Blessed Enrichetta Alfieri: a spiritual profile
Sister Enrichetta is a figure who calls the attention not only of the Sisters of Charity but of every woman and of every Christian who is engaged in the society and in politics. She was capable to unite her life as woman and religious in an intelligent manner. She knew how to undertake initiatives while assuming responsibilities at a spiritual and civil level and to dialogue with different persons.
Sister Enrichetta was gifted with a rich personality made of human and Christian qualities:
- A strong and intuitive intelligence as shown by the process of her studies and the ability in carrying out with creativity and competence certain tasks entrusted to her by the superiors, the ability with which she knows how to organise and bring to completion the numerous administrative and legal practices related to her role of running the female section of the remand centre of Saint Victor ; the sensibility, the intuition and the deep ideas that she manifests across her correspondence and her different writings even though they were not so frequent.
- A strong and resistant will that sustained Sr. Enrichetta and enabled her to face with courage and determination the numerous life difficulties : her prolonged illness and infirmity during her early years of life ; the almost thirty years of difficult service in the Remand Centre, eleven of which as superior of the community and of the female section, the certitude of the dangerous collaboration during the years 1943/1945 with the Cardinal Schuster and with those responsible of the resistance, the detention, the supervised residence, the return to the Remand Centre after the Liberation, with the heavy task of rebuilding the prison and finally the illness leading to death.
- Contents of her authority responsibilities exerted both as superior of the religious community and as director of the female section of the Remand centre ; Sr. Enrichetta intervenes often to defend and support the activities of her sisters with the help of the Director of Saint Victor ; she presents questions to the prison’s management team and the Department to improve the life of the inmates and the maintenance of the premises of the female section : the children’s premises, the infirmary, the chapel, the cells, the food…; she behaves across her important influence so that the relationships between priests, lawyers, doctors, prison wardens, inmates and relatives will be characterized by respect and the dignity of the person and his human and spiritual promotion.
- A constant welcoming attention to everyone without exception ; in her heart there is place for : her friends, the sisters of her community and of her Congregation, the inmates, (starting from the prostitutes till the socially excluded, because they are guilty of the most reprehensible crimes), the political inmates, the Jews, the communists, the fascists… For this reason she is unanimously called «Mother» and «Mum of Saint Victor».
- A tactful soul and gentleness manifested through the usual smile that enlightens her face and which seems to light up the dark environment of the Remand centre ; the numerous newspapers’ articles which appeared the day after her death and the decoration of « the Star of Kindness » of the Christmas night gift, witness how suitable is the name given to her: «Angel of Kindness».
- Faith was transmitted to her at the beginning of her life, in her family and with simple but solid Christian roots ; moreover, among her close relatives there were already three priests and three religious when Sr. Enrichetta joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide Thouret.
Prayer and the sacraments, according to testimonials made by close acquaintances, accompanied all her life.
Her choice of religious life was assumed after a long reflection since her father obliged her to wait for some years before carrying out her plan which for her consisted in « doing God’s will ».
Two unique but fundamental aspects are frequently found in her writings : the Cross from which salvation and the Eucharist emanate, nourishment for the life of communion with the Lord.
Union with Jesus Christ, the imitation of the Good Master, the devotion to the Virgin Mary and her attraction to holiness are important aspects of her spiritual life.
- Hope is this personal awareness of God’s constant action in her life. The virtue of hope is highly present in some attitudes assumed by Sr. Enrichetta in some particular moments: illness, detention, the death of her parents, moments of trial… For her, hope is the ability to live all the events in communion with God in a way that even suffering can be transformed and find meaning in God’s love and for God.
She fixes her glance on eternity and on the gift that she hence expects : this hope is communicated to the inmates so that the desire and their personal human and Christian redemption might grow.
- Love for God is manifested in Sr. Enrichetta by an attitude of « trustful and serene… total, loving… » abandonment linked to the attitude of immolation which consists in the daily offering of herself to the Lord and in thanksgiving even in difficult moments.
Continuous prayer constitutes the horizon of Sr. Enrichetta’s normal life and puts the roots of her intensive apostolic life.
- Charity towards neighbour is the energy which guided Sr. Enrichetta’s entire life and is summarised in a simple but dense expression repeated several times in her writings : « charity is a fire which likes to spread as it burns ; I will suffer, I will work and I will pray to draw souls to Jesus ».
Her love for Jesus becomes her passion to draw souls to Him ; she then confirms that : « it’s not possible to be apostolic without being holy».
by Sr Wandamaria Clerici and Sr Maria Guglielma Saibene