On March 1, 1854, with the prayer and blessing of Rev. Fr. Francesco Piccone, Battistina and her sister Maria enthusiastically and courageously entered in a small but modest house in Albisola Mare and started the institute, which was named Daughters of Virgin Mary Immaculate. These pious women lived a common life, consecrating themselves totally to God through the exercise of Christian charity to others especially to the young girls and the sick.
Even in the midst of so many difficulties, Mother Teresa Vallerga was able to manage teaching in the public elementary school at Albisola Mare while Father Francesco continued to teach in the School of Charity in Savona, at the same he directed and supported the young community. He encouraged the sisters to adapt a special style in the field of education. The sisters worked as “Servants of the poor”. They chose to work amid the people, freely carrying out their works of charity to everyone.
By April 16, 1857, the first religious investiture of the two sisters took place. Battistina and Maria Vallerga had this at the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and was presided by Father Ottavio Poggi. The small seed sprouted in silence, after a year another young lady, Bianca Spotorno, joined them.
February 2, 1859, was indeed a significant day for the first three novices: Battistina Vallerga, Maria Vallerga and Bianca Spotorno took their vows of poverty, obedience, chastity and a pledge of committing themselves in the service of the poor. Battistina changed her name to Sister Teresa, Maria chose the name Ottavia and Bianca became Sister Geltrude.
From 1859 to 1864 Mother Teresa and Father Francesco formulated the fundamental rules of the young community of the Daughters of Virgin Mary Immaculate, Servants of the poor. Their teachings and practices centered on prayer, devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and her spouse, St. Joseph. The institute grew and became famous in that vicinity. There was a time that Don Bosco heard about this newly founded community. He visited his Salesian community in Varraze and took the occasion to greet the Founders of the Daughters of Virgin Mary Immaculate in Savona. He had a good impression of these simple and humble servants of God. He told Mother Teresa, “The institute is small but the foundation is good. Your institute will grow, at first somewhat slowly, but it would grow”.
On the evening of January 25, 1874, after a period of suffering and illness, Father Francesco Piccone died before the very eyes of the sisters who devotedly took care of him during his last days. All the people felt that a wise and saintly priest had passed in their midst. Mother Teresa with head bent, murmured “Yes, all for the love of you, O God.”
The sisters joyously outlined their journey according to the spirit and lifestyle of Father Francesco Piccone. The seed which was sowed germinated and produced good fruits. The love of sacrifices, self denials and simplicity were the virtues they concretely lived.
In 1879, Mother Teresa was truly grateful in having been able to open a house for the poor in Savona. This new home gave her the opportunity to actualize her thoughts, “Let the poor be your favorites”.
The heavy work made the physical condition of Mother Teresa grew very bad. Yet inspite of all these sufferings she found the courage to inspire her sisters with her examples and her words. In the evening of February 22, 1880, the illness got worst. The sisters gathered around her bedside, heard her saying with a faint voice, “My daughters, give glory to God and save many souls…our Lady how much I Love her, I am content to die in the consummation of Jesus’ Love”. Yes, Mother Teresa’s life was an expression of a life that had truly been devoted for the glory of God and the service of the poor.
In the morning of February 23, 1880, Father Ottavio Poggi celebrated the Holy Mass in the chapel beside her little room. It was during the offertory that Mother Teresa quietly offered back herself to God joining her smiling countenance on her deathbed. The people of Albisola, specially the poor passed by her body with profound respect and said “a saint has died”. Father Francesco Piccone and Mother Teresa Vallerga, two lives who lived in silence, in humility, in prayer, and sacrifice. Two humble lives who genuinely served the poor, the deprived, the abandoned, the sick and the suffering. Two lives offered simply and discretely so that others may truly experience and encounter God’s love.