During the thirties, the threat of war had become ever more ominous, until World War II erupted in Europe on September 1, 1939. Those years were extremely difficult for the Italian Daughters of St. Paul. Mother Paula and the sisters in the United States were aware that their sisters in Italy were suffering privation, and took every opportunity they could find to send to Italy medicines and other supplies. A line in a 1941 letter of Prima Maestra Thecla says much: “We hope that this war will end soon. We so greatly need it to end!” She thanked the sisters for everything they had sent.
After the Allied invasion of Italy, word reached the sisters that some Italian prisoners of war were quartered at a military base on Staten Island. Maestra Paula felt so sorry for them, since they were away from home, that she managed to persuade the captain to let the prisoners come every Sunday for lunch at our convent in Staten Island. They served the prisoners a real Italian dinner with spaghetti, chicken, lettuce, ice cream and also some wine. The soldiers were able to stay there the whole day. Sixty to one hundred twenty men would eat at trestle tables set up next to the porch, while the officers were served inside. They assisted at Mass, heard a sermon in their own language, had the opportunity to go to confession and Communion, to enjoy the beautiful grounds, to think, to talk to God, and to enjoy the company of their fellow soldiers against the quiet backdrop of a convent. One of the men reciprocated the kindness by painting St. Paul in chains, as a gift to the community. (It now hangs above the inner entrance to the Boston chapel.)
Word got around that the sisters were entertaining Italian prisoners of war, and people donated food to help out. This continued until the war ended and the prisoners were released. The sisters also visited POW camps that were farther away, bringing the officers and men reading material in Italian.
World War II was still in progress when the sisters decided to open their second foundation in the United States in a city where the Society of St Paul was already established: Youngstown, Ohio.
When they first arrived in Youngstown, Sr. Sabina Meneghelli and Sr Anthony Collela took up residence in an abandoned high school that had been donated as their first convent, and they cooked and cleaned for the Society of St. Paul and their forty candidates. As more sisters arrived for the community, they began door-to-door evangelization and opened the first Book Center in the United States. The Youngstown center enabled the sisters to meet more young women interested in the Pauline life.
In the years immediately following the end of the war, sisters were sent from the Motherhouse in Italy to the United States. Among them was Sr. Teresa Mary Musso who had come to help begin the bindery in the United States. Soon after her arrival, she spent a few days in a factory to learn about American bindery machines. She then began her work in the sisters’ small bindery at the Benziger Estate, which housed a paperback, a cutter, a sewing machine, a folder and later a gilding press.