During this time, Mother Clelia was forbidden from having any contact with the community, and many of the sisters who supported her were sent home or to other communities.
A few years later, Mother Clelia asked for a dispensation from her religious vows in order to leave the congregation for a period of time. “She felt for the good of the congregation, she should leave it for a period,” Sr. Anne Walsh said.
Called her “exile,” Mother Clelia was separated from her community and her sisters for the next 12 years. In 1927, Mother Clelia was readmitted to the congregation. She lived in a separate room, with a window overlooking the chapel, where she “would spend hours and hours in prayer,” Sr. Anne said, until her death, November 21, 1930.
After everything that had taken place, she was “especially a woman of pardon,” Sr. Anne said.
The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus received a decree of approval from the Holy See the following year.
Mother Clelia’s response to the suffering she faced throughout her life, “teaches us all a good lesson,” Fr. Brooke said.
“How many families in our world today, in our society today, are broken and struggle with relations with each other, the same way she struggled with relationships with some of her sisters early on,” he said.
“That she was eventually able to find reconciliation and reparation and healing in those relationships before she died is a good example for a lot of families today which are so broken and split apart.”
Brooke said he believes the timing of her beatification is providential, considering the “ways in which there is so much fracturing and woundedness, even in the Body of Christ, even in the Church.”
To have Mother Clelia raised up as an example at this time gives the whole Church a witness of what it is to seek “healing and reparation within the Church,” he said.
Sr. Elizabeth Doyle, a temporary professed sister of the Apostles, told CNA that today what strikes her the most about Mother Clelia’s life is her faith: “She really threw herself into the darkness and trusted that is where God wanted her,” she said.
“And there were a lot of very human reasons for her to say, ‘I don’t think this is working out and maybe it’s not what God wants for my life.’ There were a lot of material or external kinds of failures, but she was really convinced that God had a plan for her life, and she stuck with that despite the suffering and misunderstandings and hardships that came with that,” Sr. Elizabeth said.
“That really challenges me to look at my life of faith and say, ‘Do I trust God that much?’”
Sr. Elizabeth added “that God meets us in our brokenness and we meet God in his brokenness.”
“That’s where God invites us in,” she said, “is through his wounded heart and that’s how God really penetrates into our own lives: through our own wounded hearts.”
“That has drawn me closer to God, knowing that is where I can find him the most – in the brokenness of the wounded parts of my life – and that’s really where I can help other people draw closer to God too.”
The miracle that led to Mother Clelia’s beatification took place in the 1950s in Brazil. Dr. Pedro de Oliveira Filho had contracted Landry-Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a severe neurological condition, which can be fatal.
The doctor became totally paralyzed, and his family was told by doctors he would not survive the night. They began to pray for healing through the intercession of Mother Clelia. Also present was a sister of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who had brought with her a small piece of Mother Clelia’s habit.
That same evening, the sister took a thread from the relic and put it in a tiny amount of water, giving it to the paralyzed man to drink. To everyone’s surprise, he was able to drink the water, so the sister continued to give him larger and larger sips, eventually feeding him some custard. By the morning, he was completely healed.
The Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus now consists of around 1,000 sisters in 15 different countries around the world. They are involved in education, healthcare, parish and diocesan ministry, social work, immigrant outreach, and care to trafficked women.
Sr. Anne said that Mother Clelia taught their community, “where there is brokenness, to pour on the love of Jesus so we can bring love and healing to the world. And that’s what we try to do as Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is to carry on that charism that’s been entrusted to us.”