Father Tezza and Consecrated Women

ob_105440_casa-padreAfter a number of centuries the Camillian Order still felt the charismatic need to witness the incarnation of the Spirit of St. Camillus in women who, uniting professional ability with the special female sensibility, could offer authentic maternal affection to suffering people.

In February 1892 Father Luigi Tezza, as an authentic Son of St. Camillus, adopted and implemented this charismatic need and this made him the faithful transmitter of the Camillian charism to the female world. He provided formation to women in whom the insight of St. Camillus could be well expressed: ‘Because we wish with the grace of God to serve all sick people with that affection that a loving mother usually has in caring for her sick only child’.

According to the thinking of Father Tezza, who more than a consecrated woman religious could embody and live this wish and this rule of Camillus?

He called this new Institute the ‘Daughters of St. Camillus’, and he did this deliberately so that they could always remember their identity which distinguished them and characterised their work within the Church: living the charism of St. Camillus in a female way.

In these consecrated woman was established the charity of the heart of Camillus, with the gifts of a nature specific to femininity. The natural characteristics of tenderness made them personally present and concerned about others, and above all about suffering people, through maternal warmth and sweetness and through protection and self-giving.

Expert and efficient at a clinical level, they were experts in humanity and reached the sick in their deepest needs. Like mothers.

To give a glass of water to a sick person is a simple thing for anybody, but to give it like a mother gives it to her gravely ill only child is quite another thing.

‘Be true daughters of St. Camillus’ is a recurrent phrase in the writings that Father Tezza addressed to the women religious of the new Institute that he founded. He expressed himself in a letter from Peru that he sent to the Mother Superior in the following way: ‘I am comforted to hear that in general everyone works with commitment and holy fervour to be true Daughters of St. Camillus, and this is sufficient for me, and so that this may always happen in each one of you, I always say to the Lord that I am prepared for any sacrifice, even that of never seeing you again on this earth’.

To be true Daughters of St. Camillus means to have absorbed the spirituality and the charism of that saint and to express this in the most authentic way. It is certainly difficult to reach such a Father, who was called the ‘Giant of charity’; just as it is always difficult to follow in the wake of Founders, of charismatic and intrepid men who are at times unreachable. And yet this is asked of the Daughters of St. Camillus, and this is the fundamental pre-condition to be what Tezza had in mind and wanted for them by founding this Congregation.

‘Your name alone captures everything that you should do and you should be before God and before men’.

‘As true Daughters of St. Camillus you should excel more in charity, amongst yourselves first of all and then towards others, in the highest way towards the sick poor, ready out of charity to engage always in some more painful sacrifice’. And he added: ‘Remember that for us there is no better way of glorifying our father [Camillus] than always striving to become his true children through the practical imitation of his rare virtues. O! Always be therefore in a better way true and fervent Daughters of St. Camillus!’