Mother M. Arcangela Brugiolo
Mother M. Arcangela – Carmela Brugiolo was born on July 16th, 1924 in Italy. She was a woman of faith, charity and great hope! She had been chosen to go on a mission to plant the first seeds of our congregation in the Congo. She had begun her missionary life in Canada, where the Divine Master had prepared her well before she went to Africa, a country that also cared about Mother M. Scholastica! She was sent to the Belgian Congo, to give life to a new foundation, in the heart of the continent, where the Society of St. Paul, which was already present, had requested the presence of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master in the capital: Kinshasa. When asked how she received this mission, she replied:
“In July 1961, while I was in our community of Sanfrè, I received a letter from Mother Maria Lucia Ricci, then Superior General. The envelope read: “Before reading this letter, go to the chapel and before the Tabernacle pray to the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.” I had prayed and even wept with emotion, because I didn’t know what God wanted from me. After praying, I opened the letter where I was asked a question: “Are you ready to leave Italy again for a new foundation in the Belgian Congo?” Mother Lucia had asked for my availability. Missionary life was not new to me, because a few years earlier I had participated in the foundation of our presence in Canada with Sr. M. Cornelia De Toffoli and Sr. M. Gabriella Massariol. But in Africa! The fact that I was a pioneer in America did not allow me to be a pioneer in Congo. I didn’t know much about the Congo, I just knew that it had recently gained independence on June 30, 1960 and that there was war in some regions. After praying, I agreed to go on this mission.”
Meanwhile, the news from Congo was still concerning. I asked Mother Lucia, “With whom will I share this missionary adventure? “. She replied: “With the sisters M. Monica Battajello and M. Giuditta Beltramo. They have been professed … Sr Monica for two years and Sr Giuditta for a few months“. I met Sr. M. Monique, who at the time was the driver of the community in our Mother House in Alba. Sr. M. Giuditta was in Rome and I had gone to Rome to meet her and to meet the Founder, who told me: “The Pauline Fathers need the presence of the Pious Disciples, they need your prayer, because the difficulties are very many at the beginning og the missionary apostolate. Only your prayers can obtain for them the graces required. Do not be afraid!”
Six months later, Sister M. Giuditta and I prepared to leave for the Congo with Maestra Thecla Merlo. She was visiting the Daughters of St. Paul. The journey was a pilgrimage through the airports of Italy because of the fog that made everything invisible!
We left Rome, passed through Milan, then to Turin airport and back to Rome. Finally, after 24 hours of waiting, on November 1st, 1961, we took off for Congo. At the airport of Leopoldville (Kinshasa), the Pauline Family was there to welcome Maestra Tecla and us. Not yet having a house of our own, the community of the Daughters of St. Paul had offered us hospitality, where we stayed the first eighteen days, then we managed to have a small house at the Society of St. Paul.
“Our days were spent between prayer and keeping the Pauline house clean and tidy. Our small community was completed with the arrival of Sister M. Monique. There were three of us, like the Three Kings (Queens)! We had multiplied by three: joy, prayer, sacrifice, but above all hope. One morning, Father Raphaël Tonni, superior of the Paulines, asked us:
“Sisters, do you know how to sew? ». To our”Yes!”, he entrusted us with the task of making tunics for the priests and brothers of St Paul. This was the beginning of our liturgical apostolate in the local Church. In 1975, at the request of His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Albert Malula, the sisters were entrusted with the management of a community at the USUMA (Union of Major Superiors), a hostel for sisters passing through Kinshasa. Mother Arcangela, a woman of faith, attentive to the signs of the times, followed to the pastoral dynamism of the Cardinal, who hoped for a Church with a truly Congolese face, in its theological expression, its style evangelization and liturgy. This is how they began their liturgical apostolate, seeking to announce Jesus Master to the local culture with liturgical ornaments, wooden furniture, statues, tabernacles and wooden crosses in collaboration with local artists. Sister M. Imelda recounts:
“On June 1st, 1974, Pope Paul VI appointed Father Floribert Songasonga bishop of Kolwezi, Katanga. For the occasion, I had to make a beautiful mitre. Mother Arcangela had the idea of decorating the miter with malachite beads (a precious stone found in this region). It was the most beautiful and original mitre I was able to prepare. It was totally in tune with the local culture.
After buying the first house in Lubumbashi on August 5, 1967, it was time to buy a house in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. Here they discovered the strength, perseverance and resiliance of Mother M. Arcangela. The house belonged to a Congolese family who had willingly sold it to the Pious Disciples. The owner had already terminated the contract with the tenant, a Portuguese soldier, but the latter did not want to leave the house, and he threatened the nuns with death. Mother M. Arcangela, as a true guardian of the family, worked to resolve the conflict. The death threats continued but, on the occasion of the beatification of Blessed Sister Marie Clémentine Annuarité Nengapeta one of our sisters had to accompany the sisters of the future Blessed to the meeting with the President of the Republic. It was then that Sister M. Jacqueline, already prepared for this mission, informed President Mobutu of the sad situation, who in turn promised to resolve the conflict as soon as possible.
On that same day, he ordered the presidential guard to evict the Portuguese lord from the house, threatening to expel him from the country if he resisted. He also ordered the military to ensure that the land was returned to the nuns. The presidential guard remained until the sisters moved to the new community. In this way the sisters won the cause and recovered the house where the headquarters of the Delegation are located today. After making sure that the sisters were safe, Mother M. Arcangela, small in stature but great in heart and spirit, did not hesitate to confront the great and good of this world, to obtain justice when necessary. She retired for a time to the community of the Divine Master in Lubumbashi, to recover from the trauma caused by the situation described above.
Mother Arcangela left us the legacy of a living and active faith. She returned permanently to Rome in 1993 and returned to Congo in 2001 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his foundation. Despite the distance, her heart remained in the Congo. In May 2019, during the visit of a Congolese sister, she handed over her Congolese passport. On that occasion she said: “Since I can no longer come to Congo, take it and keep it. I still love you.” Today the passport is in the archives of the delegation. Every time one of us went to Rome and went to visit her, she very carefully asked for information about each sister, the apostolate and vocations.
“Mother, for us you are an orchid, a flowering plant that spreads its roots in the air without fear of bad weather, waiting to take root in the earth. The time has come for God to bury your roots in the earth. “God forgot to call me”, as you liked to tell us orally or in writing, when you were still strong! How can we forget you since you become youthful each time you meet the Pious Congolese Disciples passing through Italy? The branches of the tree can not forget about the roots that support them. Rest in peace and greet the Pious Disciples who have been missionaries with us and who are contemplating the face of God“.
This is an excerpt from the funeral oration pronounced by one of our sisters at the death of Sister Arcangela, who left for her last missionary journey, to Paradise, on March 30, 2023 where we are sure that she will continue to intercede for all the sisters she knew and for all the young women and the many intentions of our hearts.
 Sr. Annuarita, a Congolese martyr from the Congregation of the Holy Family, was beatified on August 15, 1985 by St. John Paul II.