- Cajetana Sterni
Daughter of Giovanni Battista Sterni and Giovanna Chiuppani; one of six children. Her father was an administrator for the country property of the Mora, who were members of the Venetian nobility. The family lived relatively comfortably until Gaetana was about 15 years old when, in short order, her elder sister Margherita died, her father died, and her brother Francesco left home to become an actor, leaving the rest of the family in sad shape financially. Gaetana, a pious girl, did what she could to help her mother, but soon attracted the attention and a marriage offer from Liberale Conte, a widower with three children.
Gaetana accepted, and was soon very happily married and pregnant. However, during prayer one day she received a prophecy of her husband’s early death; it proved true, and she widowed before their child was born. The baby died a few days after birth, and her late husband’s family demanded that her three step-children be returned to them. At age 19 Gaetana found herself a widow, alone, broke, alienated from her in-laws, and having buried a child; she returned to her mother‘s house.
She spent much of her time there in prayer, looking for a direction for her future, and finally came to understand that she had a call to the religious life. Joined the Canosian convent at Bassano, Italy for five months, but received another prophetic message in prayer that foretold her mother‘s death. Her mother died a few days later, and Gaetana left the convent to care for her younger siblings. She was head of the household for the next six years.
Free at last at age 26, she began to fulfill anther message she had received in prayer while with the Canosians. There she had been told “to employ there all of herself in the service of the poor and thus fulfill His will.” A Jesuit priest confirmed this message for her, and in 1853, she began work at the hospice for beggars in Bassano. She would remain there for her remaining 36 years, tending to the aged, the sick, the dying. In 1860, at age 33 she made a private vow of total devotion to God.
In 1865 Gaetana and two like-minded friends formed what would become the Daughters of the Divine Will, a name chosen to indicate that the members would surrender themselves completely to God‘s plans. They dedicated themselves to service to the sick and poor, and worked especially with those who were sick, but still able to live in their own homes. The bishop of Vicenza, Italy approved the congregation in 1875, and today the Daughters are working across Europe, America, and Africa.
- 26 November 1889 of natural causes
- buried at the Daughters mother house at Bassano del Grapo, Vicenza, Italy
- “Blessed Gaetana Sterni“. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 November 2016. Web. 16 January 2017. <>