Mother Thecla Merlo: The Whole World Fit in Her Heart

What goes through your mind when you wake up? Your to-do list? Your calendar? An upcoming meeting? A conversation you had last night? The real problems in our world, in our Church, in your family, in your heart?

As hard as I try, these things are often on my mind when I wake up in the morning. There are always things to do, meetings to attend, emails to answer, places to go…and people to worry about.

I have found myself thinking lately about Mother Thecla, the first Daughter of St. Paul, and what must have been on her mind when she woke up in the morning. Mother Thecla met Blessed James Alberione, the Founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, in 1915. He asked her to join him in the adventure of founding a community of religious women dedicated to “the good press” (later to be known as evangelization through all forms of media). Sounds appealing, right? But the first thing that Mother Thecla and her small group of young women did was… sew uniforms for the soldiers entering World War I! Something very different.

Blessed Alberione asked Mother Thecla to guide the foundation and formation of the Daughters of St. Paul, and later of the other congregations he founded. She supervised the opening of countless communities, in Italy and throughout the world. She maintained contact with all of these communities, guiding them as they sought to begin the Pauline mission in new contexts. She prayed, worried, and hoped through both World War I and World War II.

I’m sure Mother Thecla must have often woken up worried about a community in need, or about a sister’s health, or about how she was going to find enough money for one project or another. I’m sure that there were some days when her to-do list was in the forefront of her mind, or when she had to go to a meeting that she was dreading. I’m sure that some days these worries and preoccupations and distractions overcame her.

But these days, when I ask Mother Thecla what she did in those situations, I am reminded of something she used to repeat to the sisters: The good God is so good. This is not just a superficial response to combat distractions, difficulties, or problems. This comes from Mother Thecla’s deep conviction that God is in control and that she has a part to play. Beyond what she didn’t know how to do, beyond her worry for all the sisters and all the communities, beyond the problems she faced, she was convinced of the goodness of God and the goodness of her call.

Mother Thecla’s wisdom helps me in the overwhelming moments of my day-to-day, as well as when I feel overwhelmed by the greater problems or crises in my family, in the Church, or in society. I also have a call, and that call is good. I also have a God, and that God is good. And so do you. You have a call, and that call is good. You have a God, and that God is good. I am praying for you, and so is Mother Thecla! The good God is so good!

“The Lord loves me. He arranges everything for my good: even the things I don’t like are always for my good. The Lord thinks of me continually; he wants to help and can help me. He has promised this and he will keep that promise.” (Mother Thecla Merlo)

Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP