Chronology of her life

Infancy, Youth, Vocation

1894 - 1915

  • 20 February 1894
    Maria Teresa Merlo, the daughter of Ettore Merlo and Vincenza Rolando, is born in Castagnito (Cuneo), Italy. She was the second of four children.

  • 22 February 1894
    She is baptized in Castagnito’s parish church, St. John the Baptist, by the pastor, Fr. Pietro Palladino. Godparents: Leone Merlo and Margherita Rava Rolando.
  • 1901-1903
    Completes grades 1-3 in Castagnito’s elementary school. Since the village school does not offer any higher education, her parents arrange for her to continue her studies privately under teacher Maria Chiarla.
  • 23 April 1902
    Makes her first communion in Castagnito’s parish church.
  • 29 September 1907
    Is confirmed in Castagnito’s parish church by Bishop Giuseppe Francesco Re (1848-1933), Bishop of the Alba Diocese. Godmother: Mrs. Carolina Zocca Barbero.
  • c 1908-1911
    Attends sewing and embroidery classes in an institute in Alba known as “Ritiro della Providenza,” run by the Sisters of St. Anne. Afterward, is sent by her parents to Turin to complete her training as a seamstress.
  • 19 March 1912
    Writes to her parents from Susa. There is no information as to whether or not she had ever been there before.
  • c 1912
    Opens a small sewing and embroidery school for girls in her parents’ home in Castagnito. Not only teaches her students how to sew but also helps them develop their prayer life.
  • 15 June 1915
    Fr. Alberione opens a “Workshop for Young Women” in Piazza Cherasca, no. 2, Alba–a building vacated by the boys of his “Typographical School”, who had transferred their headquarters to Moncarretto on 5 May. 15 June marks the birth of the Daughters of St. Paul. The first person to collaborate with the Founder in this initiative is Miss Angela Boffi.
  • 27 June 1915
    Teresa meets Fr. James Alberione in the sacristy of Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church, Alba. In 1961, M. Thecla would write: “My mother, who accompanied me [to the meeting with Fr. Alberione], said that I could stay fifteen days. Those fifteen days have not ended yet.”

Beginnings of the Daughters of St. Paul

1915-1922

  • 29 June 1915
    Teresa moves into Angela Boffi’s home in Alba in order to collaborate with her in Fr. Alberione’s project. In 1923, M. Thecla would write of her first companion: “That day we had a long talk together; we understood each other, came to an agreement and began to love each other as true sisters.” In the division of duties, Teresa takes over the management of the “Workshop for Young Women” and the small book and religious articles shop that was opened towards the end of the year.
  • Autumn 1915
    The young women’s workshop and living quarters are transferred to a new location: Via Accademia, 5.
  • 15 September 1915
    Entrance of Clelia Calliano, the third member of the community.
  • August 1915-1918
    In Alba, Teresa and her companions frequent the Catechetical League attached to Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church. There they attend the religious education courses organized by Canon Francesco Chiesa (1874-1946) and also teach catechism in the parish. They participate in the annual spiritual exercises and in the monthly retreats organized for the group. Starting in 1916, these courses of spiritual exercises are preached by Fr. James Alberione.
  • 29 June 1916
    Teresa makes her private temporary vows in the hands of Fr. Alberione.
  • 6 August 1916
    Teresa takes the written examination for catechism teachers.
  • 12 November 1916
    Works as a catechism teacher in Sts. Cosmas and Damian parish–a service she carried out until the end of 1918, when she left for Susa.
  • 13 March 1917
    13-year-old Emilia Bianco (later known as Maestra Clelia) enters as the Congregation’s first “aspirant”.
  • 15 October 1918
    Meeting between Fr. Alberione and Bishop Giuseppe Castelli of Susa to discuss the relaunching of the weekly diocesan newspaper, “The Valsusa.”
  • 22 October 1918
    Clelia Calliano dies, offering her life for the Good Press and for the future Congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul.
  • 27 October 1918
    Teresa takes the oral examinations for catechists.
  • 18 December 1918
    Leaves Alba for Susa (Turin) with three young girls: Emilia Bianco, Mariuccia Prinotti and Caterina Petean. Angela Boffi, the young woman in charge of the community, had left for Susa two days earlier with the Pauline seminarian Bartolomeo Marcellino. In Susa, Teresa’s role is that of “assistant.” In 1961, M. Thecla would write: “The Theologian [Fr. Alberione] told us: ‘You will remain [in Susa] for 3 or 4 years, working in silence. Then the Lord will do something with you.”
  • 12 November 1919
    Fire breaks out in the community’s residence in Susa. For two weeks, the young women are guests of the Third Order Franciscans and then of the “Casa della Beneficenza.”
  • 22 July 1922
    Together with eight other women, Teresa makes her private religious profession and takes the name of Maestra Thecla. With this act, the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul is initiated. On this occasion, Fr. Alberione appoints Teresa Superior General of the Daughters of St. Paul for a period of 12 years.


