Two Weeks of Worthy Women: Celestine Bottego

An American-born woman leads off for the third annual Worthy Women series.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Celestine Bottego. Maybe her recent “promotion” to “venerable” (he same “level” Fulton Sheen of all people) will tickle your memory–it was just last October.

Fellow blogger Barry Hudock, poking fun, thinks it’s a big Franciscan plot, especially to install un-cloistered and un-habited women in the Communion of Saints.

Actually, Mother Celestine has a lot of traditional things going for her. Number one, she founded a religious order. (One could ask of post-Trent saints, who didn’t?)

Number two, it has a safe-sounding name, Missionaries of Mary.

Three, a priest was involved in the founding. Naturally.

That’s about where the safe and traditional ends. Celestine was born in Ohio, grew up in Montana, then moved to Italy with her mother at age 14. There she lived as a lay person for thirty-four more years before giving up the sheltering of war refugees and the fleeing of Nazis to found the MM’s. In the 50’s, she returned to the US. Her sisters were sent as missionaries to several nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Many who knew her still serve abroad today.

During those long decades as a teacher–one of the few women employed to teach in an Italian college–she corresponded with Sister Perfecta, one of her childhood role models. Sr.P continued to push the idea of a religious vocation. Your sister joined the Franciscans, she poked. And if you aren’t yet married, that might be a sign.

Celestine  BottegoMother Celestine never wore a traditional habit, and neither did any of her sisters. Reportedly Bishop Sheen approved.

Check an informative slideshow from the Diocese of Helena here.

And remember to celebrate worthy women who pushed ahead when others were timid. That is true religious freedom: to forge ahead regardless of how one’s life’s arc has varied from the mainstream.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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