The Congregation of the Augustinian Sisters, Servants of Jesus and Mary was founded in Frosinone in 1827. It was the fruit of the courage of Maria Teresa Spinelli who felt the call to open the first Council school for girls in that town, and, subsequently, she set up a community based on the ideals of the first Jerusalem community. During the first years the community remained in Frosinone. Teresa Spinelli’s enthusiasm gave birth to various undertakings: day and boarding school, catechism lessons, retreats, meetings for spiritual formation for adults as well as for youths and children. Teresa Spinelli believed that in this way she and her community would be giving a most important service to society. In fact many were those who looked for their education in Teresa Spinelli’s school which remained for many years the only girls’ school in Frosinone.
After some years the first communities spread throughout the Lazio region. Today one can still find the Guarcino community opened in 1869, and the Genzano one which was opened a year later. In 1877, the sisters were invited by Pope Pius IX to open a school in the city of Rome. It was he himself who provided the site for the project. A few years before the end of the nineteenth century, four sisters of the Congregation left Italy and in 1894 sailed to Malta. The first community was set up in the village of Qormi. Within just over a hundred years, the Congregation flourished in such a way that today, through their schools, the sisters come in contact with about one thousand and eight hundred families, besides the families of students who attend their schools of music, as well as children, youths and adults whom they meet in other circumstances
From 1900 to date
In the first years of the twentieth century other houses sprang up in Italy as well as in Malta. They were difficult years that experienced two horrific world wars, but one of the disasters that struck the community most closely was when a bomb destroyed completely the house where Mother Foundress, Maria Teresa Spinelli had lived and died. The house was re-built and, during the opening ceremony of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary from Mother Maria Teresa’s death (1850 – 2000), her remains were placed in an urn in a chapel within the same house. Just after World War II the first house was opened in Sicily. As time passed it became clear that there was a great need to open out to the people who had never known Christ, people in search of human dignity and justice. In 1957 a small group of sisters left for Australia. There too they began work in the field of education in schools and parishes, paying special attention to emigrants.
During the next year, 1958, the first community in London opened a house there. Today, a group of sisters are also responsible for a hostel which accommodates people who are spending a few days in London. This hostel does not merely provide a home, but also spiritual services like an everyday mass.
In the meantime, other houses were opened in Italy, in Frosinone, Rome and Ladispoli. In 1964 a number of sisters, Augustinians of St Catherine joined our community. Other localities in Malta and Gozo welcomed our sisters and our convents are still to be found in Qormi, Mosta, Gżira, Rabat, two at B’Kara, St. Paul’s Bay and Għajnsielem in Gozo. In 1965 a group of sisters left for the United States where they started to run a Primary School in Brandenburg, Kentucky. A house opened in Catania, Sicily in 1966 has, a few months ago been passed to the Strada Viva association for a social purpose.
The zeal for evangelization led some of our sisters to go to Brazil. From 1972 to date, houses were opened in Paranaiba, Innocencia, San Paolo, Nova Londrina and Rio de Janeiro. The sisters, a continual witness to the Lord, given as they are to His service, also offer social and spiritual support and help to the people.
In the early 80s, the Congregation opened its first house in Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo) in Africa. Here too the sisters offer their service in the fields of health, social services, culture and spirituality.
In 1988 the Augustinian Sisters, Servants of Jesus and Mary stepped for the first time on Asian soil – they opened a house in India, in Cochin in Kerala State.
Eventually they also moved to the Philippines. Since 1989 three houses have been opened in Iloilo, Tagaytay and Laguna. Here, as in every other country, the sisters work to serve the people and in order that God’s Kingdom will grow in the hearts of men and women, within their families and the whole of society.
2000 saw the opening of another house in Kerala in India, where the sisters work for the formation and education of children, youths and mothers. From the year 2005 to 2009 a small community gave service in Rocca Porena of Cascia in Italy where St. Rita was born and lived before she entered the Augustinian Monastery in Cascia. Here pilgrims from all corners of the World come to express their devotion. In the last years of the 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium, the Sisters’ work kept intensifying. Every sector of the Congregation kept on developing in the best way possible. The schools increased, the activities in each country became more numerous. Wherever they are, the sisters offer their services to their fellow humans and work hard to see the Kingdom of God flourishing in the heart of each person and in society at large. In 2011 a room in the Generalate was dedicated to Mother Foundress, exhibiting works made by the sisters throughout the history of the Congregation as well as documents and images displaying important people who left an influence of the Congregation.
Everyone of you is precious in God’s eyes. (M. Teresa Spinelli)