Pioneer of confessional feminism and priest of the Second World War to be beatified | Catholic National Register



Armida Barelli and Father Mario Ciceri will be declared “Blessed” on April 30, 2022.

A pioneer of denominational feminism and a Catholic priest who ministered tirelessly during World War II will be beatified in April.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside over the beatifications of Armida Barelli and Father Mario Ciceri in the cathedral of Milan, in northern Italy, on April 30, 2022.

The date was announced on the Archdiocese of Milan’s website on October 29, reported ACI Stampa, AIIC’s Italian information partner.

Born into 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 to their campaigns calls for the right to divorce and more non-religious schools.

She was president of the Gioventù femminile cattolica italiana, an organization of young women, for more than three decades, helping women to form themselves in “a Eucharistic spirituality” and to recognize their “baptismal dignity” equal to that of men, according to the vice-postulator of his cause of holiness, 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 Catholic Women’s Chapter of Catholic Action in the city.

Barelli met Pope Benedict XV in 1918 for a private audience in which he appointed her president of the Gioventù femminile cattolica italiana.

Barelli then helped found the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, raised funds to open an orphanage in northern China, and founded the Secular Institute of Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ with Father Gemelli.

She died in 1952 after suffering for three years from a chronic progressive disease. Barelli’s cause for canonization was opened by the Archdiocese of Milan in 1960.

On February 20 of this year, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Barelli’s intercession, paving the way for his beatification.

The miracle involved the healing of Alice Maggini, who was hit by a truck while riding a bicycle in 1989 in Prato, Tuscany, after which doctors predicted severe neurological repercussions.

Maggini’s family invoked Barelli’s intercession, and Maggini was completely healed in a scientifically inexplicable manner and suffered no further consequences from the injury until her death in 2012.

Mario Ciceri was born in 1900 to poor peasants in northern Italy.

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 elementary school. His accomplishments earned him scholarships, which allowed him to continue his education despite his family’s limited means.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan at the age of 23.

As a new priest, he was in charge of the parish catechism classes and helped the Catholic Action youth group. He founded and led a schola cantorum For the young.

Father Ciceri also helped repair buildings, acting as a carpenter, mason, and electrical engineer. He used these skills to build a small reproduction of the Grotto of Lourdes.

A young man from the parish wrote that the priest had found the time to do these activities without ever neglecting his priestly ministry and that he was “still in church”.

The man said, “Yet if you go to the hospital, you can find him there anytime; if you travel the country, wherever there is a material or spiritual need, a pain to be appeased, a need for help, you will find it there. Where you are sure not to find him is his home, which is really not his home, but the home of the young.

Father Ciceri cared for and encouraged the poor, the sick, former prisoners and young soldiers who fought at the front lines during World War II.

In February 1945, while cycling home from a nearby parish, where he had helped confess, Father Ciceri was struck by a buggy and fatally injured. He died two months later, on April 4, at the age of 44, after offering his suffering for the end of World War II and the safe return of the soldiers.

Pope Francis acknowledged a miracle attributed to Ciceri’s intercession in November 2020.

The miracle involved the healing of Raffaella Di Grigoli, a 7-year-old girl in Como, northern Italy, who had undergone a series of surgeries for intestinal problems in 1975 and was feared to be on the point of dying.

The girl’s aunt organized a novena and told Father Ciceri’s sister the fate of her niece. The sister gave the family a scarf that belonged to the priest. Raffaella’s mother took the scarf to the hospital and placed it on her daughter’s body several times.

Raffaella was released from the hospital on February 4, 1976 and gave birth to a healthy daughter in 2005.



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