On April 15, 1928 I was born at home in the little village of Peace Dale, RI, near Narragansett Bay. A month later I was baptized at St. Francis of Assisi Church and given the name of Madalena. My parents, Luke and Henrietta, presented a baby sister to my brother Dan, who was four years old.
My first introduction to my Catholic faith came when I was about three. Every night when I went to bed, my mother helped me to make the Sign of the Cross. Later I entered the Stepping Stone Kindergarten where I learned to play with other children. One spring I was chosen Queen of the Maypole, a yearly tradition, and I wore a beautiful white dress my mother made for me. Two years later I entered Peace Dale Grammar School. During this time we had Catechism at church every Tuesday and Thursday. When I was eight, I received my first Holy Communion and it was a really special day for me. I had waited a long time for this event. Every week I went to confession and assisted at Mass and loved to receive the Eucharist on Sundays.
In 1939 the World’s Fair was held in New York. My dad, aunt, uncle and I went by train, my first trip to the big city. Being a country girl, I was amazed at the huge, high buildings, thousands of people, loads of noise and traffic. The fair was spectacular with so many exhibits from all over the world and many new inventions, especially the introduction of television, which was really most fascinating. When TV was finally on the market to be sold, my dad was the first to purchase one and placed it in the window of our store so people could watch it.
Several special events happened in 1941, my graduation from 8th grade, my confirmation, my entrance into high school and the beginning of WW2. I loved high school, had many friends and worked hard at my studies. My free time was spent going to the movies, roller skating, ice skating, riding my bike, working in my dad’s store, helping my mother, who worked at night, and being responsible for my two younger sisters, Marie and Carolyn. My brother Dan was in the navy. While in high school, I assisted at 7:00 am Mass every morning and in the afternoon many of us would go to the church hall to do homework, play the juke box or have a game of basketball.
In 1944 three Passionist Sisters were invited by our pastor to take charge of teaching catechism and visiting the homes in the parish. Most parishioners had never seen nuns before, so it was a new experience for all. When I was a junior in high school, our pastor asked two of my friends and me to help the Sisters teach the younger children after school. During the year I became very fond of them and often helped in many ways. Sometimes they invited me to pray with them in the chapel (in Latin and English). A Sister gave me my first spiritual reading book, The Autobiography of St. Therese, the Little Flower. I was very impressed with her deep desire to become a Carmelite Nun and to live a beautiful life of prayer, devotion and intense love of God.
One day in January the Superior and I were doing a project and just having some casual conversation, when she asked me a question I shall never forget, “Have you ever thought of being a Sister?” Suddenly, without any thought or hesitation I said, “YES!” Why my answer was so spontaneous I will never know, but it must have been God who intervened and changed my whole life. My future plan was to be a private secretary to a rich woman and travel the world. It never happened! I hurried home to tell my parents what I had done and they were very happy, gave me permission and provided all that I needed. I left high school after my Junior Year and entered the novitiate of the Passionist Sisters in Bristol, RI.
I have now been 67 years in religious life. I am so grateful that God chose me specially to be a Sister of the Cross and Passion. My daily prayer has always been of a deep appreciation for my vocation and that my love for Jesus and the crucified of the world will always be in my heart. Deo gratias.
- Sister Madeline Pucella, C.P.