Gemma Galgani was born in Lucca, Italy on 12 March, 1878, the fourth of eight children. Her mother who had been a very caring woman, died at the age of thirty five when Gemma was only seven.
For the next eighteen years the family experienced much grief and misfortune. Gemma looked after her brother who had tuberculosis and who died when he was eighteen. Her father was a prosperous pharmacist but those deaths and the prolonged illness of others in the family were a drain on his resources and the family was reduced to poverty. To add to this Gemma’s father developed cancer of the throat and Gemma nursed him with great care until his death.
Gemma, who from an early age had known loss and bereavement, developed a spinal condition with the complication of paralysis. Her condition was such that she was helpless and dependent on others.
Her very strong desire to be a Passionist nun was thwarted by her persistent ill health which led to her death at the age of twenty five. She found her illness hard to accept but gained strength from her strong identification with Jesus Christ in his Passion which lay at the heart of her spirituality. Those who cared for her marvelled at her generosity. Her concern was always for her carers.
Interestingly, the date of the dedication of the Hospice, March 12th 1978, would have been her 100th birthday.