Blessed Elisabetta Renzi was born on November 19, 1786, in the village of Saludecio, Italy, from wealthy and devout parents, Giambattista Renzi and Vittoria Boni. As a young child she was educated and catechized by the Poor Clares in a boarding school not far from her house. As a teenager, she asked permission of her parents to enter the Augustinian monastery at Pietrarubbia. There she lived a remote and impoverished life with the cloistered nuns and became a novice. Before completing the novitiate, a decree by Napoleon caused all religious houses to close and at that point she went back to her parents’ home. For the next several years, she remained with her family, uncertain of what would become of her life. She had a strong desire to live out a religious vocation, but at that particular time in history, it was no longer a possibility. As the years went by, Elisabetta became dissatisfied with her life and felt a longing for something more than what she was living. She felt a calling to give her life to the service of God. Elisabetta’s spiritual director invited her to explore a small conservatory, laboratory for girls, in the town of Coriano. It was there, that Elisabetta began to work as a teacher and became a role model for poor girls. Elisabetta’s desire was to educate young women in the responsibilities and duties of being a good mother and wife, as well as to educate them in the basic subjects of reading, math, and above all religion. She believed that if young girls become good and holy women, their families, in turn, would become good and holy families.
During this time, Elisabetta desired to join the Daughters of Charity, the congregation of Maddalena of Canossa, yet, God had something else in mind for her. In 1828, Elisabetta became director of the small laboratory school in Coriano and she was also encouraged to start her own religious Congregation. On August 26, 1839, Elisabetta received diocesan approval to begin a new religious congregation and three days later, on August 29, Elisabetta and ten companions received the religious habit of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows. She and her sisters continued to serve God’s people through education – focusing on the young, the poor, the weak, and the needy.
On August 14, 1859, after a life of struggle and suffering, but also of great spiritual joy, Blessed Elisabetta died, leaving both to her congregation and to the universal Church an example of holiness of life and of great trust in God.
She left her daughters with these farewell words:
“Unless the members of our Congregation will remain united with Jesus, it will certainly cease to exist. Jesus is here and He is always with you. He alone has founded the Congregation; He alone will keep watch over it. I didn’t do anything! I have done nothing but to undo his work. Let us love our good God! I . . . I, in the blessedness that I hope to reach through his goodness and mercy; you, still among humiliations and struggles. I ask pardon of everyone for all my faults and omissions. Pray for me! Good-bye, beloved daughters; be generous with the Lord. I carry all of you in my heart and I bless you . We will see each other up there in heaven . . . up there . . . And from up there I will tell you again to be grateful to the Lord. Let your faithfulness be your thanksgiving, since the more you receive, the more God will ask of you my daughters.”
He alone has founded the Congregation; He alone will keep watch over it. I didn’t do anything! I have done nothing but to undo his work. Let us love our good God! I . . . I, in the blessedness that I hope to reach through his goodness and mercy; you, still among humiliations and struggles. I ask pardon of everyone for all my faults and omissions. Pray for me! Good-bye, beloved daughters; be generous with the Lord.
Blessed Elisabetta Renzi