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Sr.Giulia Berra

Died on October 8, 1968 at Turin-Cavoretto

Sr. Giulia was born at Genoa, Italy on July 24, 1883 and died at Villa Salus, Turin on October 8, 1968 at the age of eighty-five, after sixty-two years of Religious life. She is included in the list of the missionaries of the NorthEast because she did spend four years of intense activities at Guwahati, Assam.

Early in life Giulia lost her father and her mother, though a saintly woman was rather sickly. After her father’s death the family shifted to Turin, near the famous shrine of Our Lady of Concolata. One day after a fleeting visit to the Church, she found her very seriously ill and was dying. Giulia and her sister were now left alone with a tutor who took charge of them.

On October 12. 1902. When she was nineteen, she went as a student to Nizza Monferrato. That evening she met a missionary who was on the point of departure for the missions. From now on, Giulia’s heart too, was set for the missions.

On April 3, 1904 she became a postulant and made her Profession on September 17, 1906. Sr. Giulia was sent to University at Parma to complete her studies but had to return to Turin because of ill health.

At Turin Don Rinaldi was her confessor, nay more a father to her. He encouraged her to start a coaching class for poor girls of 12-13, many of whom were working already in the factories and had no chance of studying. She developed the Oratory with marvellous entertainments, gymnastics, marches, theatrical displays and catechetical competitions.

When she came to India as a pioneer in 1923, she was already 40. Her old Oratorians were inconsolable. Once in Guwahati, she started her visits from village to village, overcoming the language barrier by taking a catechist with her. As soon as the Sisters admitted some orphans, she took charge of them and gave them games and gymnastics to make them happy. She used wooden boxes to build up a ramshackle school and made benches and cupboards with boxes likewise.

Sr. Giulia was not physically strong. She was weak. Sr. Da Roit said of her: “It was only her zeal that lent wings to her feet.” The heat of Guwahati was oppressive and she found it hard to stand; yet it was she who nursed Sr. Bricarello, when she contracted small pox, and was isolated in a hut, in the convent playground. In 1927 she went to Italy to accompany a Sister and seeing her, the Superiors did not have the heart to send her back. However, Guwahati and the missions remained imbedded in her heart. An inscription “Jesu ki barai” hang close to her bed and was ever happy to receive visitors and news from her beloved mission field. She offered her prayers and her life for the missions and the Lord accepted all and rewarded her on October 8, 1968.