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Elena, founder of the FRA

Between 1910 and 1913-1914, the distinctive traits of her vocational insight came to light, which later took the form of theFRA. In moments of the most intense prayer or Eucharistic intimacy, Elena took note of the salient aspects of the “project” that was taking shape, while always careful not to insert too much of her own voice, but to remain a “spectator and instrument of the Lord’s work”.

She took notes out of obedience and gave her insights to Father Carlo Zamparo, who took over as her spiritual director after Father Paolo Gradinati. While this mysterious encounter between her freedom and the Word of God was taking place, Elena did not shy away from the demands of the times, which were marked by very painful events.

The war years were approaching: Elena did all she could for the soldiers and the general population (the house at Affi was first requisitioned by the army, then housed refugees from a village in Trento). Yet, she did not forget the women who had remained to work the fields, taking the place of their husbands or fathers who had gone to war. To support them, she founded the magazine L'amica delle contadine (The Friend of Women Farmers) which then led to the establishment of the “Circoli delle contadine” (“Society of Women Farmers”).

Right in the middle of the war, her spiritual director, Father Zamparo, allowed her to live her life according to the rule of the FRA. She was overjoyed.

On Christmas Eve 1915, she experienced the gift of a meeting with Father Calabria, which led to “sure encouragement for the project and the rules of life” being defined and put into writing. She resumed with renewed vigour her programme of trips, conferences, assistance and her daily work. On 24 October 1917, Father Zamparo gave her the long-awaited consent: she was now permitted to speak openly of the FRA “to the souls that the Lord sends her and that she sees fit to receive His Word”.

The war came to an end and her wide-ranging social work resumed. In 1919, at the invitation of Father Gemelli and Monsignor Olati, she joined the People’s Party. In Azione Muliebre (Feminine Action), she wrote about the right and duty of women to take part in the political life of the country.

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