Mama Irene

My wife is always posting on social media about children who have been adopted or children who are seeking to be adopted. My wife was adopted. This fuels her desire for every child to have a family to call their own. We have friends that have welcomed new members into their family by adoption. It’s a wonderful thing, and certainly a reflection of the love of God. But can you imagine adopting over 10 children? How about 20? 30? Surely over 40 would seem too unbelievable. But a few weeks ago a woman died who adopted 58 children in her life! Do you want to be inspired? If you did not know of her already, I introduce you to Irene Bertoni, otherwise known as Mama Irene.


Mama Irene died on the feast of Pentecost at the age of 93. Her journey began when she was only 18 years of age when she left home in a war-torn Italy to adopt 2 abandoned children. She met up with Fr. Zeno Saltini, who was also taking in orphans of WWII, and they formed the genesis of a community that became known as the “Little Apostles,” and then Nomadelfia in 1948, which is Greek for the “law of brotherhood.” Many more young women over the years would join Irene as “mothers of vocation.” Today, 50 families make up the Nomadelfia community in Tuscany, Italy. Over the years since WWII, over 5,000 children have been adopted by women in the community.

Mama Irene and Fr. Zeno had a vision of a world where love was the primary rule and the right to be loved belonged to everyone. As a result, they have left behind a tremendous legacy. Perhaps you, like me, did not wake up this morning with an agenda to change the world. Adopting 58 children seems like too much for most of us. But what can you do that is equally impactful? What might God be calling you to do? You don’t think you can do anything that profound? Then you should spend some time reading scripture. There is a mountain out there with your name it, just waiting to be moved.

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