· Vatican City ·


Digital challenge and bookstores: this is how they will celebrate 110 years

A new dawn for the Paulines

 Alba nuova  per le Paoline  DCM-006
01 June 2024

On June 15, 2025, the 110th anniversary of the founding of the Daughters of St Paul will be celebrated. In anticipation of this anniversary, the Paulines have restyled the editorial brand launched in 1994. An ellipse, representing the world to which the Paulines are called to announce the Gospel. The blue color, evoking the digital realm and electromagnetic waves, expresses the desire to be the apostles of the 21st century. The red P symbolizes the pastoral zeal of Paul, but also, in some languages, represents the letter P for Word (Parola, Palabra, Palavra). Finally, the inscription “Paoline” represents the foundation, the solidity, as if it were the root of a majestic tree. Additionally, on June 16 of this year, all attention will be directed towards the figure of the founder, Sister Tecla Merlo, with the launch of a scrollytelling that will tell her story and the current activities of the Institute through numerous videos and photographs. The scrollytelling will focus on some key concepts of Sister Tecla’s life and testimony: her gentle and generous spirit, her ability to be an authentic leader, her life of faith, and her collaboration with Father Giacomo Alberione, founder of the numerous religious congregations of the Pauline Family.

They are present online with virtual bookstores, websites, and social networks. In the future, they may also be “places” to meet, exchange ideas, buy books, or simply drop by to feel at home. With a blue ellipse, open on a red P and the ever-present logo, Paulines.

Founded in 1915, the Daughters of St Paul, on the cusp of their 110th anniversary, have embraced the challenges of the digital world, but their roots, in the 50 countries where they are present, remain firmly grounded in bookstores. Whether in Angola or Australia, Korea or Brazil, or Italy, they serve as spaces for dissemination and centers for education and peace. In Africa and Latin America, they are hubs from which missions depart to distant villages, while in European capitals, they host cultural events. The bookstore is described as a “special” expression of Pauline apostolate, encompassing all initiatives related to dissemination. It is a place of preaching, a center of light, and a temple, as recorded in the family’s history. According to the Superior General, Sister Anna Caiazza, “the bookstore marks the history of the Daughters of St Paul; it is our business card”. Today, the network of Pauline bookstores counts 268 multimedia centers across five continents. It is remarkable to think that they originated from a sewing workshop of Italian soldiers’ uniforms at the front.

The intuition comes from a seminarian from Alba in Piedmont, Giacomo Alberione, who spends the night of December 31, 1900, in the cathedral in adoration. He prays to “prepare to do something for the Lord and the people of the new century”, serving “God and the Church, with the new means offered by human ingenuity”. “Don Alberione’s prophetic vision starts from an understanding of the historical situation and develops in the awareness of the need to personally engage in bringing God to men and women today”, explains Sister Caiazza.

In Italy, there were “Women’s Workshops”, opened by the Union of Catholic Women, which, with the onset of war, were engaged in sewing military garments. Alberione begins his new foundation by opening a workshop in Alba. The first candidates for his work are three young women from the Catechetical League of Saint Damian, and the seamstress who trains them is Teresa Merlo, sister of a priest. “With her, the young women live a form of community life with a family structure, dedicate themselves to tailoring, receive spiritual formation, and engage in parish catechesis. By between 1915 and 1916, they were open, next to the workshop, a small bookstore selling religious books and items, which Teresa took care of in a particular way”, adds Sister Teresa Braccio, responsible for the Communication Secretariat.

From there, the path has been paved with encounters and insights, with the courage of men and women who believe in providence and can read the signs of the times. Like the meeting with the Bishop of Susa, Giuseppe Castelli, who proposed to Alberione to print the diocesan newspaper La Valsusa, with which, in December 1918, the nascent group of the Daughters of St Paul began. In Susa, the young women of Teresa Merlo, who still did not have a name, printed the bishop’s pastoral letters, a bulletin for the parishes of the diocese, and report cards to promote Catholic Action. Next to the printing press, they later opened a stationery store offering books and religious items. “Don Alberione entrusted the young women to the special protection of the apostle Paul. Moreover, the people of Susa, upon seeing the painting of Paul and the great devotion the girls had for the saint, began to call them Daughters of St Paul. The name pleased the Founder, and from that moment on, we have been called that way; ours was a name chosen by the people”, recalls Sister Caiazza. In 1922, with the religious profession of the first members, Don Alberione appointed Teresa Merlo as superior, who received the ame Tecla. Henceforth, the first community was founded.