Years of the “House”

1922-1929

  • 4 November 1922
    Angela Boffi leaves the community of the Daughters of St. Paul.
  • 12 March 1923
    Maestra Thecla hands over the “St. Paul Book Shop” in Susa to Mr. Enrico Piazza.
  • 23 March 1923
    The small Susa community returns definitively to Alba and joins forces with the community of Daughters of St. Paul that had been established in Alba during their absence.
  • 1923-1924
    M. Thecla writes down some of her remembrances about the beginnings of the Daughters of St. Paul. On the basis of these notes, a series of articles are written and printed in the Pauline Cooperators’ Bulletin (UCBS) between June 1923 and April 1925.
  • 10 February 1924
    Fr. Alberione initiates the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. Following the Decree of Diocesan Approval (1929), M. Thecla becomes Superior General of this group too until 25 March 1947.
  • 16 January 1926
    M. Thecla sends a group of young sisters, under the guidance of Maestra Amalia Peyrolo, to open a community in Rome. Two days earlier, on 14 January, two other Daughters of St. Paul, as well as a group of boys of the Society of St. Paul led by Fr. Timothy Giaccardo, had already left for the same destination.
  • 20 October 1926
    Death of Angela Boffi. In tears, M. Thecla communicates the news to another sister, saying: “I owe so much to Maestra Boffi.”
  • May 1927
    M. Thecla visits (perhaps for the first time) the FSP community of Rome.
  • 30 October 1928
    Together with other sisters, M. Thecla puts on for the first time the religious garments that will become the habit of the Daughters of St. Paul.
  • 5 November 1928
    The Congregation’s first branch house is opened in Salerno to carry out the apostolate of diffusion. In the same month, the FSP communities of Bari and Verona are also opened. M. Thecla personally accompanies the founding sisters and helps them get started. These are her first apostolic trips.
  • 5 February 1929
    Goes to Cagliari to help the sisters open a community there.
  • 15 March 1929
    Bishop Giuseppe Francesco Re approves the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul as a Congregation of Diocesan Right. In the decree, M. Thecla is recognized as the Institute’s Superior General, with the title of Prima Maestra.
  • 19 March 1929
    Together with her four councilors, M. Thecla makes her public perpetual religious profession in the hands of the Founder, the delegate of Bishop Giuseppe Francesco Re. She thus becomes qualified to receive the vows of the sisters.

First Foundations in Italy and Abroad

1929-1939

  • 26 December 1929
    M. Thecla sends her first circular letter to the communities of the Daughters of St. Paul.
  • June 1931
    Goes to Messina to help the sisters open a community there.
  • 21 October 1931
    First FSP foundation outside Italy made in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • 31 December 1931
    In Alba, the Daughters of St. Paul published the first issue of the magazine Famiglia Cristiana under the direction of Sr. Rosa Capra, FSP.
  • 4 February 1932
    Fr. Alberione divides material goods (property) and areas of apostolate between the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul.
  • 29 November 1932
    M. Thecla draws up her will, leaving everything she possesses to the Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul.
  • November 1933
    In Alba, the Daughters of St. Paul move from their house next door to the Society of St. Paul to their new residence in Borgo Piave, which will become their Motherhouse.
  • 1 January 1934
    Publication of the Congregation’s internal news bulletin, Eco di Casa Madre (Echoes from the Motherhouse), is begun. The Bulletin will make available to the sisters in the local communities the writings of the Founder, of M. Thecla, and news about the Congregation.

