Although the Italian Republic was barely two decades old, Calabria was still a land of rugged terrain, sharecropper farmers, extreme poverty and overwhelming illiteracy. The mortality rate in the area had reached extreme levels with the median life span under 40 years. Life was hard for the people and economic/sanitary deficiencies mercilessly plagued the populations of southern Italy in general and Calabria in particular.
"Have only one single thought, one single desire, only one holy charity, only one hope: Thy Kingdom Come"
- Blessed Franceso Maria Greco, Founder
Monsignor Francesco Maria Greco was the pastor of a poor but expanding parish in Acri, in southern Italy. In 1892, he urgently petitioned several religious congregations to send Sisters to provide secular and religious education to the children of the town. When every religious community refused his request, Monsignor Greco approached a devout catechist named Raffaella DeVincenti and enlisted her assistance in starting a new religious congregation. Together, Monsignor Greco and Sister Maria Teresa DeVincenti founded the religious community known as Le Piccole Operaie dei Sacri Cuori – The Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The first "Little Workers" dedicated themselves to living a life of humble service. The first Sisters were from our Founder’s home parish in Acri and clearly understood the need to educate children – to teach them, first and foremost, about God and the Sacred Hearts and to impart critical life lessons that could lift them out of poverty and sustain them in adulthood. It was in this time and place that our congregation was tempered and tested.
From its humble beginnings in Acri, the work of our congregation spread rapidly throughout Calabria to Rome and northern and southern Italy. Founded in charity and with a particular devotion to the poor, the Congregation became actively involved in several apostolates: education (nursery school, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, university, and catechetical programs) and medical work; the staffing of orphanages and parish ministries; social work; and the care of the aged and infirm in hospitals and nursing homes.
The congregation of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts was approved by the Holy See as a “Pontifical Institute” in July 1940.
In October 1948, nine Sisters left Calabria to begin a new apostolic mission in the United States. They came specifically to Stamford, Connecticut to expand their catechetical work, namely the formal education and spiritual development of young children and adolescents. Initially, the Sisters worked in the chanceries of Ukrainian bishops along the east coast. Amid these activities, there was one thing about which the Sisters were adamant.
In addition to Connecticut, the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts have gone on to establish preschools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, DC, and Riverdale, Maryland. Internationally, they have opened convents across Italy and established missionary houses, schools and novitiates in Argentina, Albania, and India.
On May 21, 2016, Monsignor Francesco Maria Greco was beatified by Pope Francis. Our Founder was particularly recognized by the Pope for his kindness and love to the people of Calabria.With two additional miracles under review, we pray for the canonization of Blessed Francesco Maria Greco in the near future. We continue to work on the beatification and ultimate canonization of Mother Maria Teresa DeVincenti.