Costanza Cerioli was born at Bergamo, the last of 16 children. At 19 she reluctantly entered an arranged marriage with an elderly widower. The difficult match lasted 19 unhappy years. Two of her children died at infancy and her son at 16. When her husband died, he left her a vast fortune, which she devoted to the care of orphaned girls from impoverished rural families. Costanza’s bishop once told her that some people thought she was “cracked.” “So I am,” she said, “by the lunacy of the cross.” Other women soon joined her work. In 1857, she organized the Institute of the Holy Family and took the name Paula Elizabeth. She opened a branch of the Institute for boys in 1862.