Constanza Troiani was born in Italy in 1813. At the age of six, following her mother’s death, she was entrusted to the Franciscan Sisters of Ferentino. At sixteen, in the convent in which she was raised, she was accepted as a novice, taking the name Sr. Mary Catherine of St. Rose of Viterbo.
Many years passed. One day, a visiting priest just back from Egypt spoke of the need of sisters is Cairo. Mary Catherine, who had always yearned to be a missionary, won permission from her convent to accept this challenge and with five other sisters departed for Cairo. Once there – the first Italian sisters in Egypt – they set about learning Arabic and embarked on care for the poor, opening an orphanage that welcomed children of all races and religious backgrounds.
Yet, her convent had considered this a temporary mission, and when the sisters were instructed to return, they faced a dilemma. Choosing to sever ties with their congregation, they received a permission from Rome to establish a new congregation: the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Egypt. Along with their previous work, Mother Mary Catherine, known widely as “Mother of the poor,” fearlessly took up the antislavery cause. Asked by a sister during an outbreak of cholera whether anything frightened her, she replied,
“My dear, only a lack of faith frightens me.”
Her passing, on May 6, 1887, was mourned throughout Cairo by Christians and Muslims alike. She was beatified in 1985.