On Sunday John Paul II will canonize Livia Petrantoni, the "martyr of charity," as she was described by the press at the end of the last century.
    Agostina was a Daughter of Charity, who dedicated her life in service to the sick. She was a a nurse at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Rome. Born on March 27, 1864 in the province of Rieti, Italy, she arrived in Rome in 1886 and was welcomed at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity. A year later, she took the religious habit and the name Agostina. She was assigned to the Holy Spirit Hospital where she worked for seven years.
    When she was working in the department of contagious diseases, attending to patients suffering from typhus and malaria, she fell ill. Mother Marie-Antoine Heriot, superior general of the Sisters of Charity, said that during those years Sister Agostina was "the heart and hands of Christ" for the sick.
    At one point she was sent to the department of patients with tuberculosis. There were six large wards for men with two hundred beds. Although she contracted the disease, she requested permission to remain working in this department. In 1894 one of her patients, Giuseppe Romanelli, tried to abuse her; he stabbed her seven times. Sister Agostina died asking God to forgive her murderer.
    The Daughters of Charity, whose foundation was inspired by the spirituality of St Vincent de Paul, are consecrated in a particular way to the care of the sick. They have houses in 24 countries, including 500 communities and some 3,800 religious.
    With the three new canonizations which will take place this Sunday, the number of saints proclaimed by John Paul II will rise to 283: 246 are martyrs and 37 are confessors.

9:38am 15/4/99 / Zenit


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