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Sister Clelia Merloni will be proclaimed blessed on November 3rd

by Graziella Fons

Holiness is a flower that blooms inside a person, soars in the sky of his freedom and walks the paths of men sowing goodness. There is no saint equal to another, the seeds of the divine bear fruit where God has established, even if sometimes it is difficult to find the field where God has hidden his presence. Many saints have struggled to find the ground on which to build the edifice of their loving relationship with God.  

Don Guanella also traveled many roads before finding the right foundation to begin his adventure of love with people called by God to share that drive of charity towards others in need. He knocked on Don Bosco's door, but after three years his bishop wanted him back in the diocese. He started some charitable activities, but they failed. «The hour of mercy», as he called the starter to start his beneficial action, struck when the luminous thread of Providence brought him to the shore of a lake and from there a new “Noah's Ark” began to sail the waters of need and embrace the poor.

On other waters and in another sea a raft with a young woman was at the mercy of the waves and was looking for a port to dock and make physical and spiritual well-being flourish for disadvantaged young girls. Clelia Merloni was traveling on that raft, wanting to do good and looking for a shelter. On 14 August 1892, the eve of the Assumption, the hypothetical raft moored on the shore of the lake in Como; Clelia Merloni knocked on the door of the Daughters of Santa Maria della Provvidenza and it was the Founder himself, Don Luigi Guanella (1842-1915), who welcomed her in person. Don Guanella sensed something different from the others in this young woman and had the sensation of finding himself in front of a particular soul. 

There was no shortage of work in that house, Clelia began to fully experience her consecration to God, dedicating herself to the tasks that her superiors entrusted to her. In particular, she took care of the orphans «whom she prepared among other things to animate the Sunday liturgy with songs. She taught them catechism, reading, housework and calculation. To better assist the orphans, she chose to sleep next to them in a small room near the dormitory. She thus became like a mother to these poor things who lacked everything. She tried to compensate with her love for so much loneliness and the lack of affection of these abandoned and frightened little ones." As an affectionate older sister she treated them gently, she was close to them, she listened to them. She tried to fill them with attention and things necessary for daily life. Poverty was gigantic and the people of Como knew and admired Don Guanella's work and helped him. Sometimes it was necessary to help do good and so Clelia, despite being from a bourgeois social background, did not hesitate to extend her hand and go begging in the various shops in the city to ask for clothes, food, books, and anything that could be useful. From the beginning, due to her kind and polite demeanor, around the town of Como she was known as the big-hearted nun and no one held back when she asked for something for those poor orphans.

Unfortunately, when it seemed that he had found his way to realizing his dream of consecrating himself to God, as in the past, suffering once again knocked on his door. Shortly after more than a year of staying in Como, towards the end of 1893, due to Sister Clelia's hard work and hard work, she fell seriously ill with tuberculosis. The doctor of the house, after having examined her, called her superior and told her that, given the progress of the disease and the impotence of the treatments, Clelia would die within a few days. This was how her sacraments were administered to her. Her father, her confessor, in comforting her, sensed that that young nun had a treasure hidden in her soul and that, perhaps, and perhaps God had a particular plan of God for her. Just as in the first years of his priesthood Don Guanella felt a strong appeal to found something stable for the poor, the young Clelia also felt the impulse to found a work of charity dedicated to the Heart of Jesus. The Guanellian nuns immediately began to pray for the healing of their sister and they also involved the orphans by starting a novena to the Madonna. It was a bet: from the outcome of the prayers, God's plan for her would be understood: whether she was to found the work dedicated to the Heart of Jesus.

The intercession of Our Lady of Divine Providence was powerful and at the end of the novena Clelia healed perfectly. 

This event aroused amazement throughout the community and the first reaction was to raise a hymn of gratitude to the Lord for the grace granted. In front of the painting depicting the image of the Madonna, Clelia vowed to always keep an oil lamp lit in memory of that miracle. 

From that moment, things changed. From that extraordinary healing, her spiritual father understood that God wanted something different from that young nun. The signs of God's will were evident. Clelia on her part, with that healing and the discernment of her superiors, felt confirmed in her intent to be called to found a work dedicated to the Heart of Christ.

The great desire that animated him was to lead souls to make known the love and riches of the Divine Heart. She felt an urgent need to convey to her brothers and sisters the message of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque: the pierced Heart of Jesus seeks souls to love and be loved by. She lived this spirituality as a mission and she felt ready to start a new adventure according to divine will. 

Precisely in those years Don Guanella dreamed of building the sanctuary dedicated to the Heart of Jesus. Clelia confided in Don Guanella, who confirmed her in the project and agreed that she would dedicate herself full time to the new mission of bringing the love of God to those far away. . 

God does not dream of isolated and autonomous realities, but always in communion and synergies of forces. Sister Clelia Merloni's new foundation found allies among Don Guanella's own friends such as Cardinal Ferrari and Monsignor. Scalabrini, bishop of Piacenza and fellow student of Don Guanella at the Como seminary.

Monsignor Scalabrini opened the doors of his diocese and the wind of the Holy Spirit blew towards the shores of the Atlantic Ocean on the routes of Italian emigrants. 

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