Maria Teresa Merlo was born at Castagnito (Cuneo, Piedmont) on February 20, 1894, the second of four children of Hector Merlo and Vincenza Rolando. On June 27, 1915, she met Fr. James Alberione for the first time in the Church of Sts. Cosmas and Damian in Alba and accepted his invitation to remain in the city to help him begin the “adventure” of our congregation: the future Daughters of St. Paul.
On July 22, 1922, she professed private, perpetual religious vows and took the name Thecla (named after St. Thecla, one of the first followers of St. Paul). Fr. Alberione appointed her Superior General, and thus began the Pious Society Daughters of St. Paul.
Great effort was involved in laying the groundwork for the Institute of the Daughters of St. Paul: it concerned a new mission. Sister Thecla's love for souls and the new apostolate in the church came from attending classes by the now, Venerable Father Francis Chiesa, a theologian and canon lawyer with a degree in philosophy, who for more than fifty years imparted to seminarians and priests of the Society of St. Paul, knowledge and a priestly spirit. These classes helped open her mind and heart to souls and the beginnings of this new congregation which would be using the means of social communication to evangelize throughout the world.
In March 1936 Mother Thecla began the first of a long series of trips to various parts of the world, to visit her Sisters and confirm them in the Pauline vocation.
In the words of the Founder, Father James Alberione, "Mother Thecla marked out the way with much sacrifice and took steps which at times seemed truly difficult and risky. Although her health was frail, she was nevertheless strong in spirit, and steadfast and obedient to the point of sacrifice.The Lord always rewarded her virtue. Therefore follow her examples and spirit: her religious and apostolic spirit."
"In various everyday instances, whether pleasant or not, her outlook and manner of speaking flowed from her love for God to whom she abandoned herself completely and absolutely. She read the Gospel so as to know, imitate and love Jesus, the Divine Master."
How often she spoke of doing good to souls, of bringing light to the world. She truly practiced the Congregations' three principal devotions to Jesus Master, Mary Queen of the Apostles, and St. Paul, the Apostle.
At Ariccia, Italy on May 28, 1961, the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, she offered her life that all the Daughters of St. Paul would become saints. She died at Albano (Rome) in the Queen of Apostles Clinic on February 5, 1964.
On January 22, 1991, she was proclaimed Venerable, the Church's recognition that a person had led a life of extraordinary virtue.
Prayer of intercession to the Most Holy Trinity for a special intention.
Most Holy Trinity, we thank you for the singular gifts of light, grace and virtue which you granted to Sister Thecla Merlo, and we thank you for having chosen and constituted her the wise mother and sure guide of the Daughters of St. Paul.
Through her intercession, grant that we may live of her great loves: Jesus Master in the Holy Eucharist, the Church, the Gospel and souls—souls sought and served through the apostolate of social communication to the point of total sacrifice.
O Lord, if it be in the designs of your divine wisdom, carry out even on this earth, for this very devoted Daughter of St. Paul, your divine promise: "If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him." Exalt this faithful servant to the joy of the Church and the good of many souls and grant us, through her intercession, the favor we ask of you. Amen..
Anyone receiving favors through Mother Thecla Merlo's intercession may send their information to:
Daughters of St. Paul, 50 St. Paul's Ave., Boston, MA 02130