St. Bertilla Boscardin was born Anna Francesca, on October 6, 1888, in Brendola, Italy. She had a tough childhood — her father was a violent alcoholic, and her family was very poor. As a girl, Anna worked as a house servant. Her family nicknamed her “the goose,” because they believed she lacked intelligence. 

In 1904, Anna entered the Sisters of St. Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart, taking the name Bertilla. She worked in the kitchen and did laundry for three years before training as a nurse. 

Bertilla worked in the children’s ward of the hospital in Treviso, and quickly became the favorite of many of her patients. She had a simple, gentle way of caring for them, and brought these qualities to wounded Italian soldiers throughout World War I as well, even staying with her patients while the area was being bombed. 

An envious supervisor reassigned Bertilla to the hospital laundry, but when her mother-general found out, Bertilla was made head of the children’s ward in 1919. Three years later, Bertilla died of cancer. 

In 1961, Pope John XXIII canonized St. Bertilla before a large crowd, including many of her former patients.