Magdalena Aulina y Saurina was born on December 12, 1897 in Banyoles, Girona, Spain. She was the daughter of a coal and wood dealer. From an early age Magdalena began accompanying her older sister in works of charity among the poor. Her sister later became a Carmelite Nun. In 1912, at age 15, Magdalena read Gemma Galgani's biography "The Life of Gemma Galgani" written by Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P. and was greatly inspired by Gemma's fervent love for God. It was from this time that she became devoted to Gemma. [Note the picture of St Gemma on the tablestand in the background of the photograph above] She was very devoted to helping others, especially in their faith and in 1916 she organized a "Month of Mary" devotion for the children in her neighborhood and later she organised a parish catechism group. She also began to feel that she had a religious vocation.
Cured through the intercession of Saint Gemma
In 1921 at age twenty-four, Magdalena became very ill with a serious heart condition. Turning in prayer to her favorite friend in heaven, she made a Novena to Gemma (who was then officially a "servant of God") and to the great surprise of everyone she was miraculously cured through the intercession of Gemma. This cure confirmed in her a special spiritual link with Gemma and many people came to visit her to hear of her miraculous cure having heard the remarkable story of Gemma Galgani's help.
At some point thereafter she began receiving mystical visions of St Gemma, which she revealed to her spiritual director and those close to her. She would continue her fervent devotion to St Gemma Galgani throughout her life. In 1934 with the help of others she had a monumental fountain in honor of Gemma built in her hometown of Banyoles. Gemma had just recently been officially declared Blessed by Pope Pius XI.
[Photo to the left is Magdalena Aulina with Gemma Galgani's nephew during the "Pontifical Fiesta," in which the first stone was laid for the monumental fountain to Gemma.]
After her cure (but perhaps even before) she began to have mystical visions and experiences, and was seen at times to go into ecstasy. Some of the mystical visions she received included visits from St Gemma, whom according to Aulina often guided her in spiritual and material matters. Interestingly, she and others nearby would repeatedly notice a certain scent during the times when St Gemma was allegedly said to be present.
The foundations of Magdalena's Secular Religious Institute
In 1922, one year after Magdalena's cure, she founded a house in Banyoles for women workers called "Casa Nostra" (Our House). In 1926 she helped to build a church in her neighborhood and she also organized a literacy program. By 1931, some unmarried young women lived with Aulina in Banyoles fulltime, and in 1933 three of them took the first private vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
In 1941 she sent some of her religious associates to Navarre, where they continued the apostolic activities, creating the Pía Unión de Operarias Parroquiales [Pious Union of Parish Workers] now commonly known as the "Secular Institute of Parish Workers". She founded more houses in Huesca, La Rioja, and then in Valencia. In 1951 she founded a house in Rome, Italy. In 1962 the Vatican approved her religious order as an all-female secular institute on November 6, 1962, despite the resistance from some of the Catalan dioceses who were not fond of Magdalena's institute. Like most religious founders, she was not without her adversaries within and outside the Church -such is a common "cross" that most religious founders have to bear. Maddalena Aulina died a holy death on May 15, 1956. The Secular Institute of Parish workers is currently active primarily in Spain, Italy and France. The charism and mission of the Institute is for lay people to actively assist the Church in caring for and educating the poor and elderly and to to promote the Christian life in families.
Her cause for Canonisation
Magdalena Aulina currently has been declared "Venerable", and the Diocesan Process for her Beatification was officially opened on November 3, 2006. in Barcelona. See this Zenit article for more info.
Click here for an article about what 5 Popes, 3 Saints, 2 Venerables and 1 Blessed have said about Saint Gemma
-Venerable Magdalena Aulina, pray for us!