sr. Faustina Stampais
A Question of Priority
The only objection that Faustina Stampais put to her cousin Dom Daniel, when he invited her to leave with him for Africa, was that she wanted first to become a sister. The future Founder of the Missionary Sister of Verona had answered that was not possible yet, for the moment there was no congregation for her to join. But the mission was there and therefore, they should leave…
In that month of January 1869, in Verona, Faustina met Daniel for the first time. She had certainly heard talk of her missionary cousin in the family, but she had not yet had a chance to meet him herself. It was in fact he who sought her out, after having heard, who knows how, that another member of the Comboni family had become aware of that special call to mission. He had asked his father to act as mediator, sending Faustina a letter through him with a photo of himself and a copy of his Plan for Africa. Grandfather Luigi had done it, happy to get to know for himself, the daughter of his beloved niece Maria Anna.
Luigi Comboni had realised that Faustina was also looking for a way to respond to the urgent call she realised she had. But he had simply encouraged her to become a Child of May. He had not understood, at least at first, when his neice wrote to him from Verona, where she had gone to meet Daniel, that she would leave with him, there and then, with the clothes she stood in, without coming home to say farewell to her family and friends. A lay missionary. Today that might not be such a surprising choice, but it certainly was in 1869..
In 1876, the congregation was…
Faustine reached Cairo towards the end of February 1869 and settled with comparative ease into life there. She studied Arabic and taught Domestic Science in the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Mary, where the Combonian “women of the Gospel” were being prepared before leaving for Central Africa. Therefore, in June of 1873, haaving just arrived in Khartoum after a difficult journey of 98 days, she accepted to go further with Daniel, who was now Apostolic Provicar. With her were two other brave companions, Domitilla and Fortunata. They reached the heart of Kordofan and began work among the women of El-Obeid where the slave trade was strongest.
When a year later, these three courageous pioneers were joined by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, Faustina began to think that it was perhaps time for her to become a sister. A missionary sister of course. At Verona the Congregation had started and so Faustina entered it on 10th June 1876…
Foundress of a Comboni Novitiate in Cairo
After she had taken the vow of obedience, on 25th January 1880, Faustina’s cousin, now bishop, asked her to do something very difficult: to stay in Cairo with the last ones who had arrived, while he went on to Khartoum where he was destined, this time, to die. History however followed its course and Daniel wanted others to continue in his Work, his missionary work, which could not now be stopped. Before he said good bye to Faustina for the last time, he told her to start another novitiate for women in the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Mary, the second in Africa, after the one of El-Obeid.
In the Spirit of the Good Shepherd
With the death of the Founder, Comboni, on 10th October 1881, it seemed that the devil had decided to profit from the occasion and let loose against that tiny sapling, just showing above ground, the most violent of storms. Faustina too, for a moment, felt shaken but she recovered…
In 1889, a lay person again, but always one of the group of “women of the gospel”, she returned to the shores of the Nile River. Other “scattered sheep” like herself had gathered in the agricultural settlement that the successor of Daniel Comboni, Francesco Sogaro, had organised around Cairo for refugees from Sudan. Not all of them were there, and many felt disoriented, almost lost. Among these were some of the African teachers of the Mazza Institute, Regina Zarifa, Giulia Bakita, Rosina and Elisabetta Kaltuma, Domitilla, Marietta Maragase… And Faustina, who “in the field counted as two” returned to call them together and form with them a new missionary community, a new cenacle of apostles.