“Thanks to the formative guidance of Don Alberione and Maestra Tecla”, says Sister Caiazza, “the awareness is rooted that the Pauline mission is a new way of evangelizing, a true ministry of preaching”.

In Rome, where the Society of St Paul and the Daughters of St Paul moved in 1926, they published the weekly newspaper “The Voice of Rome” opened a small bookstore, and a circulating library. “With the bishops’ permission, sisters were sent to various Italian cities with a cargo of faith and parcels of books. They sought accommodation at religious institutes and began visiting families. Then, as soon as possible, they rented a small apartment, settled in as best they could, in great poverty, and began to think about the bookstore. A new apostolate and a religious lifestyle that diverged from traditional forms immediately attracted the attention of the hierarchy, which often expressed mistrust. However, many approved and promoted this way of communicating the Gospel, which was suitable for the new times”, Sister Caiazza adds.

In 1931, Alberione expanded the Pauline work beyond the borders of Italy. The first country was Brazil.

“Alberione didn’t want the religious sisters to limit themselves to just serving at the counter or going door-to-door. The Daughters of St Paul ‘must’ also engage in editing, writing the leaflets, periodicals, and books that they will distribute”, recalls the Superior General.

The Daughters of St Paul write biographies of Popes, works, and collections in the patristic and catechetical fields, while launching editorial initiatives in the realm of periodicals. In Italy, they gave life to the weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana [The Christian Family] (which, however, was soon entrusted by the Founder himself to the Paulines), the women’s magazine Così [Thus], the magazines Via, Verità e Vita [Way, Truth and Life] and Catechisti Parrocchiali [Parish Catechists] for catechesis, and the production of catechetical films and records. Meanwhile, communication had become increasingly a social phenomenon that interacts with many other aspects of life. In 1950, the Ut unum Sint Centre was founded to promote the unity of Christians; in addition, it published, among other things, a series and a specific magazine in the immediate pre-Council period (1959-1962) and organized correspondence biblical courses (1960). This initiative, which disappeared in Italy, has been reestablished in Korea, where it contributes to the biblical formation of thousands of people, Catholics and non-Catholics. Over the years, apostolate developed and took on new languages - from cinema (Sampaolo Film) to radio - because, as Don Alberione said in 1938, print does not exhaust all of the Pauline mission.

The transformations that marked society in the 1960s and 1970s, the innovations of the Second Vatican Council, the death of Maestra Tecla in 1964 and Alberione in 1971, also led to significant changes for the Daughters of St Paul. In 1994, a missionary project was developed, and since that year, houses have been opened in Africa (South Africa, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Angola, and South Sudan); in Latin America (Dominican Republic and Paraguay); in Asia (Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam); in Europe (Romania, Czech Republic, Russia).

Today, there are about 2000 consecrated sisters, in 205 communities, with 120 young women in formation. “We proclaim the Gospel through the entire range of communication possibilities offered by multimedia and digital publishing centers; paper and online magazines; bookstores and other distribution centers; websites; radio, television (including web radio and web TV); critical media literacy education; biblical and communication animation”, says Sister Teresa Braccio.

“On February 5 last year, we celebrated two important anniversaries: the 60th anniversary of the death of the venerable Sister Tecla Merlo and the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Pauline editorial brand”, recalls Sister Caiazza. “For the first time, the Daughters of St Paul also presented the institutional logo, which recalls, in its symbol, the cross of our badge, and in the name ‘Daughters of St Paul’, the deep relationship that binds us to the Apostle Paul. ‘Innovators by vocation’, today we set out again. It is important to have renewed the editorial brand and created an institutional logo. However, we always remember that a brand, a logo, is an expression of a philosophy, a style, a mission, an identity. My wish for all of us Daughters of St Paul is that the coherence between what we express, even in a logo, and our life never fails”.

A Journalist with “Credere” and “Jesus”, Saint Paul Publications