Clelia Barbieri was born in 1847 to a poor family on the outskirts of Bologna. After her father’s death, when she was eight, she went to work spinning hemp. Despite her own modest circumstances, Clelia sought every opportunity to serve her neighbors. She became well known in her parish for teaching catechism and encouraging other young girls in their faith. During this time, she conceived the idea of gathering a household of other young women who would devote themselves to prayer and good works. With support from their parish priest, they took over an abandoned house and implemented this vision. Neighbors arrived the first night with donations of food. Clelia remarked, “I like the idea that our house resembles the crib where the shepherds bring their gifts.”
Clelia and her companions endured poverty and hardship. In time, the Minims of Our lady of Sorrows, under the patronage of St. Francis of Paola. Clelia devised a rule that emphasized community, the spirit of contemplation, the practice of charity, simplicity, and joy. But her years were limited. She succumbed to tuberculosis at twenty-three, dying on July 13, 1870. She was canonized in 1989.