She refused multiple advantageous marriage proposals arranged by her parents, feeling drawn instead to dedicate herself to the Lord and serving the poor, particularly orphans and children of prisoners.
Under the spiritual guidance of Franciscan Fr. Agostino Gemelli, Barelli discerned a lay vocation as a Third Order Franciscan in 1910.
Blessed Cardinal Andrea Ferrari, the archbishop of Milan, asked her to help found the city’s Catholic women’s chapter of Catholic Action and then recommend her abilities to Pope Benedict XV.
At first, Barelli did not especially want to accept her archbishop’s invitation to lead the women’s group, Preziosi said. “But then noticing the difficulties with which the young women lived at that time, she accepted the challenge and went on to work tirelessly, reaching unimaginable results … in the formation of the Catholic laity.”
Barelli met with Pope Benedict XV in 1918 for a private audience in which he appointed her as president of National Girls Youth of Catholic Action.
Serving in that role from 1918 to 1946, Barelli formed “generations of conscious and motivated women,” Preziosi said.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Known as Ida to her friends, Barelli had an strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which helped to spread among the Catholic women she encountered.
“For her, the Sacred Heart is the 'Heart of the King', the merciful love of Christ, which invests every human action,” Preziosi said.
“She lived her faith with ever greater depth, a faith that led to an encounter with Christ himself, loved and present. It is a faith that is simple and strong at the same time, lived as a response to the call of the Lord,” he said.