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As a business woman

· The testimony of Sr Rachele, in charge of the Clinica Columbus in Milan ·

Sr Rachele is a lively and cheerful woman. And she carries out her role as director of the Clinica Columbus in Milan with a practical outlook, much optimism and a dose of daring. 130 beds, 5,000 sick a year, avant-garde technology and ultra-specialized personnel. 

The Columbus is owned by Frances Cabrini’s Institute of Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was opened in 1938 when Antonietta Della Casa, then Superior General of the Cabrinians, asked Cardinal Schuster to build a church dedicated to the Foundress. The cardinal answered: “there are so many churches in Milan, a hospital would be better”. So it was that the Cabrinian Sisters took over Villa Faccanoni Romeo, a masterpiece of the modernist Giuseppe Sommaruga, later rebuilt by Giò Ponti, and turned it into a clinic.

Sr Rachele has been there for ten years and, even though she manages millions of euros, she does not feel she is a business woman. “My main task is to prevent this creation of ours from losing the charism from which it was born”. Then, however, she takes decisions and risks, just like a business woman. “When we had to decide on whether to remodel the operating theatre I was assailed by doubts and also by certain fears. It was an enormous investment, four million, a risk for us. In the end I made up my mind. The suppliers of the equipment proposed a deal to us: they were to provide the equipment worth one and a half million euros, and we the rooms. I accepted, and not only because the risk was shared but because I realized that the firm believed in us and that therefore the undertaking would be successful”. She had predicted it correctly.

A lot of money is managed at the Columbus but the director never seems to be afraid of getting her hands dirty. I asked her whether she ever thinks that business might get the upper hand over the charism. She laughs, she has a great sense of humour: “perhaps sometimes, when I see that the clinic is full of sick people and I surprise myself thinking that this is good because it will enable us to continue. I know, I shouldn’t think this. But it’s a passing thought. For me, for us, the management of money is a way of carrying out the apostolate, evangelization”.

The proof of it is in that hospice built for the terminally sick with cancer that is linked to the Sacco Hospital in Milan – “an example”, she says, “of collaboration between the public and private sectors. The income does not even suffice to cover the daily expenses. For it to survive the Sisters’ work is crucial”.

Mother Cabrini’s teaching remains the focus of Sr Rachele’s work. The Cabrinian formation is fundamental in the work she does. “Mother Frances opened two schools”, she recalls, “one for the rich and one for the poor, and with the money of the rich she supported the poor who wanted to study, and the money went from one side to the other. Thus today we reinvest in our works and in the works of others. We must use money for what we need. Among our tasks is the training of the personnel so that in their work there is not only technique and professionalism but also it is inspired by the principles of solidarity, of help and of self-denial. Without this ethic professionalism is maimed and then the money is then dirty, because it is badly invested”.

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