Friday, January 24, 2014


 As our country is in the throws of a bitter cold week,  I think of our Oblates in Montana where it is almost unbearable for man and beast.

On OCT. 31, our Holy Father gave us another possible American saint.  She was American by birth, Irish-Ameri­can by temperament, but Italy was her home.

was born on 20th December 1895 in Glendale, Ohio. Her mother was Irish and her father, Giambattista,  was originally from Parma, Italy. His brother, Vittorio,  was a famous explorer who was the first to map out the Jubba River in Somalia. His tragic death convinced Giambattista to return to Italy with the family to be close to their elderly parents.  The family had been living in Butte, Mont., until Celestine was almost 15.

Celestina  studied to become an English teacher, a subject which she taught for many years in numerous public schools throughout Parma. Her students would later testify not only to her professional competence, but also to her strong talent as an educator. For the young people who spent too much time on the streets, Celestina opened a room in her house, fitting it out with board games and books to create a meeting place for the young.  She also taught them catechism.

In the meantime, with her sister Maria, Celestina developed her spiritual life under the guidance of  the Benedictine Abbot Emanuele Caronti, until she decided to become a  Benedictine oblate in 1922. Her commitment to the poor and the needy, especially with the outbreak of the Second World War, became more intense and heartfelt, while her relationship with God deepened, as demonstrated by her ever ready and welcoming smile and her extreme faith in Divine Providence.

In 1935 she had already begun teaching in the schools of the Xaverian Missionaries and the following year she visited India for a few months to see her sister Maria who was living there as a missionary. The prospect of the mission was also beginning to open up to her. She received the offer to co-found a female branch of the Xaverian missionaries. Initially Celestina refused, with the motivation that: “I am better at ruining the works of God than at doing them”. After a year of interior battle and prayer she accepted the offer, seeing it as will of God.

This is how Celestina became the first “mother” to so many young missionaries, to whom she fully gave of  herself . In 1966, with great generosity she stood aside, in the hope that a “younger” mother would take her place but, without stopping to encourage, welcome, console and love all her missionary daughters.

"Come, follow me!" The Lord whispered to her - she did just that throughout her life in Montana, Parma, In­dia, Massachusetts, Brazil, Congo, Burundi, and beyond.  Venerable Celestine Bottego, born in the new world, was a foundress of a religious community in the old world, and missionary to the whole world.

She died on 20th August 1980 at the age of 85.

Book on her life

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