Maria Assunta Pallotta was born to a working-class family in Italy. By the time she was eleven, she was helping to support her siblings. But all the while, she dreamed of a religious vocation. When she was in her late teens, with support from her parish priest, she entered the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, traveling to the motherhouse in Rome. There, and in subsequent assignments, she joyfully embraced all duties, no matter how menial. She was especially happy to be assigned to farm work, caring for chickens, goats and pigs. In a letter to her parents, she explained her sense of mission:
“I ask the Lord for the grace to make known to the world purity of intention – which consists in doing everything for the love of God, even the most ordinary actions.”
Eventually, she would travel to the far side of the earth. It was only a few years since several members of her order in China had faced martyrdom during the Boxer uprising. Maria was eager to replace them. In February 1904, soon after taking her final vows, she received the joyous confirmation of her new assignment. Almost immediately, she departed for China, arriving during a particularly extreme winter. Yet only a year later, she was stricken with typhus. She died on April 7, 1905.
In 1954, she became the first non-martyr missionary sister to be beatified.