The Malta Independent 24 January 2020, Friday

Maria Teresa Nuzzo, A humble servant of God

Malta Independent Sunday, 1 May 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

As we commemorate the 160th birth anniversary of Mother Maria Teresa Nuzzo, the founder of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, we the Daughters of the Sacred Heart lovingly recall the active and holy life she lived in the early 20th century here in Malta.

Born in Valletta on 11 May 1851, she grew up at a time in history when Malta was colonized by foreign powers. The social, economic and political situation of the time did not favour the well being of the people in Malta, especially the working class. In early 20th century Malta, the working class fared poorly in all aspects of life, especially in the field of education, the level of which was very low, and ignorance was widespread.

However, Maria Teresa was one of the lucky few who had a good education, as her aunt owned a school in Valletta. Maria Teresa herself became the head of this school while still relatively young. This post gave her the opportunity to see first hand the real life situation of a large number of people who could not educate their children due to extreme poverty. She was especially touched by the plight of young girls who had to contribute to the work force rather than attend school. This filled her with compassion for children who did not have access to education at all. The desire to do something to remedy this state of affairs began to trouble her sensitive heart and resulted in her decision to dedicate her entire life to education. The circumstances of her life led her further, so as to give birth to a new congregation. Undoubtedly, she made education the main thrust of her congregation.

Maria Teresa was a woman endowed with the charism of charity. Charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which is given to all but manifested in different ways and form depending on the contribution each one makes through a particular service (1Cor 12-14). However, the charism of charity does not make sense in the absence of love of God and love of one’s neighbour for the love of God.

Maria Teresa had a deep sense of charity that led her to dedicate her life to the service of the poor and the needy through the ministry of education. She contributed much in making education available to the children of the lower strata of society. Maria Teresa was a great visionary. She was able to read the signs of the times and attend to them, even going beyond the means she had at her disposal. Besides excelling in teaching, she also provided moral and technical education to cater for the needs of those times.

Even as she worked as an educator, she did not limit her mission to education alone. Inspired by the charism of charity she reached out to the poor and the needy of her times. She embraced orphans and provided care and shelter for them. She also helped those who came to her seeking advice and shelter. She directed them to shelter Homes run by other religious in Malta. She reached out to young people and used to gather girls in her convent to spend the nights of the Christmas season so that they would be protected from harm. She was certainly in solidarity with the poor and the suffering humanity.

Besides being active in her mission, Maria Teresa was also deeply contemplative. She lived a humble life without attracting much attention from others. She had a great devotion to the crucified Christ. Gazing upon her Crucified Lord and contemplating his love for humanity, she was able to understand that following Christ meant detaching herself from all earthly attachments, so that she would be able to hear the cries of the poor and see the face of Christ in them. Her own ascetical life enabled her to free herself from seeking worldly fame and name. Her silent contemplation was filled with the presence of him, whom she adored. Living a life of charity became a mark of identity for her and for her subsequent congregation.

Today her followers are spread mostly in developing countries. Hence her mission of being in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed still continues. As we affectionately evoke the holy life she led, we as her followers are once again energized to commit ourselves enthusiastically to seek holiness and further the mission of Christ in our life and apostolate.

Leena Castelino DSH

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