October 18, 2021

Finding Frassati…or How He Found Us!

By Mother Louise Marie, SsEW

We have so many books, devotionals, and pictures of Blessed Pier Giorgio in our bookstore that people often ask us, “What’s the connection between the Sister Servants and Pier Giorgio Frassati?” God’s Providence planted the seeds for our community’s love of Bl. Pier Giorgio through a friendship between two families that began many years ago.

Immediately following the end of World War II, my father, Peter Flanigan (pictured left), was sent to England while working on the Marshall Plan and traveled throughout Europe, becoming close friends with Wanda Gawronska, Bl. Pier Giorgio’s niece. Through Wanda, he got to know the other family members. My father’s friendships were life-long, and during my childhood and young adulthood, our families continued their friendship across the ocean, sharing summers and other vacations together. At the time I knew nothing about Blessed Pier Giorgio and was too busy sight-seeing and riding horses to appreciate the connection and opportunity to get to know about this saint!

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati’s sister, Luciana (pictured above), carried on the work of making known her brother’s life and heroic virtue. She eventually authored A Man of the Beatitudes and My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days. She also edited a collection of her brother’s Letters to His Friends and Family.

Fast-forward many years to my entrance into the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Birmingham, Alabama! My first exposure to Blessed Pier Giorgio was the televised World Youth Day in Denver, 1993. The EWTN coverage of Pope St. John Paul II’s engagement of the youth was deeply moving. Wanda Gawronska (pictured below), who to this day carries on her mother’s work with Bl. Pier Giorgio’s cause, was invited to prepare an exhibit at World Youth Day. Hearing about it piqued my interest in Pier Giorgio!

Wanda has continued the work of her mother, Luciana, in promoting the cause and knowledge of her uncle, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, throughout the world.

My brother, Tim, has also become a great fan of Pier Giorgio.  Tim loves having fun and spending time in the mountains, so he really appreciates Pier Giorgio’s attractiveness to youth and to all as both a mountain climber and a practical jokester! 

Mother Louise Marie with her brothers, Bob (left) and Tim (center), with a cut out of Pier Giorgio at the FOCUS SLS 2018 Conference.

Finally, during our pilgrimage to Rome in 2007 with Father John Horgan, we had a surprise: Pier Giorgio showed up unexpectedly!  My dad was also on the pilgrimage, and Wanda joined us for dinner one evening. In the course of the conversation we found that Father Horgan is a sort of expert on Bl. Pier Giorgio.  Wanda shared details with us about Pier Giorgio and the process of his canonization.  She invited us to meet her mother, Luciana, who was 104 years old at the time.  An unforgettable meeting!

Luciana showing photographs to Fr. John Horgan during this unforgettable visit.
Luciana sharing stories and chocolates with the Sister Servants.

The stage was now set for the threads of Providence to come full circle. During a retreat at Casa Maria preached by Fr. Jacques Phillippe, we met Christine Wohar, the founder and director of FrassatiUSA.  She has been a friend and collaborator of Wanda for many years and shared with me the story of how Pier Giorgio “called” her from work as a lawyer to her present vocation of making him known to the youth in the United States and beyond.  Learning that Christine needed help with shipping materials internationally, we offered to take on all the mailing for FrassatiUSA through our Casa Maria Bookstore!

In 2009, Christine Wohar and Wanda Gawronska visited Casa Maria together when they recorded the EWTN series on Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, Sanctity within Reach.

It seems that Divine Providence set us up long ago for this work and ongoing friendship with Pier Giorgio’s earthly family and spiritual family!  If you want to get to know Pier Giorgio better, I recommend you watch Pier Giorgio Frassati: Get to Know Him! (below) and read his sister’s books. You may also be interested in Christine Wohar’s new book, Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness.  You will get to know him and pray with him on your own spiritual journey.  And as you “find” Pier Giorgio, you may find that he has first “found” you and has plans for you, too!