  • November 1934
    In a circular letter, M. Thecla urges the Daughters of St. Paul to work for the spread of the League for the Daily Reading of the Gospel.
  • December 1935
    In keeping with the Founder's advice, M. Thecla introduces the rule of mandatory periodical correspondence between the sisters and the Superior General. According to this rule, all the sisters are to write to the Superior General for Christmas and for the Feast of St. Paul.
  • 26 March 1936
    M. Thecla leaves from Genoa on the ship “Augustus” for her first trip abroad: a visit to the FSP communities of Brazil and Argentina. Returns by ship to Genoa on 27 August 1936.

  • 11 November 1936
    M. Thecla moves the FSP Generalate to Rome and with her.
  • 28 January 1937
    Leaves on the steamship “Rex” for a visit to the FSP community of New York, USA. Returns to Rome on 6 March 1937.
  • 10 March 1937
    Transfers the novitiate and the group of FSPs studying philosophy and theology from Alba to Rome.
  • April 1937
    M. Thecla publishes in Eco di Casa Madre the program drawn up by the Founder concerning the foundation of the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Accompanies the article with a few words of personal exhortation.
  • 1938
    Although in poor health, M. Thecla spends a period of time in Genzano (Rome) with the Pastorelle Sisters who are beginning their journey as an Institute.
  • August 1938
    Writes a circular letter to the Daughters of St. Paul concerning the spirit of adaptation and universality that should characterize them.
  • 13 June 1939
    Writes to Fr. Alberione regarding her opinion of “three different apostolic sectors” (the press, liturgical and pastoral apostolates) in a single Congregation, informing him as to the concrete results of this situation when lived on a daily basis (J. Alberione, Lettere a Maestra Tecla Merlo [LMT], FSP Generalate, Rome, 1986, p. 79, Letter n. 53).

Sister and Mother

1939-1947

  • 9 March 1941
    Death of M. Thecla’s father, Ettore Merlo.

  • August 1941
    Spends a period of time in reflection and prayer in Alba (LMT 60).
  • 8 September 1941
    On the Founder’s advice, convokes the Congregation’s superiors for a special course of spiritual exercises. Scope of the course: spiritual renewal.
  • 28 January 1942
    Asks the Sacred Congregation for Religious to grant the Institute of the Daughters of St. Paul pontifical approval and the Decretum Laudis.
  • 8 September 1943
    Heavy bombing over Grottaferrata (Rome), location of an FSP community. M. Thecla, who happened to be staying there at the moment, is miraculously saved, together with the sisters of the community.
  • 21 October 1943
    Welcomes into the FSP Generalate in Rome the Benedictine nuns who, because of the war, were forced to abandon their monastery of Santa Scholastica in Cassino. The nuns remained with the Daughters of St. Paul until 18 August 1944.
  • 9 July 1945
    M. Thecla signs a petition asking the Holy See to recognize the Pious Disciples as an autonomous Institute.
  • 17 July 1945
    Writes to the Daughters of St. Paul: “The Lord’s care for us and our belongings [during the war] was linked to [the Founder’s] promise to build a church in honor of the Queen of Apostles in Rome.” Urges everyone to collaborate with the building’s construction.
  • November 1945
    Is forced to decrease her workload due to bad health.
  • 28 December 1945
    Leaves from Naples with the Founder on the ship “Andrea Gritti” for a visit to the communities of the USA. From there goes on to Argentina and Brazil. On the return trip, again by ship, stops over once again in the United States. Returns to Rome on 23 May 1946.
  • November 1946
    In a circular letter, recommends that the Daughters of St. Paul, and in particular the propagandists, open and close the apostolic day with a moment of prayer centered on assimilation of the Word of God. Refers to this prayer as “The Itinerary of the Daughter of St. Paul.”
  • 18 January 1947
    Death of M. Thecla’s mother, Vincenza Rolando Merlo. On the same day, the Daughters of St. Paul begin the cinema apostolate in collaboration with the Society of St. Paul.

  • 3 April 1947
    Bishop Luigi Grassi approves the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master as a Congregation of Diocesan Right.

Missionary Zeal and Travels

1948-1957

  • 2 September 1948
    Opens a health-care community (clinic) for the Daughters of St. Paul at Albano, Italy.

  • December 1948
    Writes an important circular letter on poverty, the foundation of the Pauline religious life.
  • 3 April 1949
    Leaves with the Founder for a round-the-world visit to the Pauline communities of India, Philippines, Japan, Mexico and the United States. Returns to Rome on 24 July 1949.

