Saint Paulina was born Amabile Visintainer in Italy
in 1865. When she was eight years old, her poverty
stricken parents sent her to work in a silk mill
. At the age of ten her family moved to Brazil
to escape the poverty cycle.
When she was twelve, Amabile took her first Holy Communion, and as her adolescence progressed she began doing works of charity, among them visiting the sick and teaching the catechism to children. Unable to take vows because her family needed her due to the death of her mother in childbirth in 1886, Amabile took care of her family home and her 12 siblings until her father remarried.
In 1890, Amabile and a friend were caring for a woman who was dying from cancer. Out of this act of love and charity grew the religious order The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. In December of 1890, Amabile took her first vows as a religious and became Sister Paulina of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. By 1903, Sister Paulina had been elected Mother Superior General of the order she helped to found, a lifelong post.
Unfortunately, this post was to be short lived, as there were disputes within the congregation. In 1909, the Archbishop relieved her of her position. Sister Paulina then went to work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, working with the elderly and the ill.
Called back to the Congregation in 1918, she continued caring for the sick sisters, praying, and living a cloistered life.
Sister Paulina is the only saint known to have suffered with diabetes. In 1938 her eyesight began to fail and a cut on her finger led to gangrene and amputation of the finger. The gangrene continued to progress and her hand was amputated, then her arm. After these bouts of surgery, Sister Paulina also became blind. It was a combination of lung cancer and diabetes that eventually killed her, in 1942.
Saint Paulina is the first Brazilian saint.
There is something of a movement among Catholic diabetics to have Saint Paulina declared our patroness. As the only saint known to have lived and died with this disease, she is a logical choice for intercessor for those suffering the effects of diabetes. As a diabetic myself, I am a strong supporter of this movement and already ask Saint Paulina for her intercession and prayers every day.
The presence of God is so intimate to me that it seems impossible for me to lose it; and such presence gives my soul a joy which I can not describe.