Our Foundress

“Trust God and miracles will happen!” – Blessed Mother Clelia Merloni

Clelia Merloni, foundress of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was a woman deeply in love with God who did not measure the generosity of her complete self-offering to Christ, as she wrote in her diary: “We offer everything to Him to find everything in Him.”

Brief biography of Clelia Merloni 

Clelia Merloni was born in Italy on March 10, 1861. She lost her mother at an early age, and though she also suffered separation from her beloved grandmother and eventually her stepmother, both women instilled in Clelia a deep faith and a love for God. As she matured, she found herself more attracted to prayer and solitude than to the elite social life and administration of the family business that her father wanted for her.

Intelligent, gifted, and enthusiastic, she responded generously to God’s call to consecrated life. Though illness and even an earthquake interfered with her attempts to enter several religious institutes, Clelia eventually joined the Daughters of our Lady of Providence in Como in 1892. When she became gravely ill with tuberculosis, she and the entire community prayed a novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When miraculously cured, Clelia knew she had been called to found a new institute of religious women dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Holy Spirit helped Clelia to develop a clear vision of this call: to bring the tender love of Christ to the poor, orphans, widows and the abandoned. She would offer her life of good works for the conversion of her atheist father.

On May 30, 1894, Mother Clelia founded the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Viareggio, Italy. The community quickly grew and their ministries expanded. When Clelia’s father died after having converted on his deathbed, she was the sole beneficiary of her father’s substantial patrimony. Expansion of her works ended abruptly after only three years when a priest who was the administrator of her inheritance absconded the money and left Clelia’s new community completely bankrupt. Clelia was forced to close numerous missions and most of the sisters left. However, by God’s Providence, Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini from Piacenza accepted the sisters into his diocese, and by his influence, Apostles would soon leave as missionaries for Brazil in 1900 and the United States in 1902 to minister to Italian immigrants.

Mother Clelia, unfortunately became a victim of calumny after the bankruptcy and subsequent lawsuits. Not willing to accuse the priest publicly, she took the blame on herself which led to untold misunderstanding. She eventually was removed from office as Superior General, and after much agonizing over the future of the Congregation, she left the community she founded hoping this would strengthen its chance for survival. The community did flourish, yet Mother Clelia spent 13 years in exile, offering her suffering for the good of her young Congregation and its members. Her forgiveness of those who caused her suffering was heroic, and her charity towards others and especially the poor was deeply rooted in her love for Christ.

Mother Clelia returned to the Congregation, now with its Generalate in Rome in 1928, where she spent the last months of her life in solitude and conversation with her Beloved Jesus. She died on November 21, 1930.

In 1988, the cause of beatification of Mother Clelia Merloni was opened. After a period of investigation by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the medical board of specialists, bishops and cardinals, on January 27, 2018, Pope Francis signed the approval of the miracle of Mother Clelia Merloni. The miracle through the intercession of Mother Clelia involved the healing of Dr. Pedro Ângelo de Oliveira Filho, a Brazilian from Ribeirão Preto. Blessed Clelia’s beatification was celebrated at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, Italy on November 3, 2018.

Cause for Canonization

The miracle approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which facilitated the beatification of Mother Clelia took place in Brazil in 1951. Dr. Pedro Ângelo de Oliveira Filho, a Brazilian doctor, was stricken suddenly by a progressive paralysis of all four limbs and was rushed to Santa Casa de Misericordia di Ribeirà o Preto Hospital. The doctors diagnosed him with an ascending progressive paralysis known as Landry’s paralysis or Guillain-Barré syndrome. Within a few weeks, the paralysis worsened and spread, resulting in acute respiratory insufficiency. It finally reached the glottis, causing great difficulty in swallowing. The prognosis was fatal in view of the gravity of the condition and the limited medical options for a cure available at that time. Because the paralysis had reached the throat, the doctors discontinued treatments.

On March 20, the patient was having great difficulty breathing and was barely able to swallow his saliva. The doctors informed the family that he would not survive the night. With that news, the patient’s wife, Angelina Oliva, sought out Sr. Adelina Alves Barbos to ask for prayers. The sister gave her a novena to Mother Clelia along with a holy card containing a piece of fabric from the veil that Mother Clelia wore. Sr. Adelina, together with Angelina, her children, and other family members, began praying immediately. Sr. Adelina approached the sick man and gave him a cup of water in which she had placed the tiny relic. Although he was gravely ill, he managed to take some of the water. After a few minutes, those present noticed that he was able to swallow and was no longer losing saliva. Sr. Adelina tried giving him a spoonful of water, and he drank it. She then put a small amount of water in a cup and had him drink that. Then she poured some milk in a glass and gave it to him, and he drank it without any problem. Everyone was amazed at the sudden improvement, so much so, that the sister went to the kitchen to prepare some custard. Pedro Ângelo swallowed it easily. When the doctor on call arrived in the morning and saw the patient cured, he exclaimed that it was a miracle.

Pedro Ângelo continued to improve, and within three weeks, he was walking normally. On May 6, he was released from the hospital, for his healing was complete, permanent, and without relapse or signs of any symptoms. The doctor died on September 25, 1976, of cardiac arrest, thus from a completely different cause, 25 years after his miraculous cure.

We encourage you to pray through the intercession of Blessed Clelia Merloni, and contact us about any graces that you receive by emailing advancement@ascjus.org