  • 30 September 1949
    Visits the communities of France and Spain. Returns to Rome on 11 October.
  • 1950
    Filming of Mater Dei. M. Thecla portrays the prophetess Anna. Other Daughters of St. Paul have walk-on roles, while some serve as costume designers, etc.

  • March 1950
    Writes a circular letter inviting the sisters to grow in the spirit of the Institute, citing simplicity and quickness as elements of this spirit.

  • 31 December 1951
    Petitions the Holy See for pontifical approval of the Institute of the Daughters of St. Paul and definitive approval of its Constitutions.
  • 1952
    Supports a project to produce short catechetical films and helps concretize it by paying two-thirds of the expenses involved.
  • 21 March 1952
    Leaves with the Founder for a visit to the communities of North and South America: United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. In Latin America, promotes the film apostolate in particular. Returns to Rome on 14 June 1952.
  • 12 July 1952
    Visits the communities of France. Returns to Rome on 26 July.
  • 19 January 1953
    Papal Secretary of State Bishop Giovanni Battista Montini writes to Fr. Alberione thanking him for the scripts of the short catechetical films.
  • 15 March 1953
    The Holy See promulgates the Decree of Pontifical Approval of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul and also approves its Constitutions. Writing to tell the sisters about this, M. Thecla expresses her heartfelt gratitude to the Lord.

  • 13 April 1953
    Leaves with the Founder for a visit to the communities of Japan, Philippines and India. Primo Maestro falls ill in Bombay, India. M. Thecla welcomes him into the FSP community there in order to see that he receives proper care and then arranges for him to return quickly to Rome. She herself returns to Rome on 22 May 1953.
  • 13 July 1953
    Leaves with the Founder for a visit to the communities of North and South America: Canada, United States, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Returns to Rome on 3 Sept. 1953.
  • 5-10 September 1953
    Second National Council of Mothers General held in Rome. M. Thecla is elected president of FIRAS (Federazione Italiana Religiose Assistenza Sociale).
  • 1 November 1953
    Visits the communities of France, Spain and Portugal. Returns to Rome on 18 November 1953.
  • 14 April 1954
    Returns to France for a brief visit.
  • 29-30 November 1954
    Consecration of the Sanctuary of Mary, Queen of Apostles (now a minor basilica) in Rome.

  • February 1955
    Invites the sisters to live the year dedicated to the Divine Master by assuming a concrete commitment: diffusion of the catechetical magazine “Way, Truth and Life.”
  • 16 April 1955
    With the Founder, visits the communities of the Philippines, Japan, Australia and India. Returns to Rome on 2 June 1955.
  • 13 May 1955
    Travels to Sydney, Australia, with the sisters assigned to open a community there.
  • 27 July 1955
    Visits the communities of Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. Returns to Rome on 22 August 1955.
  • 12 September 1955
    With the Founder, visits the communities of North and South America: United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Returns to Rome on 12 December 1955.
  • September 1955
    Writes from the United States urging everyone to pray for Così, a magazine for young women whose first issue was programmed for December 1955.
  • 25 July 1956
    Visits the communities of Great Britain and Spain. Returns to Rome on 31 July 1956.
  • 7 January 1957
    Convokes the first General Chapter of the Daughters of St. Paul, to be celebrated from 4-7 May 1957, following a course of spiritual exercises.
  • 23 February 1957
    Undergoes major surgery (a mastectomy) at Regina Apostolorum Clinic, Albano. Surgeon: Dr. Francesco Ojetti.
  • 4 May 1957
    Re-elected Superior General for another 12-year term by the Institute’s first General Chapter.


Final Years

1958-1964

  • October 1958
    Encourages the sisters to develop the film apostolate, even though the fact of sisters working in this apostolate is not understood by many people.
  • 8 September 1959
    Fr. Alberione founds the first community of Apostoline Sisters at Albano, Italy.
  • 14 September 1959
    Together with M. Lucia Ricci, Superior General of the Pious Disciples, M. Thecla visits the communities of North and South America: United States, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. On the return trip to Europe, stops in Portugal. Arrives in Rome on 13 February 1960.
  • 1960
    On a visit to Brazil, encourages the sisters to begin the record apostolate.
  • 5 August 1960
    Visits the community of London, Great Britain.
  • 18 September 1960
    Visits the community of Madrid, Spain. Returns to Rome on 1 October 1960.
  • 15 May 1961
    Participates in a 20-day course of spiritual exercises held for FSPs of the “first hour” and for those involved in government and formation. Course held at Ariccia, Italy, from 15 May to 5 June. Animators: Fr. Alberione and Fr. Luigi Rolfo, SSP.
  • 28 May 1961
    During the 20-day course of spiritual exercises at Ariccia, on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, M. Thecla offers her life to God in order that all the Daughters of St. Paul might become saints.

