19 March is an important day of the year for the Daughters of Divine Zeal as it is also the Foundation Day of our religious congregation.
The Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Zeal was founded on 19 March 1887 by St. Annibale Maria Di Francia, the apostle of prayer for vocations and the father of the orphans and of the poor, in Messina, Italy. Ten years later in May he founded the male Congregation of the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus (RCJ).
The name of the female congregation Figlie Del Divino Zelo (FDZ – meaning Daughters of Divine Zeal) was contemplated as one of the fruits of the prayers of St. Annibale that would encapsulate and connect to the spirituality and the charism of the Institute: Rogate which means Pray therefore… (Mt.9:35-38; Lk. 10:2). St Annibale believed that these verses from the bible were the answer for the social problems in society because they aim for the glory of God and the salvation of many souls through the Lord of the Harvest sending many Holy labourers according to His heart. Our congregation was born at a time when there were many children who had lost their parents, who were abandoned because of war and who were living in great poverty. Initially, St Annibale gathered these poor, orphaned and abandoned children to take care of them. In one of His writings he said:
I am fully aware of my duty and responsibility. Gathering persons, feeding them, and leaving them merely to exist is not the educational institution’s aim, for it does not change the abandoned orphans’ fortune nor does it prepare a good future for them…
…Education aims at regenerating and moralizing the persons who are rooted out from bondage, enabling them to earn their living honestly. (Rogationist Anthology, p166.)
To help him look after these little ones, St Annibale asked for assistance from the various religious institutions present around his time but they were not able to help him for very long. Consequently, he began thinking of founding a female congregation:
This charitable Institute’s continuity has been ruling my thoughts ever since. It has been the main object of my efforts, but to reach this vital goal I needed to form a community of Sisters. From the time I failed to engage the Daughters of Charity and the Daughters of Saint Anne, I conceived the idea of founding the Daughters of Divine Zeal. (RA.169)
This is the centre of our mission of gathering the scattered, poor, abandoned and orphaned children, to educate them so as to save them spiritually and materially. To this day we have apostolates of educating and taking care of children most in need, in the many countries where the Daughters of Divine Zeal are present. As years pass, the rules may be modified however the main concept of teaching faith, moral values, and practising piety remains so that the little ones grow up for God, to have a happy and successful life. This still applies to the current generations of children in our care – according to St Annibale:
…rescuing an orphan from the deadly future along with providing him with a temporal and well being is as such a redemption…
This is not only for orphans but is also applicable to all the schools that our Institute administers. The Father Founder has a challenge for us Sisters or educators:
…the nun is born of religion to be a mother, a teacher, a friend, and a sister of the youth of whatever rank. A sister, being educator and mother of the youth, represents one of the finest missions of Christianity.
So the Father Founder reminds us, once again, that our commitment, responsibility and fidelity to our congregation’s charism and spirituality is what make us uniquely identified as Daughters of Divine Zeal.
It can be a challenge to renew our commitment as Daughters of Divine Zeal – the name we bear comes from the heart of Jesus. This is materially represented by the emblem we wear as part of our religious habit. The heart of Jesus is spiritually present within us through the zeal of the love of Christ which keeps on inspiring us to become what we pray to be: the first good and holy labourer of the Church. It is the zeal of the prayer of Jesus that we cannot keep to ourselves; it is the zeal of Jesus’ heart that makes us arise each day, to continue to cry out to the Lord of the Harvest, to pray unceasingly for more holy vocations for the Church.
On this day, 19 March, we wish everyone a Happy Feast of St Joseph, one of the patron saints of our Institute.
Happy Foundation Day also to all Daughters of Divine Zeal who not only bear the FDZ name, but particularly bear a zeal for the love of God, all for His glory and the Salvation of Souls!