The Foundress

Mother Seraphina (Francesca Farolfi) was born on October 7, 1853 at Tossignano in Imola, Italy. At the age of 20, with a certificate in Teacher’s Training, she joined the religious Congregation of the Franciscan Tertiaries of St. Elizabeth at Forli. On November 4th 1873, the young Francesca was appointed Headmistress of St. Francis School, Forli. Very soon, she drafted the Rules and Regulations of St. Francis School and a Handbook for the Teachers. In 1881, Seraphina was sent to Palagano to open a convent and school and ten years later another at Bagno. Unforeseen events caused the transfer of St. Francis School from Forli to Bertinoro and the subsequent birth of a new religious Congregation.

The Clarist Franciscan Missionaries of the Most Blessed Sacrament (CFMSS) – the new Congregation founded by Mother Seraphina and officially approved by Rome, came into being on May 1, 1898 opening branch houses in various parts of Italy and abroad.

Seraphina nurtured a dream of having numerous houses centered on a Mother House that trained and provided personnel, administered the pastoral and financial affairs of the filial convents, and animated the moral and spiritual guidance of the members. Hence, the houses opened in 1898 and onwards – whether in Italy or abroad, were all affiliated to Bertinoro the Mother House. No branch house enjoyed autonomy.

On February 3, 1901 four young sisters set sail for India in order to serve the women and children, especially the destitute in the Gangetic plain. They initiated their mission at Sardhana in U.P taking care of a Welfare Home for Girls. Two years later, a school was opened at Meerut and another orphanage at Agra in 1912.

On May 30, 1907 four zealous missionaries sailed for Brazil with the specific aim of educating the tribal people in the backward regions of Itambacury in Minas Gerais (1907), Diamantina (1909) and Conceĉao (1910).

When the earthquake of 1908 rendered many a child homeless, Seraphina opened Welfare Centres to shelter the orphaned girls. Medical Care became a regular feature of the mission of the CFMSS, ever since Italy entered the First World War.

However, Seraphina’s avowed aim was the education of the girl child. Her education policy was geared to the integral formation of the pupils with stress on character training and practical skills in fine arts and household works. She always urged the teachers to be role models to the pupils through their comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter, effective teaching methods and above all, by the example of their own upright character. She insisted, too, on the teachers “keeping themselves abreast of the scientific progress, new findings and whatever can contribute to sharpen their intellect”.

Mother Seraphina – a person of frail constitution since her entry into religion – passed away after prolonged illness on June 18, 1917. At her death there were 38 houses, including 1 in India and 3 in Brazil - each attached to a boarding/day-school or orphanage/Health Care Centre.

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