Italy: Kindergartens, Kindergartens, Internal Children, Nursing Homes and Parish Activities
Switzerland: kindergartens, single mothers, educational communities for minors, retirement home, parish activities
France: Nursery school
Portugal: Nursery, Kindergarten
Spain: Kindergartens, Internal Children, Kindergartens, Parish Activities
Canada: Nursery and Kindergartens
India: Hospital, Mobile Clinics, Leper hospital, Nursery, Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Schools up to 12th grade, Parish Works
Philippines: kindergartens, nursery schools, assistance to deaf and dumb children, parish works

(FSML) Mother Elisa’s definition of mission land was narrow. For her the kingdom of God had no boundaries and with this spirit the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Maria di Leuca still continues to work.
Mother Elisa Martinez was born in Galatina in the province of Lecce, in southern Italy. She was very young and she dedicated her life to God by choosing the Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Angers. But from there, she is soon sent home for serious health reasons and just after her illness, Mother Elisa realizes that she is called to found a new Order of Sisters.

With a few companions, she settles in Miggiano, also in Puglia, where in a simple missal house at her disposal she begins to take its first steps the Congregation which will later be dedicated to the Madonna di Leuca. It was 1938 and a few years later, in 1941, the approval of diocesan right arrived; another three years and Pope Pius XII grants the decree of Pontifical Right.

In Italy these are years of great suffering. The Second World War is almost over and the peninsula is split in two under Allied control in the south and under German control in the north. This was a period of trial for the new Congregation which meets along its path those whom the Gospel calls the little ones: “Whatever you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you will have done it to me” (Mt 25, 40). In this evangelical maxim the new order finds its charisma, taking it almost literally and beginning to devote itself to abandoned children and single mothers. The first assistance structures were born in which, an absolute novelty for the time, both mother and child find hospitality, allowing them, albeit in difficulties, to remain united.

Over time, the congregation continues to expand and cross the Alps: it arrives in Switzerland in 1947 and in France in 1958, in Spain in 1965 and in Portugal in 1967. In the same year as Portugal, the Daughters of St. Maria di Leuca arrive for the first time in India and the following year in the Philippines. “Mother Elisa went first, to see the place and study the situation, only after did she send some sister” remembers now after years those who knew her “and it was not the need for a new vocation but only the need to push her that far. desire to reach the little ones, wherever they are “.

In fact, this is how the missionary adventure of the Congregation begins. The foundress Mother together with three other sisters settle in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, where they take care of the many abandoned children; they open a clinic where poor people found help and comfort and they assist the many mothers in difficulty. In 1975, thanks to the help of the many benefactors, the first hospital was built which today, after the expansion works completed in 2004, is a modern and well-equipped facility that brings free relief to the many needy in the area. The work of the Daughters of S. Maria di Leuca does not stop only at health care, but above all at material and spiritual comfort: in every place they went, in every nearby village, they found and still find today after more than thirty years, in the face of the suffering brother that of Christ.

In India, the littlest of the little ones have always been lepers and the Congregation’s attention is paid to them above all. In the village of Pudappatty, near Madurai, the nuns have taken over a government-owned leper colony. Their main work consists above all in fraternal comfort and in trying to assist lepers in everything they may need, both physically and spiritually. The rejected by society, as in fact the lepers in India are considered, are welcomed and fed daily thanks to the help that Providence continually sends from the richest countries. They are provided with special prostheses if they are needed and any medical assistance their disease requires. The sisters also provide a minimum of personal furnishings, of which lepers are totally lacking: a bucket, not so much for washing as for personal needs since the sewers do not exist there, a dress, plates and glasses for each one to eat. and a trunk where you can safely store your few belongings.

To get an idea of ​​the absolute poverty in which lepers live in India, just think and that the nuns provide them with two eggs a month, nothing in wealthy countries, but a wealth in the leper colony of Puduppaty.

Maintaining these and other charitable works that the Daughters of St. Maria di Leuca manage are mainly due to the proceeds from the kindergartens, schools and private clinics that the Congregation owns in Europe, as well as in Canada. Much also comes from individual benefactors who also commit themselves monthly to with small donations.

Today in the world the Congregation has 663 sisters who live in 65 communities scattered in 8 countries of the world. The government of the Congregation is central, that is, without provinces as happens in almost all orders. This was directly desired by the foundress Mother, to preserve the unity and family spirit of the Congregation.

Published by the FIDES AGENCY on the occasion of the 80th World Mission Sunday

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