DISCIPLES OF THE CENACLE
The Disciples of the Cenacle form a small community of Sisters who, "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), wish, as far as possible, to conform their existence to the teaching of the Redeemer, who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn. 14:6). Putting their trust in Divine Providence, they attend firstly to their own spiritual formation in order to increase their interior life ever more and more so as to be able to carry out their work fruitfully. They like to keep in mind the sublime words of Jesus:
Fear not little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom. Sell what you possess....Make to yourselves bags which grow not old....Behold the birds of the air...the lilies of the field....For your Father knoweth that you have need of these things (Mt. 7:25-34).
Their founder was Fr. Francesco-Maria Putti, a Roman priest and beloved spiritual son of Padre Pio, who guided and formed them until his death in 1984 (see p. 24). In a memorandum he wrote at the time (April 10, 1965) to the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Salerno, the ancient Italian coastal city south of Naples, Don Putti himself relates how the first cenacle came to be:
In carrying out my ministry, I had the opportunity to get to know and to guide some high school girls and university students, as well as some who had already completed their studies. Some of them expressed their desire to be able to consecrate their lives to the Lord in a life of prayer and action which could be of service to the Church.
After much reflection, and after having sought advice and having verified the existence of a common aspiration among them, a small group of these young women was formed. The general purpose of the community is to hasten the advent of the kingdom of God, the sanctification of its members, and that of obtaining, through the communion of saints, the sanctification of the priestly ministry and the conversion of sinners. The specific end is the exercise of whatever activity may be of service and at the same time consonant with a life of prayer, action, and sacrifice in a cenacle of reparation.
It was Don Putti who chose for them their distinguishing name: the Disciples of the Cenacle, which is taken from the Acts of the Apostles (1:14): "All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." By choosing this theologically significant designation, he desired to evoke the essence of Catholicism, the heart of the Church: the holy sacrifice of the Mass was instituted together with the priesthood in the Cenacle, and it was there that the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and whence the Apostles emerged fortified and confirmed. Don Putti desired that his Sisters, like the holy women with Mary and the Apostles, meditate upon and love the mystery of the love of Calvary renewed mystically but actually on our altars in the celebration of the holy Mass. He desired that the Disciples of the Cenacle sacrifice themselves for holy Church, particularly for priests, under the protection of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter, the first Pope. Don Putti desired for them a great union with the redeeming passion of our Lord, like the Blessed Virgin Mary on Calvary, for only in this manner can their action be fruitful: "Unless the grain of wheat falling on the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (Jn. 12:24-25).
A Good Start
In June of 1965, the first four Sisters began their life in common. Soon, the Archbishop of Salerno, Demetrio Moscato (1945-68), gave them a big house near Salerno, and Don Putti drafted a general statute, which he sent to the archbishop on November 21, 1966, communicating to him that, despite numerous difficulties, they already had ten vocations. Thus, at the very time when the disastrous post-conciliar period was starting, there began in the Church a new institute, the Disciples of the Cenacle.
Almost all of the first young Sisters taught in public schools. Their teaching supported the little community, and it was a form of apostolate. Having left their respective families, they perfected their consecration to the Lord by uniting the contemplative life to an active life. Their families, in general, could not understand their sudden resolution, which struck them as a lark, a leap from a safe and respectable situation into the unknown.
During summer vacations and whenever they could, the Disciples went to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to nourish their souls near Padre Pio. They had permanently rented a little house near the monastery. Don Putti wanted the Disciples to live as long as possible at San Giovanni Rotondo so that they could benefit from the example of Padre Pio's life, his merits, his confessional, and his counsels. From Padre Pio and Don Putti, the Sisters learned to love the Holy Sacrifice of the altar. Following their founder's directives, they remained faithful to the Latin Mass.
At Salerno, the community's life went serenely along, even in its relations with the archbishop. But soon, clouds formed....Don Putti informed the Sisters of the difficulties which had arisen in their relations with the archbishop. He explained to them the reasons compelling them to leave for another region. After a year at Grottaferrata, a walled medieval town a short distance south of Rome famous for St. Nilus Abbey, and two years at Frascati, also in the Roman region, the little community settled on the Via Anagnina near Grottaferrata in 1971 and remained there until 1983. But Don Francesco wanted to acquire a house. A donation from a monsignor, a very eminent benefactor, enabled them to acquire their present house at Velletri, not far from the SSPX's priory at Albano Laziale south of Rome, an acquisition that was completed on October 4, 1984, by the purchase of a neighboring parcel with a little house which they renovated for use by the community's chaplains and guests.
