Ersilia Canta was born in S. Damiano d’Asti on March 25, 1908. Because of familial poverty, she attend school as complementary boarder in the house of Mornese and went to high school in Nizza Monferrato, where she received a high school diploma with a teachers certificate. It was here in Nizza that she had the good fortune to know Mother Catherine Daghero, Mother Petronilla, (who was a life-long friend of Mother Mazzarello), Mother Henrietta Sorbone, Mother Eulalia Bosco and other significant figures of the FMA who were present at the beginnings of the Institute. At the age of eighteen, Ersilia entered the Institute, and made profession on August 5, 1928. In 1929, she received the endorsement to teach literature and history in middle and high schools.

Sr. Ersilia was sent to Varazze and Livorno as a teacher. Later, she became the Superior in four places: Livorno (1939-1945), Nizza Monferrato (1945-1948), Conegliano Veneto (1948-1955), and Padua(1955-1957). After that, she began two terms as Mother Provincial, first in Padua (1958-1960), and then in Milan (1960-1965). She was elected as a General Coucillor in 1965, was made Vicar General in 1967, and two years later, in 1969, took up leadership of the Institue as our Mother General, and a successor of Mother Mazzarello. She died in Nizza Monferrato on December 28, 1989.


Mother Ersilia knew how to balance openness to the times and awareness of cultures with an unwavering fidelity to the charism, to the Holy Spirit, and to sound traditions. In accord with the guidelines of the Church’s Magisterium, she urged the Institute to be courageous and balanced in its sense of openness to the modern world. In a time marked by profound and rapid changes, Mother Ersilia was a link with the origins of the Institute. Her commitment was to bring the FMA to the sources of Salesian spirituality, taking great care in the formation of the Sisters. She was the first Superior General who personally visited every corner of the Institute. She involved the entire Institute in the preparation of General Chapters XVI and XVII, which led to the rediscovery of the identity of the FMA and taking down the final draft of the Constitutions.

Her circulars have a united and clear focus: they contain guidelines and directions for living Salesian religious life according to the charism of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello. As with the last ciruclar letters from Mother Angela, from this period, we regularly see tracts from the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Church, recorded in her circular letters, a sign of loyalty and belonging Church, an attitude which was very much alive in Mother Ersilia Canta.