Her mother often had a hard struggle to feed her five children. By the time Assunta was eleven, her father left home to seek his fortune. Assunta, the dutiful older sister, helped her mother to keep house, raise the younger brothers and go out to work to help support the family. In the testimony for Assunta's beatification, a number of people remembered that as a child she was animated only when she was given the opportunity to teach others about religion. They recalled that she was always solemn and that she practiced penances far advanced for one her age. They noted that her rosary was always with her, and they remembered her joy at age 12 when she was allowed to make her First Communion. While other girls were laughing and visiting, Maria perferred to be at the foot of the tabernacle. Although Assunta's family was poor, she was filled with the spirit of Christian charity so pleasing to Our Lord. In her late teens Assunta finally spoke of her desire to be a sister, and the parish priest made arrangements for Assunta to enter the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. She left for Rome with a joyful heart. As a postulant, Sister Assunta worked in the kitchen and there, was a model of humility and exact observance of the Rule. On October 9, 1898, she entered the Novitiate. At her request, Assunta was allowed to keep her baptismal name. The celebrant intoned: "My daughter, you will no longer be called Assunta Maria Pallotta, but Sister Maria Assunta." Assunta was sent to Grottaferrata to make her novitiate. There she was assigned to various farm tasks, such as the care of the animals and the harvesting of the olives. She expressed her appreciation of the life at Grottaferrata to one of the other sisters. "One is very well cared for at Grottaferrata and the life is truly Franciscan; it is a real Paradise. Though they work in the fields, the solitude is a great incentive to recollection and prayer." After her two years of novitiate were completed, Assunta was admitted for profession in December of 1900. She returned to her farm work after profession. Her mission was still the humble mission of good example. Her life was characterized by her practice of fraternal charity in a marked degree. All her sisters remember her self-sacrificing ways, her gentleness and her willing helpfulness. Sister Assunta lived in the presence of God, often saying such things as,"For the love of God," or "All for Jesus," or "What God wills, as He wills, and may His Will be done." Sister Assunta was extremely solicitous for the conversion of sinners, and she was eager to offer herself for the conversion of infidels. She wasalso very devoted to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. every day she recited the "Eternal Rest" 100 times and she gained indulgences for the Poor Souls. Assunta practiced an exemplary obedience, never showing the slightest hesitation in obeying an order. In January of 1904 Assunta wrote to her parents and spelled out for them what was to become, in truth, one of the main parts of her mission. She wrote: "I ask the Lord for the grace to make known to the world, purity of intention - which consists in doing everything for the love of God, even the most ordinary actions." Little did she suspect that one day the world would call her "blessed" for her heroic purity of intention. Sister Maria Assunta took her final vows in February of 1904. Shortly afterwards, she received the joyful news that she was to be assigned to the missions in China, in the same province where the seven protomartyrs of the Order had died. The winter months were extremely severe, and in February one of the children in the orphanage fell dangerously ill. The dread diagnosis of typhus was made. On March 19, just one year since she had left Italy, Sister Assunta herself was stricken with typhus. On March 25th, she asked for Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction, the last Sacraments. Although her Superior did not think she was very ill, it was felt best to accede to her request. She responded to the prayers, received Holy Viaticum and renewed her vows. On the 7th of April, the sisters, the confessor of the community, and a few Chinese girls gathered around the bed of the dying Assunta. Suddenly, those in the room began to notice a delightful fragrance which resembled a mixture of violets and incense. That night Sister Assunta's body remained in the infirmary. The following morning a crowd of Chinese Christians invaded the mission compound, asking to experience the miracle. News of the fragrant odor had spread. For three days the mysterious perfume remained in the house, then it ceased on the day of her burial, April 9, at the hour at which she had died two evenings before. The Chinese Christians began to ask Assunta for favors, and they becameconvinced that she had answered their requests. Eight years after Assunta's death, the Community was transferred from Tong Eul Koo to Tai Yuan Foo, and the bishop wished that the body of Sister Assunta also be transferred. Disinterment revealed that the body was incorrupt. It remained in the chapel of the cemetery for a month without being affected. In 1932, the decree of the heroic virtues of Sister Maria Assunta was read. She was beatified in 1954.
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By Justin Soutar
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