Don Putti's Legacy
On December 21st of that same year, having put in order the temporal and spiritual affairs of his Sisters, Don Putti died. In their Rule he left the testament of his faith and love and an antidote against the current deceit of a "false Catholicism, easy and devoid of sacrifices," whereas "the very essence of sacrifice is and will always be a life centered on the cross." It alone prepares the life of supernatural charity without which "the Catholic life, let alone the religious life, does not exist."
Don Putti bequeathed to his Sisters the press apostolate of SiSiNoNo, a periodical he started in 1975 [an English-language edition has been published by Angelus Press since 1994–Ed.], by which he sought to check "the growing desert of the true faith, whether in those who should be responsible for teaching it, or those who should learn it." As stated in the editorial of the inaugural issue, SiSiNoNo's mission was "the thankless task of going against the flow by saying yes to everything which, according to the Catholic Faith, was taught by the Apostles, and by saying no without equivocation or compromise to everything that seeks to supplant it." So it was that during the 1980's the Sisters began to leave the field of education in order to better help Don Putti in his SiSiNoNo apostolate. After his death, a priest of the SSPX became editor-in-chief of the periodical, which continues to be published monthly. Under the direction of the editor-in-chief, the Sisters do all the production work for SiSiNoNo from copy editing and typesetting to mailing. They currently print 3,500 copies monthly, but to this number must be added the circulation of English, French, and Spanish editions of this unique newspaper which is read in the Vatican and worldwide.
After Don Putti's death, the community was assisted spiritually by the Society of Saint Pius X and by Msgr. Francesco Spadafora (d. 1997), a renowned exegete and professor at the Pontifical Lateran University. The chaplaincy of the community is still provided by priests of the Society of Saint Pius X, while authority in the community is vested in the Mother Superior, who is responsible for decisions over their daily life and apostolic works.
The Disciples of the Cenacle are a religious institute of simple vows. Postulants must be of age in order to be accepted, although exceptions may be examined by the Mother Superior and her council. The Community does not require a dowry or a specific trousseau; each one may bring what she can for her use. Good health is not necessary; however, persons with nervous conditions or contagious disease are not accepted. The postulancy lasts one year and the novitiate, two, at the end of which the aspiring religious makes her first temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Vows are renewed annually; perpetual vows are made the tenth year. At present, there are nine professed Sisters in the community, two novices, and one postulant. While Italian remains the common language, the Disciples became an international community when in 1993 a young Englishwoman knocked on the convent's door. Subsequently, other vocations have come from Australia (1), Gabon (2), the Philippines (1), and Poland (1).
From their morning offering till their nocturnal visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the day of the Disciples of the Cenacle is centered round the little chapel and Jesus present on the altar. Throughout the day, the Sisters take turns in spending a half an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in order to keep our Lord company. Prayer alternates with work throughout the day, as the Sisters undertake the usual tasks associated with the life of a religious community: sacristy, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and gardening. In addition, the Sisters are open to any kind of external work or profession which is compatible with the consecrated life. Work is carried out in silence, with a stricter silence being observed from Compline till after breakfast.
The Rule does not exclude any ministry that Divine Providence might indicate and that circumstances call for. Currently, the Disciples of the Cenacle devote themselves especially to the apostolate of the press, which is focused on defending orthodoxy in light of Tradition and the Magisterium. Some Sisters devote themselves to teaching the traditional catechism; others offer spiritual assistance, and aid and comfort to the elderly; still others make traditional liturgical vestments. Several Sisters are helping the SSPX Italian District at the priory at Rimini, northeast of Rome on the Adriatic Sea, and they also help with the SSPX's annual girls' summer camps.
Interested ladies are invited to send their inquiry to:
Reverend Mother Superior Maria della Croce
Le Discepole del Cenacolo
Via Madonna degli Angeli 78
I-00049 Velletri, Roma, Italy
Tel:  (06) 963-5568
(Add six hours to EST for deciding when to call.)