Sisters of the Poor

of Saint Catherine of Siena


Savina Petrilli

Savina, who lived between the second half of the 1800s and the first twenty years of the 1900s (1851-1923), encountered various forms of poverty on her path to which she tried to give a concrete answer: the tenderness of her maternal heart.

In spite of the little education she received through few means, she was able to manifest great intelligence, solid piety, surprising openness of mind and firm will, extraordinary social sense, big heart, and precocious evangelical pedagogy. These said things allowed Savina in her early twenties to carry out an effective and impressive work such as to fit in in the heart of the social fabric and of the Church.

It was on August 29, 1851 when Savina Maria Assunta was born, in Fontebranda, by Celso Petrilli and Matilde Vetturini. She was the second child of a very close and large family with four brothers and four sisters. Her home was full of healthy values.

However, Savina was born in poor health. Her infirmities led her to the threshold of death. She was even believed to be dead by everyone, so much that she remained covered in a sheet for six hours straight. Due to this poor health condition, it was decided to have the child confirmed at one year of age: Monsignor Mancini, an archbishop of Siena, marked her with the sacred chrism on September 2, 1852.

The economic conditions of the Petrilli were modest. Her father worked as a salesman for Pietro Bacci, a leather trader. Up to the third grade, Savina attended the school of the Daughters of Charity, at the Church of San Girolamo. Being an obedient daughter of the Church, she obtained from the Bishop Monsignor Bindi, to whom she had submitted her desire to form a Congregation, the consent to meet with four companions in her paternal house. There, she started this religious family on December 7, 1873. And in September 7, 1874, the small family moved to Via Baroncelli, which under the wise and enlightened guidance of Savina, grew and extended its branches to Italy and the world. She knew how to write to popes, kings, men of power and culture, and to spread her ideas. Being sensitive to the needs of others, she developed in her time and in the congregation a new concept of charity: education and assistance, yes, but also human promotion. Savina also made a great effort to train her sisters as she wanted them to be authentic and professionally prepared consecrated women according to the possibilities. She was open and far-sighted to daring proposals, thanks to a spiritual life supported by solid virtue. She had great lucidity and she did not confuse humility with narrow-mindedness nor resourcefulness with pride. She left this earth to live in the infinite light forever with his beloved Spouse on April 18, 1923. She was beatified by St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on April 24, 1988.