Monday, November 26, 2018


On November 3 MOTHER CLELIA MERLONI was beatified in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. Her most difficult life is a testimony to us all  that in spite of life’s trials, one can attain sanctity. 

The new blessed was born  in 1861 in Forlì, Italy.  Her mother died in 1864 and her maternal grandmother became her guardian. Her father remarried in 1866 and both her grandmother and stepmother did their best to instill religious values and a love of God in her. Her father became  so engrossed in his work and his rising socio-economic status, that his faith became nonexistent, leading him to become an anti-clerical Freemason.

Despite her frail health her father sought to provide her with the best education  possible in order to prepare her for following him in his business. She attended a private school in her town where she learned basic skills such as reading and mathematics, while also learning sewing and piano skills.

Clelia began to demonstrate signs that her father's business ambitions were not intended for her. Due to this  her father began to grow suspicious of the grandmother and forced her from the home. The situation became aggravated when marriage struggles saw  Clelia's stepmother leave the household to live with other relatives. Clelia often fled to her room to do penance for her father's misdeeds and wore a pebble in her shoe to offer her sufferings for her father's withdrawal from the faith. 

The death of her father in 1865 – who reconciled to the faith before his death – saw his estate left to Bl. Clelia.

She then  joined the Figlie di Santa Maria della Divina Provvidenza – the order that St Luigi Guanella founded , but while there  realized a call to form an order that would be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She founded that order in 1894 with three friends.

In 1896 a financial disaster, due to her dishonest financial administrator,  bought about great humiliation on the order which in turn led to public opinion turning against them.  Bl. Clelia was soon told that her life was in danger and was advised to leave Viareggio.  She sought refuge with the order based in Broni.

It was to her benefit that she later met the Bishop of Piacenza Bl Giovanni Battista Scalabrini in 1900. He not only approved the rule for her order, but also accepted the profession of  the future blessed and ten other religious. Bl. Clelia  desired that the congregation be extended to the foreign missions and on 10 August 1900 six of the religious departed  for Brazil.  

Bl. Giovanni Battista

In 1902 six sailed on the British ship  "The Vancouver" for Boston to aid the Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo, the order  founded by Bl. Giovanni. By 1903 there were 30 houses with 200 sisters.

The death of Bishop Scalabrini 1905 saw the decline of Bl. Clelia's good standing among the congregation and in 1911 the Vatican removed her from the leadership. She withdrew from the public due to this and in 1916 both requested and received a dispensation that would release her from her religious vows. 

During her exile Pope Benedict XV granted the decree of praise of the order in 1921. In 1928 she requested permission to renter the congregation and  was welcomed at the motherhouse in Rome where the order was now based. 

The present  Superior General, Marcellina Vigano issued a circular letter that read: "Our most ardent desires have finally been fulfilled! ... Our beloved Mother Foundress is once again with us all of the seventh of this month. The Sacred Heart has restored her health so that she may now enjoy here in the motherhouse, surrounded by the love of her daughters, that peace and quiet which she needs so much, after so many trials and sorrows".

Bronze by Michael Alfono- Hamden CT
Bl. Clelia Merloni died on 21 November 1930 and she was buried at Campo Verano but was later exhumed and found intact in 1945. Her remains were then transferred to the motherhouse of the order. The order itself now has 1200 members in nations such as Taiwan and Switzerland .

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