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Meet the first Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo in the United States

By Roxanne King

Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield earned a new place in history earlier this month when two Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo arrived to establish the first U.S. mission of the young order, which was founded in Italy in 2004.

Sister Elena Rondelli, 35, superior of the duo, and Sister Maria Anna Sangiorgio, 27, are from northern Italy—from Emilia Romagna and Lombardia, respectively. Both are fluent in English and Italian; Sister Maria Anna also speaks Spanish. In the Q-and-A below, the two share their backgrounds and hopes for the future.

Q: What is your educational, occupational and ministerial background?

Sr. Elena: I studied art history and was a social worker in Naples for one year. In ministry, I worked as a teacher in Nairobi, Kenya, for almost three years. I taught creative arts and literature.

Sr. Maria Anna: I studied foreign languages at the Catholic University of Milan and helped my father in running his shoe store. In ministry, I served Msgr. Massimo Camisasca (now a bishop), founder of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, in the Diocese of Reggio Emilia for one year.

Q: What is the charism of your order?

Sr. Elena: We follow the charism of Msgr. Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation movement. The charism is to bring Christ to all aspects of everyday life. We serve the Church through this charism by living religious life. We wear a habit that reminds us and others to whom we belong. We work in the world, dedicating ourselves to evangelization, that is, to the proclamation of the presence of Christ, and to education in the Catholic faith. Together with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo (the male religious order of Communion and Liberation), we are available to go anywhere we are asked to be present.

Q: How did you receive your vocational call?

Sr. Elena: I received my vocational call when I was in college. I truly think that every vocational call is to some extent mysterious, as it is from God. The source of the call was the fact that quite a lot of my friends were being called to give their lives to Jesus, though in different ways from what mine would be. I was inspired and struck by them. I happened to know about the existence of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo and I figured that could be the right place for me.

Sr. Maria Anna: God has been calling me since I was born, putting seeds in my life that in time matured. I was raised in a Catholic family where I learned to pray and I experienced the beauty of communion, but it was only when I encountered the Communion and Liberation movement (which seeks to bring Catholics to mature faith) while I was in high school that I started experiencing the fullness and beauty of Christian life: I had the perception of having received everything and I immediately felt the desire to give everything to God and to know better the one who was loving me so much. God had me meet various people, in particular the priests of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, and I was attracted to their way of living. I was led to the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, where I found the place God had prepared for me.

Q: How do you feel about being the first sisters of your order to do ministry in the United States?

Sr. Elena: We feel profoundly grateful to be here. We know that we will learn a great deal from the people here.

Q: Why was the Archdiocese of Denver chosen as the site for your order’s first U.S. mission?

Sr. Elena: When we decide to set up a new convent we go where our priests are in order to work together, expressing our communion. For us, mission means bearing witness to the beauty, truth and freedom we experience in encountering Christ and remaining with him. In 2009 Father Michael Carvill (a Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo priest), pastor of Nativity of Our Lord, expressed his wish to have some sisters joining his parish. In 2011 three of us came to Broomfield to see the mission, but it was not possible to move at that time.

Q: What are your impressions of Colorado and Nativity of Our Lord Parish?

Sr. Elena: We have experienced a warm and welcoming atmosphere. All the people are very kind to us, willing to help us and to get to know us.

Q: What type of ministry will you be doing here?

Sr. Elena: We will be visiting the sick and homebound, and we will be involved in Eucharistic adoration and the religious education program at Nativity parish.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about your new mission?

Sr. Elena: We desire to meet all those who are most in need of and far from the presence of God.

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