  • November 1961
    Visits the community of Leopoldville, Congo. Returns to Rome on 9 November 1961.
  • December 1961
    Writes several pages of “memoirs” about Fr. Alberione.
  • 24 January 1962
    Makes her last trip to the Orient: India, Philippines, Formosa (now Taiwan), Japan, Korea and Australia. Returns to Rome on 19 May 1962.
  • March 1962
    Falls ill in Pasay City, Philippines. M. Costantina Bignante is sent from Rome to take care of her and accompany her for the rest of her trip.
  • 5 August 1962
    Visits the communities of the United States and Canada. Returns to Rome on 3 September.
  • 11 October 1962
    Pope John XXIII opens the Second Vatican Council.
  • 8 May 1963
    Makes her last trip abroad, visiting the communities of the Congo. Returns to Rome extremely tired on 17 May 1963, but in spite of this continues to carry out her various duties.
  • 16 June 1963
    Suffers a brain seizure and is hospitalized at Albano.
  • 17 June 1963
    Receives a visit from her three brothers: Giovanni Battista, Carlo, and Fr. Leone Costanzo.
  • 7 July 1963
    Her health slightly improved, M. Thecla returns to Rome for a brief visit. Calls together all the sisters in the Via Antonino Pio community in order to greet them and thank them for their prayers for her recovery. All are deeply moved by her serenity and surrender to God.
  • 22 August 1963
    Joyful meeting with Pope Paul VI on his visit to Regina Apostolorum Clinic, Albano.

  • 23 September 1963
    On her feast day, returns to Rome for what will be her last visit to the community.
  • 26 September 1963
    Makes a brief visit to Grottaferrata (Rome) in order to see the local superiors of Italy, who are participating in a meeting there.
  • 22 November 1963
    Suffers a new and more serious attack of her illness. Receives the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick from Fr. Alberione.

  • 5 February 1964
    Spiritually assisted by Fr. Alberione, dies in Regina Apostolorum Clinic following a brain hemorrhage.
  • 7 February 1964
    Her funeral Mass, celebrated by Fr. Alberione, is held in the Clinic’s chapel. Her body is then taken to the Queen of Apostles Temple in Rome so that all the sisters and the members of the Pauline Family can pay their respects.
  • 8 February 1964
    Solemn funeral Mass in the Queen of Apostles Temple celebrated by Cardinal Arcadio Larraona, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, who delivers the homily. M. Thecla is buried in the Verano Cemetery, Rome.
  • 3-7 February 1967
    M. Thecla’s remains are exhumed from Verano Cemetery and re-entombed in the subcrypt of the Queen of Apostles Temple, Rome.
    Feb. 6: solemn services in the Queen of Apostles Temple. That afternoon: solemn funeral Mass in the crypt attended by representatives of the entire Pauline Family.
    Feb. 7: M. Thecla’s mortal remains are entombed in the subcrypt.

Canonical Process leading to the declaration of Maestra Thecla Merlo as “Venerable”


  • 11 July 1967
    Cardinal Arcadio Larraona, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, is formally petitioned to open the information-gathering process concerning Maestra Thecla Merlo.

  • 15 July 1967
    The Sacred Congregation of Rites publishes a decree opening the ordinary information-gathering process.
  • 26 October 1967
    The Vicariate of Rome initiates the Ordinary Process of gathering testimonies and documentation concerning M. Thecla’s life, virtues, reputation for holiness and the miracles obtained through her intercession. The process closes on 23 March 1972.
  • 10 December 1967
    The Tribunal of Alba opens the Rogatorial Process, which closes on 4 May 1971.
  • 21 October 1982
    The Vicariate of Rome opens the Apostolic Process, which closes on 17 June 1987. The opening and closing of the Process take place in the headquarters of the Tribunal in Rome.
  • 22 January 1991
    Pope John Paul II signs the decree proclaiming that M. Thecla Merlo was heroic in virtue and declares her “Venerable.”