Maria Teresa Nuzzo (11 May 1851 – 17 April 1923) was a Roman Catholic Nun, and the founder of the religious order, Daughters of the Sacred Heart.
Maria Teresa was born in Valletta, the Capital City of Malta. Her parents were Paul Nuzzo and Louisa Morrocchi. She was the second born having been preceded by a brother two years earlier. The latter died after a cholera outbreak in the region, leaving Maria Teresa the eldest. A day after Maria Teresa was born, she was baptised in the Collegiate Parish of St. Paul. At the age of eight years, she received the sacrament of confirmation doubtlessly reaffirming her baptismal promises. She tried to be a true witness of her faith and a defender of her religion. Her family was strongly Christian. This undoubtedly helped her live her Christian values to the full.
In the early years of Maria Teresa's life, Malta was going through a period of great poverty. Education was not compulsory and only a few could afford to take their children to school. Most children did little chores in order to earn money to help their families. However, Maria Teresa was among the lucky few who received education. At the age of fifteen years she had already acquired education appropriate to children of her age. She also showed that she was greatly talented in handiwork and music. Besides, she had great interest in children, and in their welfare.
At such an age, she little knew of the noble mission that awaited her. Her aunt who ran a private school was fast-aging. Her sight was also failing. She began to look for someone to carry on her work. Her eyes were set on Maria Teresa. Indeed in 1867, at the age of sixteen years Maria Teresa found herself responsible of her aunt's school, who by now had become blind. She died soon after on 4th March 1867. Maria Teresa's experience in the school led her to be close to the little ones, especially the poor and suffering.
In her youthful days, Maria Teresa began to feel the desire to embrace religious life. But she could not make up her mind given the circumstances around her. She realised that her parents and the family needed her. By now, her father was seventy and was ailing. They indeed needed her more than ever. Besides there was the school under her care. Alternatively, at the age of 21 years, she thought of the possibility of taking private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a lay person.
Teresa first loving moments with Jesus
All along Maria Teresa could not make any decision whatsoever without first consulting her spiritual director, Mgr. Pietro Pace. This time too she did not hesitate to do so. The latter encouraged her along the very path she had desired. She was then to take her vows on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. However, this much desired decision turned to be a bit difficult for her to carry out. She realised and fully understood what she would have to renounce. Though she felt inclined to religious life, she was not sure whether she would ultimately leave her family. However on the 21st October 1874, she made her vows privately in the hands of Mgr. Pietro Pace. Two years later her father died. Maria Teresa was only twenty-five by then.
Later, Maria Teresa still felt inclined to enter the convent. She moreover wanted to join the cloistered nuns. Once again, she brought this to the attention of her Spritual Director who out-rightly told her: "You are not suited for the cloister". This happened in 1880.
Life then for Maria Teresa went on around the school, the catechetical and pastoral care she was so committed to after school hours. A year later in 1881 her mother died.
The Daughters of the sacred heart
Besides thinking of dedicating her entire life to God, she did express her desire to set up a religious congregation who would follow Christ closely and be dedicated to the charitable service of education and social work. After a long struggle, in 1902 she managed to see the realisation of her dreams. However lack of finances made it even harder, but she wholly trusted in God's providence. God's ways are not our ways.
Now, Maria Teresa had a cousin, Enrico Nuzzo who shared the same ideal: to help the unfortunate in the society specially girls, in the field of education. In his mid-life, the latter desired to use his money for such a social project to realise his ideals.
Around this time the two happened to meet and Enrico told Maria Teresa of his dream. The latter expressed the desire of accepting the offer and her desire to form a Religious Institute. This was passed on to the Archbishop to whom Enrico had entrusted the plot with a house for the project. The Archbishop who well knew Maria Teresa was happy to see that her hopes and dream were now to be actualised.
In 1902, the building started and in 1903, Maria Teresa and the first members of her new foundation started living in that house. This marks the beginning of the congregation, Daughters of the Sacred Heart. Thus at the age of 52 years, Maria Teresa managed to set up the congregation she had dreamt of. This could only be possible by the grace of God, whom she always allowed to work in her.
The Congregation was officially founded on 21 November 1903
. This is the Founding day and is highly recognised by every Daughter of the Sacred Heart.
Today, the Daughters of the Sacred Heart are in Malta, India, Italy, Ireland, Libya, Kenya, Tanzania, South Korea and United States of America.
mt: Madre Teresa Nuzzo
it: Madre Teresa Nuzzo