St. Rosa Venerini was born in Viterbo, Italy, on February 9, 1656. She was the daughter of a respected doctor, Goffredo, and one of four children.
At a young age, Rosa consecrated her life to God, despite many tests throughout her adolescence. In 1676, she joined a Dominican women’s community, but returned home after her father’s death to be with her mother. One of her brothers, Domenico, also died at age 27, and Rosa’s heartbroken mother died soon after.
In dealing with her family tragedies, Rosa invited local women to pray the Rosary with her in her home. She learned that many did not receive proper religious formation and education, and began a path to change this.
In 1685m, with the help of two friends and her local bishop’s approval, Rosa opened the first public school for girls in Italy. Although she met with some resistance, most Church and state officials supported her, and those who opposed this new educational model changed their minds after seeing her success.
Rosa left Viterbo and founded 10 new schools in the Diocese of Montefiascone between 1692-1694. She also trained her successor, St. Lucia Filippini.
It took many years, and one failed attempt, but Rosa succeeded in opening a school in Rome in 1713. Three years later, Pope Clement XI and eight cardinals listed the school, and witnessed her work. The pope thanked Rosa, telling her, “With these schools you will sanctify Rome.”
As Rosa’s schools achieved success, she took on many additional responsibilities. She was often traveling, all the while maintaining a strong prayer life, with guidance from Jesuit priests. She eventually founded over 40 schools.
St. Rosa died on May 7, 1728. Her religious congregation, called the “Master pie Venerini” in Italian, still maintains an international presence.