Maria Sagheddu was born in 1914 in Dorgali, on the east coast of Sardinia, into a family of shepherds. When she was growing up she was said to be obstinate, critical, protesting and rebellious, but with a strong sense of duty, loyalty and obedience. By the time she was eighteen, however, she had become a thoughtful and gentle person, and she wanted to give herself entirely to the will of God.
When she was twenty-one she entered the Trappestine monastery in the relatively poor community of Grottaferrata. As a novice, she was worried that she might be sent away, but after her profession the new Sister Maria Gabriella felt herself called to give herself totally to the Lord: “My life is of no value…. I can offer it in peace.”
The monastery had a particular concern for the unity of the Church. Maria Gabriella felt immediately involved and compelled to offer her young life. “I feel the Lord is calling me” – she confided to her abbess – “I feel urged, even when I don’t want to think about it”.
In face of the laceration of the Body of Christ she was ready to offer her own body, and only two years after she had entered the monastery, she contracted tuberculosis. She died on the evening of 23 April 1939 after fifteen months of suffering.
Her body, found intact on the occasion of her veneration in 1957, now rests in a chapel adjoining the Trappestine monastery of Our Lady of St. Joseph in Vitorchiano, where the community of Grottaferrata had transferred.
She was beatified by John Paul II on 25 January 1983 on the feast of the Conversion of St Paul, the last day of the week of prayer for Christian Unity.