Meet this newly beatified wife, mother, widow and foundress who sheltered pregnant women

Maria Lorenza Longo

After Our Lady of Loreto obtained her healing, Blessed Maria Llong devoted herself to the poor.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Llorenca Llong was born in Lieida, Spain, in 1463. Born as Maria de la Estirpe, she was the daughter of the noble Requences family and a descendant of a famous Spanish navy captain. In 1483 she married the prosperous lawyer Juan Llong, a friend of Ferdinand II, the Catholic king of Aragon.

During her early married life, tragedy struck young Maria. An angry servant, obsessing over how Maria had scolded him for an infraction of his duties, poisoned her by pouring a deadly mix into her wine glass during a family celebration. The servant failed in killing her, but Maria suffered intense pain and wound up paralyzed, unable to walk.

In 1506, King Ferdinand appointed Maria’s husband, Juan, as the Viceroy of Naples. Despite her condition, she and Juan moved to Naples. But Juan Llong died suddenly in 1509, leaving Maria with three children to raise. She was only 43 years old.

Possessing a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Maria decided to make a pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy. Today it takes close to four hours to make the journey by car. Maria had to be carried on a litter with three young children in her care. But she was sure Our Lady would help her.

Maria arrived in Loreto and attended Mass.  While saying prayers of thanksgiving, she experienced a complete cure for her paralysis. She just knew that the Blessed Mother had interceded for her and believed it was a sign from Jesus to devote herself to Him and all of mankind.

Soon after, she put on the habit of a Third Order Franciscan and began calling herself Maria Lorenza. Many thought she took that name because of her devotion to St. Lawrence, who was so devoted to the poor. Nothing can confirm that. But she did return to Naples, arranged for her children to be cared for, and began going about the city helping the sick and the poor the best she could.

In 1519, as a Franciscan tertiary, she established a hospital called  Santa Maria del Popolo and also founded a house to care for prostitutes. She dreamed of starting a convent and calling it Santa Maria in Gerasalamme. It would follow the efficiency and austerity of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare. Her goal was to stay as simple and as humble as possible.This was in 1526.

The noted philanthropist, Ettore Vernazza, joined forces with Maria in Naples. They combined their resources and built Santa Maria del Popolo dei Incurabili (Hospital of the Incurables). This facility, meant to treat those with chronic and incurable illnesses such as syphilis. It had a pharmacy, housed a research lab, and provided accommodations for patients’ relatives. Before long, doctors were coming from all over Europe to get the drugs sold there and review the ideas brought to life at this place.

Following Matteo da Bascio, the founder of the Capuchin monks, Maria started a new order called the Capuchin Poor Clares. Similar to the monks, the nuns wore a simple brown tunic with a cord at the waist and a short cape. Members became known as Capuchinesses. Maria wanted to start the order along the lines of St. Clare of Assisi by following a similar plan as used by St. Clare back in 1212. Maria chose as her spiritual director, St. Cajetan.

Maria’s devotion to her patients was so great that she moved into the hospital to be near them. After a time, services were offered for pregnant women. Sister proclaimed, “Any woman, rich or poor, patrician or plebian, indigenous or foreign, while pregnant, may knock on our door and it will be opened.” Many women were saved because of the expert Caesarean sections perfomed by the hospital’s doctors.

Sister Maria sought papal approval for her new order and on February 19, 1538, Pope Paul III, issued his approval. The official founding was done on December 10, 1538. In addition to the founding, numerous papal privileges were given from Pope Leo X,  Pope Adrian VI, and Pope Paul IV.

Sister Maria Llorenca Llong passed away on December 12, 1539. She was 76 years old. She was declared Blessed Maria Lloorenca Requenses Llong on October 9, 2021 in Naples, Italy by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro by the authority of Pope Francis.

Blessed Maria Llorenca Llong, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019


Born paralyzed, this future Saint became a Media Celebrity at the age of 57. Meet Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo

Venerable Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo
public domain

By Larry Peterson

Gaetana Tolomeo was born in Catanzaro, in Italy’s Calabria region, on Good Friday, April 10, 1936. Father Teodoro Diaco baptized her on July 12, 1936, in the local Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. This was quite providential since baby Gaetana would devote her life to prayer and hold a Rosary in her hand for her entire life. As time passed by, she became known to everyone as “Nuccia.”

Nuccia suffered from a progressive and deforming paralysis that attacked her when she was just a small child. It stunted her growth, leaving her disabled. Her parents took her to local doctors, but they were unable to help the youngster. They also had a sickly son, Giuliano, who was born on October 30, 1940. He would die sometime in 1944, but between Nuccia and Giuliano, they had been through a  heartwrenching and challenging time. Now it was just eight-year-old Nuccia, but circumstances seemed no better.

With no local help available, they sent Nuccia to an aunt in Cuneo for medical assistance. However, doctors in Cuneo were unable to help, and after a short time, she returned home. As time passed, Nuccia’s condition worsened, and she became confined to either her bed or a chair.

The Holy Spirit was indeed working within her because Nuccia never felt sorry for herself. Instead, she embraced her illness and the suffering that came with it as a way to reach the hearts of those that were living sinful lives. It was not long before she began to draw pilgrims who were coming to her for advice. These included priests, nuns, and laypeople. And they were coming for words of wisdom from a disabled woman with a fourth-grade education. They, too, must have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when they approached her.

Nuccia saw in her illness a way to participate in the Passion of Jesus. She even alluded to this in her spiritual writings. The people that came to see Nuccia noticed that Nuccia always clasped a rosary in her hands. She also attended Eucharistic Adoration as often as possible. And she managed to become a part of CatholicAction, formed in the 19th century to counter anti-Catholicism.

In 1994, Nuccia began to be a guest on the local radio station, Radio Maria. Her primary objective was to spread the Gospel message to the suffering with whom she could identify. Those that were drug addicts, prostitutes, and the needy, especially families, going through financial struggles. Her program became very popular. She began to be heard on “Il Fratello,” a program where folks called in with problems, and Nuccia would answer their questions. The host, Federico Quaglini, would ask her spiritual questions. Nuccia, a great devotee of a St. Pio of Pietrelcina, would answer them.

Gaetana “Nuccia” Tolomeo suffered a pulmonary embolism and was admitted to the hospital. She was given blood transfusions, but her health continued to decline. She passed away on January 24, 1997, at the age of sixty. The following morning Radio Maria announced her death to thousands of listeners. Sadness at her loss and Joy in her life was the theme of the day.

This is the Easter message given by Nuccia in 1995: “… In his infinite mercy and wisdom, the Lord has prepared a weak body for me, for the triumph of his power of love … I praise and bless the Lord for the cross, of which he adorned me, because by crucifying my flesh, he also crucified my thoughts, my affections, my desires, and even my will, to make me his welcome abode, his satisfaction, his living tabernacle. Thanks to the cross of Christ, today, I can affirm with the apostle Paul ‘It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives and works in me.’ 

Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo was declared a woman of “heroic virtue” on April 6, 2019. She now wears the title of Venerable, and a miracle attributed to her has been approved. A date for her beatification will soon be announced.

Venerable Gaetana “Nucci” Tolomeo, please pray for us.

copyright©LarryPeterson 2020