Three hundred years after the apparitions of Our Lady of Mercy on the hillsides of Savona, Italy in 1536. That same city was the scene of another important event – the founding of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1837.
Chosen by God to accomplish this task was an unassuming young woman named Bendetta Rossello, today invoked as Saint Mary Joseph Rossello. Pope Pius XII raised her to the honor of sainthood on June 12, 1949.
“Oh, that I could find a generous person who would care for these neglected children of my flock.” These were the words of Bishop De Mari of Savona one day as he came upon a group of uncouth girls playing on the street. Benedetta heard them as words from heaven and offered her services to the Bishop immediately.
Bishop DeMari was quick to see in the young woman before him a truly apostolic and generous person whom God had destined for great work. He did not hesitate to confide his plans to her, as he realized that God had sent Benedetta to him.
On August 10, 1837, Benedetta Rossello and three companions who shared her vision laid the foundation of a new religious family in the Church – the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy. They began in a small unpretentious house in the city of Savona on a street called Vico del Vento.
After a brief but intense period of preparation, the Bishop presented a religious habit to each young woman as well as a new name to symbolize their consecration to God and His service. Benedetta became Sister Mary Joseph because Saint Joseph was to be her protector, provider and father throughout her whole life. Two years later the new Sisters sealed their consecration to God by taking the three vows – poverty, chastity and obedience. These new Religious – the first Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy – dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the work for which God had called the new Congregation to life – the education of youth, the care of the sick, and all the works of mercy.
The new Religious Family spread rapidly throughout Italy, and during the lifetime of the Foundress, even to South America. In 1875, Saint Mary Joseph Rossello sent 15 Sisters to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and there too, they spread far and wide, now having foundations in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and many parts of Argentina.
In 1919, the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy arrived to North America in response to an appeal similar to that of Bishop DeMari. They were requested to open a Social and Parish Mission Center in Springfield, MA, principally to offer religious Instruction to the children. Thus the mission and spirit of St. Mary Joseph Rossello was extended to the United States.
Presently, the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy minister in 19 countries on 5 continents. They may be found in Italy, Africa, India, Germany, Romania as well as North and South America and the Caribbean Islands.
The United States Headquarters of the Congregation are at Villa Rossello, Newfield, New Jersey. On the grounds are located the Provincial House, Our Lady of Mercy Academy and the original Provincial/ Novitiate House (White House).