Living in the near-vicinity of the parish church, Clelia spent much of her spare time there in personal prayer or actively volunteering with many of the parish activities. By the time she was 14-years-old, her exceptional conduct, maturity, and knowledge of Church teachings led to her appointment as a catechist, especially charged with training young women in the precepts of the Christian Faith. Consequently, Clelia was ridiculed by a few who viewed her as overly pious... but more so, was deeply respected and admired by the majority in her small town for her sincere example of virtue and dedication to God.
Now, as one can see from the photos of Clelia, she was indeed a very attractive girl… so it wasn’t surprising that marriage proposals were forthcoming to her mother. However, Clelia from early on had already discerned a call from Jesus to enter into consecrated life… and she politely declined all the marriage offers she received. Instead, she opted to continue her services to the parish and focused on other charitable activities such as visiting the sick and assisting the poor for whom she had a special affinity, given the personal hardships she went through while growing up. Added to these were self-mortifications, which included a “cilicia” - a spiked-belt - that she discretely wore on her body with the discerning approval of her confessor.
In time, Clelia gathered a small group of woman about her who shared her spiritual and service-oriented ideals, and together, they became the core members of the Suore Minime dell’ Addolorata (“Little Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows”), a congregation of women that Clelia founded in May, 1868. Just imagine - Clelia was a foundress of a thriving religious community by the youthful age of 21; the youngest founder in the history of the Catholic Church!
On another occasion, the mother of one of the nuns brought Clelia a basket of apples. Clelia divided the apples into three separate piles, stating that the nuns could keep two of the piles because they were either picked from the woman’s own tree or gathered after falling on her property, but she declined the third pile with a frank statement that the apples had been acquired dishonestly. The donor, contrite and undoubtedly embarrassed by Clelia’s uncanny insight, later acknowledged that the apples had been taken from a neighbor's property without permission. Again, this incident gives us a significant glimpse into the moral character and spiritual gifts of the foundress... and her conscientious desire to always live in goodness and truth.
In addition, Clelia had consoled her spiritual daughters with a promise that she would never abandon the congregation and would always be among them. Amazingly, the latter words were fulfilled when, a year after her death, Clelia’s voice was mysteriously heard singing and praying with her nuns! The unique voice-phenomenon reportedly continues up to this day in ALL the houses of the Suore Minime, audibly praying not just with the resident nuns, but also with visitors. Amazing!
“Mother, how can I become a saint?” ~ Words of St. Clelia to her mother
A Short Prayer