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by Bruno Capparoni

There is a page in the life of Monsignor Bacciarini that is almost unknown to us: the foundation of the Company of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. This is a secular female institute that still continues its mission in the world at the service of the Church, faithful to the motto that the bishop wanted engraved on the consecration medal: Servire Christo et Ecclesiae.

To frame this page well, it is necessary first to take a look at the reality of the Ticino Catholic Action and in particular its women's section during the times of Bishop Bacciarini. 

Catholic Action, which in Ticino took the name of Unione Popolare Cattolica Ticinese (Upct), was a pastoral priority for Bishop Aurelio Bacciarini and from his initiatives and exhortations came a real relaunch that transformed Catholic Action into a widely popular organization in the Canton of Ticino. 

Ever since he had been parish priest in Arzo (1897-1903) he had actively contributed to the association, then called Società Piana. But when he found himself at the helm of the diocese, he clearly understood the need to coordinate the forces of the Catholic camp, reorganizing them according to a structure that anticipated in a singular way what would later be achieved - by Pius XI - for the Italian Catholic Action . 

The Union's activity was very intense and varied, and would remain so for many years. it is easy to understand how arduous the task of animating such a vast and widespread reality was and how Bishop Bacciarini almost desperately sought collaborators in this area. For this purpose, the meeting with Miss Maria Motta on 10 November 1925 was providential. Maria Motta (1883-1948) brought together in herself a fortunate combination of intelligence, excellent education and scholastic training, organizational and administrative experience developed in part of the family business in Airolo.

Monsignor Bacciari asked Miss Motta to give up her intention to join the Company of Saint Paul (Opera Cardinal Ferrari) in Milan and to join the project of a diocesan association, the Company of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus.

On 21 January 1926, the feast of Saint Agnes, the Company was founded in the bishop's palace of Lugano with a notarial deed, signed by the bishop and Maria Motta. From the beginning Margherita Dotta from Airolo joined the new association. That same year 1926 Aurelio Bacciarini founded the Giornale del Popolo, a Catholic newspaper of the diocese of Lugano with headquarters in Massagno (outskirts of Lugano); the administration of the newspaper was immediately entrusted to Maria Motta and the Company. 

Bacciarini presented the Company of Saint Teresa to the Catholic Women's Union in the general assembly of 1927, a year after its establishment. Let's follow his simple and at the same time expectant words:

«I don't know if you have noticed something that happened near your Union. Two young ladies have left their country, their home, their family, they have come and settled in Lugano, at the Secretariat of the Catholic Women's Union, to dedicate themselves exclusively to the works of the Women's Union itself, to good works and of apostolate. There are two: but I hope that tomorrow there will be four, then six, then twelve, then twenty... because, if God has mercy on us, the intention and hope are to be able to establish a Pious Union under the patronage of Holy Teresa of the Child Jesus, a Pious Union that is totally dedicated to the apostolate."

The Company was only in its infancy, with the first two ascribed, but the bishop indulged in a dream, foreseeing their numerical growth. And he was a prophet: on 23 August 1930 seven sisters made their consecration before the bishop: Maria Motta, Margherita Dotta, Agnese Andina, Stella Paltenghi, Barbara Polli, Anna Butti, Teresa Nessi; at the death of Bacciarini there were 28 members of the Company. He assigned to it the patronage of Saint Teresa of Lisieux and the scope of her action, which was to dedicate herself totally to the apostolate.

Two years later, again in the general assembly of the Women's Union, held on 7 July 1929, Aurelio Bacciarini again informed the members about the progress of the new institution in much more developed terms:

«I will say a word about the small and nascent Company of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. How does this Company have anything to do with the Women's Union? It has something to do with it, because it was created for the precise purpose of helping the Women's Union to achieve its goals of apostolate and good. They are young people who leave their family, home, country, who consecrate themselves, by vocation and mission, to the service of the Women's Union and its works. And this is an incalculable advantage for the Women's Union. Ah, if I could find a group of young people who come together to do the same for men's associations and for the works of men's associations, I would fall on my knees to sing the Te Deum of boundless gratitude!

Then his thought detached itself from the contingency of a human organization to penetrate and grasp the heart and root of a life choice, to scrutinize the vocation to consecration which has divine origins:

«When the number of members of the Company grows, the advantages of this providential institution will be felt even more. I say providential, not only for the good it will do for the Catholic Women's Union and for the kingdom of Jesus in our country, but also for its origin. Never believe that these are human works: they are works of God. Vocations are not made with the hands, as one would make a clay model; it is God who creates vocations. There is no human strength capable of removing a young girl from the womb of a family, to place her on a field of action where nothing but the cross is erected and where nothing but sacrifice and renunciation are encountered: only God can do this , with his grace and with the breath of his Spirit. Therefore I say that this work comes from God, and God will preserve it and make it flourish, despite the inevitable trials that usually bloodied institutions of this kind."

Finally, he showed the awareness of witnessing the birth of a new form of consecration, which distanced itself from the history, glorious but linked to previous historical circumstances, of the various forms of religious life. Bacciarini grasped the novelty and embraced it, proving himself to be a prophet; he identified the driving force behind the new foundation in the missionary passion for the gospel of Christ as well as in the clear perception that a new presence of apostles was necessary in current times:

«The ideal of those who consecrate themselves to God in religious cloisters is beautiful, without a doubt: but the ideal of those young people who, supported by the strength of detachment and vocation, place themselves in the very heart of the pagan world, is more beautiful, to give him battle in melee, to plant on every conquered trench the insignia of Jesus Christ and his kingdom! May the merciful God inspire these new and precious vocations: the first to enjoy their fruits will be your union, because, I repeat, it is for the Catholic Women's Union that the company of Saint Teresa lives and will live."

Bacciarini had thus anticipated by twenty years what Pius XII later sanctioned as theological and juridical doctrine, that is, the birth of that new modality of consecrated life which is the secular institutes; this was achieved with the apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia of 2 February 1947, perfected in the motu proprio Primo feliciter of 12 March 1948. 

Then the time was ripe for the Company of Saint Teresa too and on 1 February 1948 the pontifical approval of the Company itself as a secular institute arrived, while on the following 13 June the diocesan bishop Angelo Jelmini approved its renewed constitutions.

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