A branch of the Poor Clares of the Primitive Observance
Capuchinesses, a branch of the Poor Clares of the Primitive Observance, instituted at Naples, in 1538, by the Venerable Maria Longo. This holy woman had in early years embraced the rule of the Third Order of St. Francis and devoted herself to active works of charity. She founded a hospital for the sick in which she herself served, and also gave herself to the saving of fallen women. She adopted at her hospital the custom of ringing the bell at nightfall for prayers for the faithful departed. In 1630 the Franciscan Friars of the Capuchin Reform went to Naples, and were for a time given shelter in her hospital. She had long wished to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but about this time she was instructed in prayer that she could please God more by building a convent under the title of Santa Maria in Gerusalemme. She built the convent and established in it a community of sisters under the Rule of the Third Order, and was herself appointed superior. At first the spiritual directors of the convent were the Theatine Fathers, but afterwards these gave over the direction to the Capuchins, by whose advice the sisters in 1538 adopted the primitive Rule of St. Clare. They also received constitutions based on those of the Capuchin Friars, and were placed under the jurisdiction of the Capuchin vicar-general, whence they are styled Capuchinesses. They made a foundation in Rome in 1576 and very shortly afterwards were to be found in various parts of Italy and France, where they flourished until the Revolution. They still exist, in diminished numbers, in Italy and elsewhere. Some of the convents are still under the jurisdiction of the Minister-General of the Capuchin Friars Minor; others are under the jurisdiction of their respective diocesans. St. Veronica Giuliani was a member of this observance, as was also the Blessed Mary Magdalen Martinengo. The Capuchinesses flourished in many countries of Europe before the Revolution; they still have convents in Italy and Spain, also in South America, and until lately in France. Exiled French Capuchinesses opened (1904) a house at Vaals in Holland, near Aachen, destined to serve as a German novitiate.