Clelia Barbieri was born to Giacinta Nannetti and Giuseppe Barbieri, on February 13th, 1847 in a village called “Budrie” of San Giovanni in Persiceto, in the outskirts of Bologna, Italy.
Her parents were of very different origins: Giuseppe Barbieri came from perhaps the poorest family of “Budrie”, while Giacinta from the most important family in town. Giuseppe worked as servant for Giacinta’s uncle, the district’s medical doctor, while she was the daughter of the well-to-do Pietro Nannetti.
After their much-contested wedding, the wealthy Giacinta accepted the poverty of a laborer’s life and moved from a comfortable home to the humble cottage of her father-in-law. Giacinta taught Clelia to love God early in her life placing in her heart the desire for sanctity. One day Clelia asked her, “Mother, how can I become a saint?”
In 1855, during a cholera epidemic, the then eight-year-old Clelia lost her father and through the generosity of her uncle, the doctor, she, her mother and younger sister Ernestina moved into a more comfortable house near the parish church.
At an early age, Clelia began to spend her time in contemplative prayer. There existed in the Church at that time a group called “The Christian Catechism Workers” who were mainly men whose aim it was to combat the prevalent religious negligence of the times.
Clelia joined the The Workers of Christian Catechism as an assistant teacher at the age of 14. She became such an inspirational leader in the community that the parish priest, Don Gaetano Guido, entrusted her with teaching and guiding young girls in Christian doctrine. By the time she was 17, she rejected marriage offers, opting instead to lead a pious life.
Clelia eventually founded a separate group, the Suore Minime dell’Addolorata (Congregation of Minims of the Sorrowful Mother) May 1st, 1868 when she was only 21. The Congregation concentrates on ministering in hospitals and elementary schools, to the sick, the aged, the lonely, and a prayer ministry for the poor.
Two years after founding the order, Clelia Barieiri died of tuberculosis on July 13th, 1870.
The religious order of Suore Minime dell’Addolorata continues to operate 35 community houses in Italy, India and Tanzania.
Being only twenty-three at the time of her death, Clelia Barbieri is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Church.
After Clelia’s death, an unusual and unexplained occurrence has often been reported in the various parishes she visited and houses in which her order is located. Her voice is often heard in readings and hymns. The voice never speaks alone but is always heard as part of a group. Throughout the years, people from various backgrounds have reported hearing the voice which is described as “unlike any of this earth”. The first reported occurrence happened one year after her death when sisters of her order were in evening prayer.
Prayer for the intercession of St Clelia Barbieri:
Father, in Clelia Barbieri, You give the world an example of Gospel living, love of You, and the perfection of charity. She celebrated and manifested her love of You in the service of others. You call us to imitate her and to follow her example.
We ask You for the grace to do so, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.