Karolina Cauchi was a wealthy unmarried woman from Rabat – Victoria. Considering the time she lived and the fact that she was a woman her strength of will and her ability to persuade an extraordinary goal was astounding. All her life was devoted to her plan; the foundation of a Dominican sisters’ monastery in Gozo. Her dream became reality in 1889.
Karolina was born on December 25th, 1824. She was the only daughter of Nicolo Cauchi from Rabat and his wife Tereza Galea from Senglea, Malta. Karolina spent her childhood in the family’s palatial building in Rabat.
Karolina Cauchi, 1901
Her father, a well respected notary, and her mother, daughter of a wealthy merchant belonged to the “high society” of the time. They provided private tuition t her daughter beginning at a young age. Karolina spoke fluent Italian. Later she studied Latin.
Like most of the people of Gozo Karolina’s father wanted the island to become an independent diocese. Karolina followed in his footsteps. In a letter to the congregation of extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs in Rome she pledged to found a sisters monastery together with her young cousin Fortunata Spiteri – as soon as Gozo was accepted as an independent diocese.
Indeed on September 16th, 1864 Gozo became a diocese. Nevertheless Karolina Cauchi’s plan could not be fulfilled immediately. There were too many important matters to be settled in the young diocese’s foundation being aged only 32 years. At the beginning of the year 1872 Karolina also lost both her parents. Being self dependent, she still did not let go of her goals. But although her knowledge of Italian and Latin must have supplied her with a certain insight in ecclesiastical norms, she needed the support of a man of the church Monsignor Pietro Pace, who in 1877 had become the first bishop of Gozo, was the person to give her the assistance she needed. Finally in September 1883 the goal was reached. On the 21st day fo this month the official papers of the foundation were signed. The foundation stone of the monastery was laid on Karolina’s property close to the “Sacred Heart Seminars” in Rabat on May 1889, six sisters started the community life following the Dominican rules.
In Xlendi Karolina’ sisters had a summer convent, where they could rest form their hard labour. The residence was located in today’s church of Xlendi. A private path led from the convents garden over part of the cliff o their bathing place, a natural grotto at the end of the path. To this day it is known as Karolina’s Cave. At an exorbitant expense Karolina had ordered the steps and the path to be cutting the stone. This way her sisters were able to reach their private bathing place comfortably. The grotto was secured by an iron gate. This gate and the old path still exist, but the nuns are no more, today everybody can enjoy a swim in their former bath.
The small bay of Xlendi was known as “woman’s harbour”, as it was exclusively reserved for women and children. The steps leading to Karolina’s Cave still exists
Karolina surrounded by her fellow sisters on March 25th, 1900
Originally Karolina had planned the order to be contemplative. In favour of urgently needed nursing services she gave up this idea. Karolina and her nuns introduced the people of Gozo to a service unknown on the island: the official supply of medical care at the people’s homes. Generally the sisters have to be honored for increasing the standard of nursing care and for improving the situation in the hospital. Being a highly honoured woman Karolina Cauchi dide on July 7th,1907, the age of 83 years.