Clelia was devastated to have lost the three women who had taught her about God and she continued to pray for the conversion of her father.
Soon after her stepmother's death, Clelia entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Snows in Savona. Five years later, a severe earthquake destroyed the convent. Though Clelia had escaped unharmed, she soon became ill and her father took her home.
In 1892, she entered the Little House of Divine Providence in Como, where she was given care of the orphans. There she protracted tuberculosis, and doctors believed she would not be cured.
"In the face of her physical suffering she chose to dedicate herself to Christ and to the heart of Christ," Brooke said.
Clelia had begun to sense a calling to establish a religious congregation dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and confided this to her confessor, who advised her to pray a novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for healing and to know God's will. At the end of the novena, she was miraculously healed.
At the age of 33, Mother Clelia founded the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Viareggio, Italy. The next year, her many prayers and sacrifices were rewarded, when her father had a conversion and asked to receive the sacraments, just five months before his death.
Mother Clelia was his only heir and received from him the entirety of his sizeable fortune, which she used to fund her community's charitable works.
Just three years into the life of the congregation, the priest who was responsible for administering her father's estate lost the entire fortune through risky financial dealings and fled to France. Mother Clelia was beset by creditors; lies and threats quickly spread as she tried to save her community from ruin.
Eventually, at Mother Clelia's request, Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini of Piacenza took the community under his ecclesial protection, assisting them with their financial situation.
But after the bishop died unexpectedly, conflict within the congregation led to three Apostolic Visitations by the Holy See, instigated by a sister who accused Mother Clelia of moral, disciplinary, and economic disorder. As a result, Clelia was removed as Mother General of the order, though none of the apostolic visitors had ever spoken with her directly.
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.
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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.