Caterina Isonni, fmm
(Giovita di Gesu)
Born: July 19, 1923
Pre-novitiate: September 15, 1945
Novitiate: March 19, 1946
First Vows: March 19, 1948
Final Vows: March 19, 1951
Born to Eternal life: July 15, 2015
Sister Caterina Isonni was born in Ossimo Inferiore in Brescia, Northern Ita-
ly. She was one of five children - Dominic, who died as a baby, Francesco,
Caterina, Edvige and Roberto. Her mother, Teresa Conti, was from Berga-
mo, (home also of Pope John XXIII) and her father, Antonio, was from
She attended school in the Village of Ossimo and after completing her stud-
ies there, attended High School in Milano with the Sisters of St. Dorothy
At a very young age, Caterina felt a call to be a missionary, and the parish priest encouraged her and said that God
would help her when it was time. At a very young age also, Caterina joined a Catholic Action Group. As a young
teenager, she went to Castelnuovo to take a course that would qualify her to teach young girls who would be join-
ing the Catholic Action Group. Here, at Castelnuovo Caterina met the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and, her call
to be a missionary so long ago, began to blossom once again. All this was happening to Caterina during a very
stressful time when Italy was suffering from the ravages of World War II.
Sister Caterina entered the Novitiate of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary at Grottaferrata on Sept 15, 1945. She
made her first vows also at Grottaferrata on March 10, 1948. After this Sr. Caterina worked in the Infirmary and with
hospitality in St. Helene’s in Rome. Her final vows were made in 1951 after she was missioned to the United States.
Initially, Sister Caterina was chosen to go to our missions in China but because of political difficulties in that country,
this was not possible. In the U.S.A. Caterina was destined to care for the physically and mentally disabled children at
a new foundation. This foundation was then known as the Kennedy Memorial Hospital. It was originally conceived
and sponsored by Cardinal Cushing and staffed by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Today it is known as the
Franciscan Children’s Hospital.
Sister remained at Kennedy for twenty-three years as the Supervisor for a group of boys for whom she cared with
skill and understanding. She also contributed her natural expertise to overseeing the House Keeping and Laundry
Services. Of this part of her missionary experience, Sister Caterina says, “You had to be a Mother to the children - to
understand as much as possible their needs and to assist them in their difficulties.” Also, the parents needed to be
helped in dealing with the limitations and emotional needs of their son or daughter.
In 1971 Sister Caterina was missioned to Divine Providence Shelter in New York City where she continued to use her
special gifts. Here, she was the supervisor of a group of boys who had been taken from difficult home situations.
She remained in New York City five years and was then missioned to Cardinal Hayes Home for Children in
Millbrook, N.Y. Here again, she was the supervisor of a group of boys from difficult situations, and some with mi-
nor medical problems. She was at Cardinal Hayes Home for twenty-nine years. During her latter yeas there she
contributed to the ambiance of the Home by decorating the halls and special rooms for the different holidays and
seasons of the year. Outside she cared for the gardens with special care. Caterina said “As children we were always
taught to respect nature and all kinds of plants. They give us nourishment and bring beauty into our surroundings.
In 2005, Sister Caterina was missioned to Queen of Peace Community at Fruit Hill, North Providence and brought
her cheerful and kind ways to the Day Services for the Elderly until her health no longer permitted this. She re-
mained at the Fruit Hill Assisted Living Facility as long as possible but then, due to continued failing health, she was
missioned to St. Antoine Residence, where she ministered to staff and residents by her beautiful smile and gentle,
loving ways. These were her gifts to all she served in her ministries throughout her life. Sister Caterina was often at
prayer and at other times could be seen in her room reading a copy of Birds and Blooms magazine, keeping true to
her keen interest in nature. It could be said that Caterina loved all of God’s creatures and they all loved her back.