Charity is the most excellent virtue; it alone is sufficient to make a Paradise of your home or workplace.
Venerable Mother Clelia Merloni

Beatification Process Information

Prayer for Beatification

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, you who fill your servant Clelia with a profound love for the riches of the graces of your Heart, deign, we beseech you, to make use of her virtues to draw many persons to knowledge of and love of your sacred person, and, if it be your holy will, to call her to the honors of beatification so that we many have recourse more and more to her intercession and may learn from her example to devote ourselves humbly and generously to your divine service. Amen.

Biography

The Civil war in the United States marked the year 1861, while Italy was involved in the second Italian War of Independence. Into this atmosphere of unrest, Clelia Merloni was born in Forli, Italy. By most standards, this was an insignificant birth. Clelia’s father was an established business man and successful industrialist whose dreams involved his only daughter. He envisioned Clelia going to the best schools, marrying someone of high stature, and taking over the family business. These ambitious dreams were not Clelia’s.  

Tragedy entered Clelia’s life early. When she was only three, her mother died. Clelia’s kind grandmother then became her mentor and guardian. In 1866, Clelia’s father remarried and both Clelia’s new mother and her grandmother were great influences in living a Christian life for young Clelia.

Clelia went to the best of schools in the hope that she would fulfill her father’s dreams. Clelia, however, sensed an ever-deepening call to religious life. She would often retreat to her room to find solace in prayer. Often her prayer focused on her father’s conversion, as he left the church in favor of expanding his business ventures.

Both Clelia and her father were strong-willed. Clelia, however, appealed to her father to let her pursue her call to enter religious life. Reluctantly, her father conceded. Clelia entered several religious orders, only to succumb to illness and return to her father’s home. This did not deter Clelia. While she was home, she dedicated herself to works of charity. Her prayer led her to God’s dream for her…to begin a community dedicated to God’s heart.

In 1894, this dream came to fruition. The congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was born in Viareggio, Italy in 1894. All seemed to be well. The congregation expanded rapidly and held great promise. The sisters served the orphaned, the poor, and the sick. The means to provide for the expansion of the community was in large part the result of the patrimony Clelia’s father, Joachim Merloni, left to his daughter on his death in 1895. Clelia prayed continuously for the conversion of her father and witnessed that grace as her father lay dying.

As the young congregation expanded, it seemed to grow without struggle and challenge. In 1896, however, all came to an unexpected halt. An administrator outside the congregation counseled Clelia to turn her financial matters over to him, and the ill-advised Clelia experienced financial ruin. Not only did this put an end to charitable endeavors, but it also resulted in sisters leaving the community and eventually the public humiliation of Clelia herself. 

Bitterly difficult years followed. Clelia continued her care for God’s poor with only a few sisters who sacrificed in an effort to provide for others. Clelia, certain that God continued to call her to grow this congregation of sisters committed to prayer and ministry, received welcome from Bishop Giovanni Scalabrini, bishop of Piacenza, Italy. In 1900, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus received episcopal approbation and the bishop accepted the religious profession of ten sisters.

The congregation once again began to expand. In August of that year, six Apostle missionaries went to Sao Paulo, Brazil in support of Italian immigrants. Two years later, six Apostle missionaries sailed from Genoa, Italy to Boston, Massachusetts, to help Italian immigrants settle in their new home.

Although the congregation began to flourish and charitable ministries expanded, Clelia was to enter yet another time of hardship and challenge. In 1911, the Holy See removed Clelia from leadership in the congregation. This was the community Clelia loved and nurtured; however, in response to the authority of the Church she acquiesced.

Clelia withdrew in silence and prayer. She was a woman of courage and a woman of deep faith. She still carried with her the deep belief that God wanted this congregation to flourish. If it meant that she was to let go of what she had begun, so be it.

In 1928, after many years away from the congregation, she returned to the community she founded and asked to be reunited with her sisters. Granted this permission, her sisters in Rome welcomed her. Clelia spent her last two years of life in prayer and meditation among her sisters.

By the time of Mother Clelia’s death in 1930, many people were already convinced of her extraordinary holiness, revealed primarily through her unfailing trust in the love of the Sacred Heart amid constant trials and apparent failures. Those who had the opportunity to do so shared their recollections of her and even took her as an intercessor, encouraging others to do the same. Her reputation for sanctity thus began to spread, particularly in certain parts of the world. In the 1940's, the congregation made its first deliberate steps to explore her life and writings more deeply. These efforts included the compilation and publication of her letters and the writing of a biography based largely on personal testimonies. The highlight of this period was the transfer of Mother Clelia’s incorrupt body from Campo Verano Cemetery in Rome to the Chapel of the Generalate in 1945. With that, her reputation among the sisters and faithful became more widespread.

The congregation’s quest to learn more about its foundress intensified after the second Vatican Council, which asked all religious communities to rediscover their origins. Study focused on Mother Clelia’s intention for her congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, her spirituality, and the charism she received from the Holy Spirit as a gift to the Church. Commentaries, reflections, and anthologies coming out of this period helped the Apostles to better understand what Mother Clelia desired for their life and mission as her daughters. In the 1980's, the congregation took the formal steps to present Mother Clelia’s Cause to the Diocese of Rome, where she had died. Her reputation for sanctity having been firmly established, the diocesan process was able to begin. This process concluded in 1998 and Mother Clelia’s Cause was then submitted to the Holy See. From that point on, the congregation’s principal task was to prepare the Positio. Its purpose is to prove that the candidate for beatification lived a life of heroic virtue, that is, lived in an extraordinary manner the virtues to which all Christians are called. The completed 2-volume Positio on the life and virtues of Mother Clelia was presented to the Holy See in 2014. It consists primarily of biographical information and testimonies from those who knew Clelia either personally or through other eyewitnesses. After thorough study of the Positio by historians, theologians, bishops, and cardinals, Pope Francis signed the Decree of Heroic Virtue in December 2016. With that, Mother Clelia was given the title Venerable.

Once this significant step took place, the focus turned to study of the supposed miracle. This process includes critical examination by a medical commission to determine if the cure has no natural explanation. If the commission’s verdict is positive, the case is passed on to a theological commission to determine if the cure meets other criteria for a miracle and can be attributed to the intercession of the candidate for beatification. If so, it is then studied by the ecclesiastical authorities and referred to the Pope for his approval. We continue to pray that this final step toward Mother Clelia’s beatification will be completed soon so that she can be honored as Blessed. For canonization, the Church requires another miracle, which is to occur after the beatification, through the intercession of the Blessed.

From the time a cause is introduced and throughout the various stages of study, the Church is always interested in the candidate’s reputation for sanctity among the faithful. The many testimonies we have received from those who love Mother Clelia have helped to keep her cause alive and moving forward. If you have a particular devotion to her or have received any favors, large or small, through her intercession, we welcome with enthusiasm and gratitude your written testimony.