Blessed Mario Ciceri
Mario Ciceri was born to poor farmers in northern Italy in 1900.
From childhood, he knew he had a vocation to the priesthood. With the permission of his devout parents, he left to study at a seminary high school while still in grade school. His achievements earned him scholarships, which allowed him to continue his studies despite his family’s limited means.
He was ordained a priest of the Milan archdiocese at age 23.
As a new priest, he was responsible for the parish’s catechism classes and helped with the Catholic Action youth group. He founded and directed a schola cantorum for young people.
Ciceri also helped to repair the buildings, acting as a carpenter, bricklayer, and electrical engineer. He used these skills to build a small reproduction of the Lourdes Grotto.
One young man at the parish wrote that the priest somehow found time to do these activities while also never neglecting his priestly ministry and was “always in church.”
The man said: “Yet if you go to the hospital, you can find him there at any time; if you go around the country, wherever there is a material or spiritual need, a pain to soothe, a need to help, you will find him there. Where you are sure not to find him is at his home, which really is not his home, but that of the young people.”
Ciceri cared for and encouraged the poor, the sick, former prisoners, and the young men who were soldiers fighting at the front during World War II.
In February 1945, while riding his bicycle home from a neighboring parish, where he had helped to hear confessions, he was hit by a buggy and fatally injured. He died two months later, on April 4, at the age of 44, after offering his suffering for an end to World War II and the safe return of soldiers.
Pope Francis called Ciceri “a shining example of a pastor” at the end of his Regina Coeli address on May 1.
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Blessed Armida Barelli
Born to an upper-class family in Milan in 1882, Barelli came of age at a time when Italy’s first secular feminists emerged from the women’s suffrage movement, adding calls for divorce rights and more non-religious schools to their campaigns.
She served as president of the National Girls Youth of Catholic Action for more than three decades, helping young women to be formed in “a Eucharistic spirituality” and to recognize their equal “baptismal dignity” with men, according to the vice postulator for her sainthood cause, Ernesto Preziosi.
Under the spiritual guidance of Franciscan Father Agostino Gemelli, Barelli discerned a lay vocation as a Third Order Franciscan in 1910.
Cardinal Andrea Ferrari of Milan, who was himself later declared blessed, asked her to help found the city’s Catholic women’s chapter of Catholic Action.
Barelli met with Pope Benedict XV in 1918 for a private audience in which he appointed her as president of the National Girls Youth of Catholic Action.