“Barelli … lived her vocation, step by step, setting out on the path that led her to inspire a great movement of women, leading them to live their vocations to the full and to feel themselves living members of the Church and proclaiming the Gospel,” he said.
Barelli 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.
She discerned a lay vocation as a Third Order Franciscan in 1910 under the spiritual guidance of Franciscan Father Agostino Gemelli.
After showing leadership as the founder of the Milan Catholic women’s chapter of Catholic Action, Pope Benedict XV appointed Barelli as the president of the National Girls Youth of Catholic Action in a private audience in 1918.
Serving in that role from 1918 to 1946, Barelli formed “generations of conscious and motivated women,” Preziosi has said.
Known as Ida to her friends, Barelli had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which she helped to spread among the Catholic women she encountered.
Barelli went on to help found the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, collected a fund to open an orphanage in northern China, and founded the Secular Institute of the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ together with Father Gemelli.
She died in 1952 after suffering for three years from a progressive chronic illness. Barelli’s cause for sainthood was opened by the Archdiocese of Milan in 1960. Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed her Venerable in 2007 in recognition of a life of heroic virtue.
On Feb. 20, 2021, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Barelli’s intercession, paving the way for her upcoming beatification.
“Through her work, she contributed decisively to the promotion of young Christian women in the first half of the 20th century,” Pope Francis said.
“Her personal experience marks a decisive step in the vision of the laity: no longer in a minority condition, but the discovery of how that lay life, within the People of God, is a way to live holiness,” he wrote.
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