ST. TERESA EUSTOCHIO VERZERI
At a very tender age Teresa learned from her mother, a prominent woman, to know and ardently love God. She was led in her spiritual journey by the Canon Giuseppe Benaglio, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Bergamo, who already accompanied the family.
Teresa completed her initial studies at home. Intelligent, gifted with an open spirit, vigilant, and upright, she was educated to discern, to seek true values and to be faithful to the action of grace. From childhood to maturity Teresa allowed herself to be led by the Spirit of Truth that engaged her in a constant and intense spiritual battle: in the light of faith she discovered and experienced the weight of her own weakness; she unmasked, as far as humanly possible, every idolatrous form of falsehood, pride, and fear, in order to surrender totally to God. Through grace, she travelled a road of detachment, of purity of intention, of simplicity and straightforwardness that brought her to seek "God alone."
Interiorly Teresa lived the special mystic experience of the "absence of God," anticipating something of the religious life of today: the weight of human solitude before a restless sense of the distance of God. Nevertheless, in unshakeable faith, Teresa never lost her confidence and abandonment to the living God, provident and merciful Father, to whom she devoted herself in obedience. Her lonely cry, like that of Jesus, became the entrusting of her whole self through love.
With the intention of pleasing God and doing only his will,her religious vocation matured at home and in the Benedictine Monastery of St. Grata. After a long and tormenting search, she left the Monastery to found the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus together with the Canon Giuseppe Benaglioon February 8, 1831, in Bergamo.
Teresa Verzeri lived during the first half of the 1800s, a time of great transformation in the history of Italy and the society of Bergamo, marked with political changes, revolutions, and persecutions that did not spare the Church, which was also wounded by Janenism and by the crisis of values, resulting from the French Revolution.
At a time when the devotion to the Sacred Heart found resistance, she gave to the first Daughters of the Sacred Heart this testament that characterises the spiritual patrimony of their religious family: "To you and to your Institute Jesus Christ has given the precious gift of his Heart, for from no one else can you learn holiness, he being the inexhaustible source of true holiness" (Libro dei Doveri, vol. III,p. 484).
Teresa saw very clearly the pressing needs of her times. Wherever charity called, she seized the situation, even the most dangerous and serious, with absolute availability, and with her first companions she dedicated herself to diverse apostolic services: "education of middleclass troubled girls; homes for orphans who were at risk, abandoned and even led astray; public schools, christian doctrine, retreats, holiday recreations and assistance to the infirm" (Libro dei Doveri, vol. III, p. 368).
In 1836 Canon Benaglio died and Teresa, supported by the obedience that guaranteed that the Congregation was willed by God, dedicated herself totally to its approbation, strengthening and expansion. In this she was affronted by many obstacles placed in the way by civil authorities, and also by ecclesiastics who put her virtue to the hard test. Teresa showed herself heroic in abandonment to the will of God that sustained her.
After a life of intense giving, Teresa Verzeri died in Brescia on March 3,1852. She left to the Congregation, already approved by the Church and by the government, a vast documentation - above all in the Constitutions, the Book of Duties and in more than 3,500 letters - from which it is possible to draw all the richness of her spiritual and human experience.
She was Canonised in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.