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Fundamental choices

In the spring of 1903, Elena was about to turn 34 years old. This was the beginning of a spiritually significant time for her, which was also quite busy due to her professional work and social engagements: her passion for mankind and her desire to be a responsible presence in the events of history can be seen in the small and large acts of her daily life.

In June 1904, she became director of Azione Muliebre (Feminine Action), which she would go on to direct for over forty years, “the most widely read Catholic women’s magazine in the country”, as Liviana Gazzetta remarked. The magazine followed da Persico’s various endeavours step by step; it was not separated from her life and expressed her cultural, social and religious commitment to the education of women, in particular, in what she herself defined as the apostolate of ideas.

Her efforts and commitments increased, with work in the social field, conferences, activities in support of the emancipation of women and participation in the challenges faced by the Catholic world, which was moving with some difficulty from the “Non Expedit” policy to more direct political engagement.

She met Giuseppe Toniolo during the first Catholic Social Week in Pistoia in 1907. This was the beginning of a friendship and fruitful collaboration with Toniolo, first and foremost in the foundation of the Catholic Women’s Union, which was to work alongside the People’s Union (an organisation created between 1908 and 1909, albeit with a different approach than the one planned by da Persico and Toniolo) and then, continuously, in the years to come in order to prepare the Social Weeks.

Elena worked tirelessly in Veneto, Lombardy and Tuscany. Her time spent travelling intensified. During this time, she also increasingly dedicated her time to social studies, endeavours that immediately became what we would describe today as outreach activities.

However, it was also during these years that her spiritual life became more clearly defined. One significant milestone was in 1904, with Elena’s consecration to the Lord, which she did by herself in private.

The source of action became even more precise: dwelling in the love of Christ, whereby “external action is nothing but an outpouring of love from that dwelling place”.

The years that followed confirmed and defined her insights regarding a new spirituality: a life of consecration, while remaining in the world, to respond to the various needs of the social reality, with full freedom of movement, without limits and without environmental preclusions, in accordance with the needs of the time. Always carried out with a profound contemplative attitude through the synthetic concept of the spirituality of “contemplation through action”.

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