Rosa Venerini was born into the family of a successful doctor at Viterbo in Italy. She was one of four children to Goffredo and Maria. Following the death of her fiancé, in 1676 she entered the Dominican convent, but soon returned home to care for her newly widowed mother. Meanwhile, Rosa invited the women of the neighborhood to recite the rosary in her home, forming a small community with them. She then dedicated herself to the instruction and Christian formation of ordinary young women through the establishment of a system of schools.
She was a born teacher, and her first “Public School for Girls” opened in 1685. The initial stages were not easy. The three teachers had to face resistance from the clergy – who considered the teaching of the catechism as their private office – and the criticism of the traditionalists who were scandalized by the boldness of this upper class woman who had taken to heart the education of ignorant girls.
Rosa continued to meet considerable opposition but was never deterred. From 1692 to 1694 she opened ten schools. She did not impose on herself or her sisters long vocal prayers, but recommended that the life of the teacher, in the practice of the precious education ministry, be a continuous speaking with God, of God and for God.
Rosa Venerini died in 1728. She had founded more than forty schools. She was beatified in 1952 and canonized by Benedict XVI in 2006.
The sodality, or group of women she had invited to prayer, was ultimately given the rank of a religious congregation called the Venerini Sisters. Today they can be found in the United States, Switzerland, India, Brazil, Cameroon, Romania, Albania, Chile, Venezuela and Nigeria.