Saint Clelia Barbieri
Saint Clelia Barbieri (13 February 1847 – 13 July 1870) was an Italian and the founder of the Little Sisters of the Mother of Sorrows. Barbieri declined the married life in her adolescence – even when pressured – in favor of leading a life dedicated to the needs of others; she served as an educator for a while and joined a religious movement which made her a notable figure in her village.
Clelia Barbieri was born in Bologna in 1847 to the poor workers Giuseppe Barbieri and Giacinta Nannettil her little sister was Ernestina (b. 1850). Barbieri was baptized straight after her birth as “Clelia Rachele Maria”. Her father died in 1855 due to a cholera epidemic so she started to work alongside her mother spinning hemp to support her siblings. During this time her mother and Ernestina moved into a house near the local parish church due to her doctor uncle’s personal intervention. The girl started to spend her time in deep contemplation during her childhood and despite her poverty, she was raised in a pious household in which religious education was imparted to her and she made her First Communion on 17 June 1858.
Barbieri later joined “The Workers of Christian Catechism” as an assistant teacher in 1861 and became such an inspirational leader that the parish priest – Father Gaetano Guido – entrusted her with the teaching and guidance of girls in doctrine. Up until 1864, she rejected marriage offers put forth to her and opted instead to lead a pious life of service to others. Barbieri soon founded a separate group known as the “Suore Minime dell’Addolorata” (01-05-1868) aged 21. This group began to minister to the poor and the sick in the local area.
Barbieri died due to tuberculosis in 1870. Her religious order operates in places such as Tanzania and India and in 2008 there were 296 religious houses in 36 different communities.
Barbieri’s canonization cause started on 15 March 1930 when she was made a Servant of God, progressed with her beatification on 27 October 1968, and culminated with her sanctification on 9 April 1989 under Pope John Paul II. (From Wikipedia)
“I shall remain always with you and I shall never abandon you!”
–St Clelia to her religious sisters at her deathbed
The Sisters in the communities of Usokami and Wadakanchery hear the Saint’s voice singing and peaying with them in their language. And even when they pray in Latin, she prays in Latin as well.
It has been over a century since her death, yet from time to time her heavenly voice is being heard in houses of her Religious Order. Particularly at LeBurdrie, she is heard accompanying other sister in their hymns, readings and in their conversations. They also have heard her accompanying the priest during Eucharistic celebrations and even during sermons.
In 1970, during an interview with Joan Carroll Cruz, who was an author, the Mother Superior of the Order in LeBudrie said:
“… this prodigious gift stimulates us to do well, increases our faith, is a relief to the trials of life, and gives us a great desire for heaven.”
The Mother Provincial of the order, Sr. Silvana Magnani, confirms that this was still happening:
“The voice accompanies us in our prayers which are in Italian, and with prayers that are in diverse languages: in Tanzania where we have a mission, the voice speaks in the language of Swahili; in India, the language is Malayalam.”
Her voice has been described as unlike anything earthly, always gentle and sweet. It is been confirmed by numerous witnesses, even her original companions, priests, lay workers in their hospitals (of the religious order) that they hear her voice. Many also gave sworn testimonies before the tribunal who investigated the miracle prior to her beatification in 1968 and her canonization in 1989.
On her death bed she had once promised:
“Be brave, because I am going to Paradise; but I shall always remain with you, too; I shall never abandon you!”
In the book “A Song of Love-Saint Clelia Barbieri” by Paolo Risso [“Un canto d’amore- Santa Clelia Barbieri”, Torino, 1989] St. Clelia’s biographer states:
“And St. Clelia continues to let us hear her voice like that first anniversary of her death. Her nuns, together with many others, continue to hear her voice which prays, sings and intercedes. It is a voice full of happiness when announcing good news for her “family,” the Church and the world. It is full of sadness when suffering is nearby. It is always calm and encouraging, a true sign that God never leaves us.”
Her relics are kept in a crafted urn at the religious house in LeBudrie, Bologna, Italy. Many people come to visit these and pray for several intentions