25.12.1824 – 17.071907
A brief biography.
Carolina Cauchi was born in Senglea on the 25th December 1824, the only child of the Notary Nicolò Cauchi, from Victoria, Gozo and Theresa née Galea from Senglea, Malta.
The family Cauchi took up residence in Senglea for a period of time; however Nicolò worked in Gozo and travelled back and forth from Victoria to Senglea. His work load being on the increase, Nicolò transferred his family to Victoria, Gozo where they took up residence at the zone known as San George tal-Hagar.
The family Cauchi was affluent, therefore Carolina was sent off to school to continue her education, in spite of the fact that at the time girls received little education. Carolina learned to write Italian well and she knew Latin as well. Above all she received an optimal Christian upbringing.
Carolina and Fortunata
Since childhood Carolina nurtured a desire to dedicate her whole life to God. She strengthened her desire on meeting her cousin Fortunata Spiteri, who had similar desires. Fortunata was also the only child of Isidoro Spiteri from Victoria, Gozo and Maria Anna nee Libreri. The family Spiteri had been residing in Valletta City for a period of time, in the Saint Dominic’s Parish. Fortunata was quite familiar with the Dominicans and with the help of certain Dominican priests she felt drawn to the Dominican ideal.
Solicitor Isidoro’s increase in his work load led him to decide to move with his family to Victoria, Gozo. Carolina and Fortunata, although with a difference of seven years of age between them, it did not take them long to become close friends. However theirs was not a common friendship. Both of them had decided to consecrate their life to the Lord. On the 15th October 1851, Fortunata thus wrote to Carolina: “My dear sister, yes pray without ceasing until you obtain for me the grace of seeing the will of God accomplished in both of us by being espoused to Him through Solemn Profession, and thus being one with Him we will go to bless the Holy One towards whom our work tends. Praised be Jesus our Eternal Spouse. Praised be Mary Our Mother. Praised be Our Father Saint Dominic.”
Fortunata passed on to Carolina the spirit of Saint Dominic which she received
from the Dominican priests. Thus both of them looked at Saint Dominic as their
spiritual Father. Both of them experienced great thirst for the love of God and
like Saint Dominic they talked only about God and with God. Saint Dominic’s
motto “Veritas” stood out in their life. They delighted only in Jesus Christ and
His teaching. They made their own the Dominican motto “Contemplata aliis
tradere” – giving to others the fruit of contemplation.
They were not attached to material goods. Inspired by Saint Dominic’s spirit of poverty and his virtue of compassion they helped the suffering and the poor. Above all they financially helped the Church in Gozo to be officially recognized as a Diocese.
Desire to live a contemplative life
There was no monastery of Dominican contemplative life in Malta, Gozo, therefore they wished to go to Italy. But between 1851 and 1862 the idea of Fortunata and Carolina leaving their country was modified as shown in two letters which they wrote to the Archbishop of Malta – Mgr Alessandro Franchi. Both promised to have a monastery of nuns built out of their own funds. Originally it was Fortunata’s parents who came up with the idea of a monastery of nuns. After their death Fortunata wished to carry out their desire, with Carolina’s support and help.
Carolina loses a dear cousin and friend
After three months from the installation of the Gozitan Diocese, during the
night of 15-16th December 1864 Fortunata fell ill and died at the age of
thirty-two. Fortunata’s sudden death was a great blow for Carolina, because she
not only lost her best friend, but also the person who inspired her and who was
working with her for the foundation of a Dominican Monastery.
Doubtless Carolina went through a dark period. But the priest Fr Peter Pace, Vicar General of the Diocese of Gozo encouraged her and kept alive in her the hope that when the time comes the monastery for the Diocese would one day become a reality.
She had a great devotion to Saint Dominic and she entrusted to him the hope that the final difficulties for the erection of a Dominican monastery in Gozo would be overcome.
A monastery of Dominican contemplative nuns
A great light appeared for Carolina at the beginning of 1872. She found herself mistress of all she possessed. She had inherited great wealth and she finally could realize in a concrete way what she had promised Archbishop Alessandro Franchi ten years earlier – the building and foundation of a Dominican monastery. The formal agreement for the foundation of the nuns was signed at the Bishop’s Palace on the 21st September, feast of Saint Matthew, before Bishop Peter Pace and the notary Aloisio Calleja Pace.
Doubtless this date was purposely chosen by Carolina because Saint Dominic always carried with him Matthew’s Gospel together with the letters of Saint Paul.
The thought of a monastery for contemplative nuns “meaning enclosed and totally separated from the world” had always prevailed in Carolina’s mind. She desired the nuns to be free from the distractions of the world so that their minds would be set completely on God, while they interceded for sinners. She must certainly have been impressed by the way Saint Dominic prayed, sighing before God and praying to Him, “Lord, what will become of sinners?”
Bishop Peter Pace worked very hard to obtain the necessary permissions, because
contemplative nuns used to depend directly on the Pope.
The laying of the foundation stone took place on the 1st May 1885 at the beginning of the month dedicated to Our Lady of Pompei. The ceremony started with a talk by Fr Vincent Borg, Dominican Prior at the convent of Our Lady of the Grotto, Rabat. He spoke about the great works of Saint Dominic and praised the nobility of the project.
First community of Maltese Dominican sisters
The first Dominican community consisting of 9 women was born on the 6th October
1889, feast of Our lady of the Rosary. These women after taking part in the
procession returned to the monastery and started to live as contemplative nuns.
However until this community was formally recognized and accepted by the
Dominican Order in August 1893 the ideal was modified and they started to be
known as a community of the Dominican Third Order.
Caroline knew how to use the material goods she possessed for the glory of God and the good of humanity. She lived the spirit of poverty after the example of Our Mother Mary and Saint Dominic.
Littleness and worked great things for her
Carolina, who was almost sixty-five when the monastery was founded, did not
interfere in any way with the administration of the Congregation which she had
founded. She had a very good relationship with the Sisters. At the beginning she
frequently visited the Sisters but she never stayed at the monastery.
During the summer she would often invite the Sisters for a vacation at her holiday house in Xlendi. She was pleased to see the Congregation growing in number and progressing in the apostolate. In fact she confirmed her former dispositions in favour of the Monastery.
Carolina’s last years
Carolina spent the last years of her life almost completely retired at her home. If she would have so desired, Carolina could have taken up residence at the Monastery of the Annunciation as it was called, where the Sisters would have taken good care of her. However she chose to remain at home so that she would leave the Sisters free for prayer and the apostolate. Languishing from the illness which had overtaken her years earlier, but calm and always with a smile on her face, Carolina went to meet God the Father on the 17th July 1907 at the age of eighty-two. Carolina Cauchi will always be remembered as Benefactress and Foundress of the Dominican Sisters of Malta.
Source: Internet; speech of Mother General honouring the first century of Caroline Caughi’s death, 2007.
The portrait of sister Caroline Caughi,
and the front of the monastery.
Malta 2007, Mi 1554, Sc - .
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