Elena Guerra

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Elena Guerra
Guerra Elena.png
Born(1835-06-23)23 June 1835
Lucca, Duchy of Lucca
Died11 April 1914(1914-04-11) (aged 78)
Lucca, Kingdom of Italy
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Beatified26 April 1959, Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City by Pope John XXIII
  • 11 April
  • 23 May (Lucca)
  • Oblates of the Holy Spirit

Reverend Mother Superior, Elena Guerra (23 June 1835 – 11 April 1914) was an Italian Roman Catholic professed religious and the founder of the Oblates of the Holy Spirit. Guerra was a strong religious proponent on the Holy Spirit as a motivation to do pious works, and was known to dedicate her life to the education of particularly Chinese and African girls and made it the sole focus of her religious life.[1]

Guerra sent a grand total of twelve private letters to Pope Leo XIII who held great esteem for her work to the point he issued three documents on it.[2] The same Pontiff renamed Guerra's order, further strengthening it, though Guerra was forced to resign as the Superior General in August 1906 due to internal friction.[3]

Pope Pius X received Guerra in a private Papal audience on 2 September 1904, then granting her the Pontifical decree to crown her venerated Marian cloister image of the Immaculate Conception on 9 September 1904 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the dogma of the Ineffabilis Deus. The decree was signed by Cardinal Casimiro Gennari and notarized by the Secretary for the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Archbishop Diomede Panici.

Pope John XXIII beatified Guerra on 26 April 1959 due to her pious works associated with the Holy Spirit in further recognition of two miracles attributed to her intercession.[3]


Elena Guerra was born into a wealthy, aristocratic family in Lucca on 23 June 1835 as one of six children to Antonio Guerra and Faustina Franceschi.[2] In her childhood she was known to be talented but timid in nature. Guerra made her Confirmation on 5 June 1843.[3]

Guerra worked with the Vincentians, caring for the poor and the sick. Cholera struck Lucca in 1853 and she tended to the ill after her parents granted her permission to do so.[1] Guerra studied French as well as music and art but also learnt Latin and the lives and works of the Church Fathers during an illness that spanned from 1857 to 1864 as she could not leave the house because of it. In 1866 she established a lay association dedicated to the education of girls, which she decided would be the sole focus of her life. It was called the Order of Saint Zita in honor of the patron saint of Lucca whom she admired.[2] One of her students was Gemma Galgani.

Guerra travelled to Rome in 1870 to attend a session of the First Vatican Council that Pope Pius IX had convened. Guerra and her father made an Easter pilgrimage there in April 1870 and visited the tomb of Saint Peter before she was able to meet with the pope on 23 June 1870. In 1885 she wrote Pope Leo XIII and asked him to rekindle in the faithful devotion to the Holy Spirit. Leo XIII responded with an apostolic letter (Provida matris caritate). Encouraged, Guerra wrote thirteen letters to Leo between 1895 and 1903. Leo issued the encyclical Divinum illud munus (subtitled "On the Holy Spirit") in 1897, in which he established the Novena to the Holy Spirit to be said between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost.[4] He followed this in 1902, with a letter to the bishops, Ad fovendum in Christiano populo.[5]

Leo XIII granted her a private audience on 18 October 1897 in which he encouraged her work and renamed the order. It was at some stage that she corresponded with Arnold Janssen regarding a "militia of the Holy Spirit" that would be dedicated to working against the Freemasons.[3] In August 1906 the Archbishop of Lucca told her that he would not permit her prospective religious from vesting or taking their vows unless she resigned as the order's Superior General. Guerra resigned her position after reflection more so in light of internal friction with some nuns questioning the manner in which she was leading the congregation. Her order received papal approval from Pope Pius X on 6 March 1911. John Bosco once referred to Guerra as a "golden pen" in reference to her spiritual writings.[1]

Guerra died on 11 April 1914 (on Holy Saturday) and is buried in Lucca at the church of Sant'Agostino. Her order continues its work with houses in nations such as Iran and the Philippines amongst others; in 2008 there were 232 members of her order in 36 houses across the globe.[1]


Tomb of Blessed Elena Guerra in the church of Sant'Agostino in Lucca.

The beatification process commenced in Lucca on 5 May 1936 under Pope Pius XI. With the commencement of the cause she was granted the posthumous title of Servant of God. Two local processes were held on a diocesan level and were both ratified on 13 April 1945 after documents were sent to the Congregation for Rites; her spiritual writings received theological approval on 21 May 1935. An antepreparatory committee approved the documents pertaining to the cause on 26 June 1951 as did a preparatory one on 20 January 1953 and a general committee on 21 April 1953. Pope Pius XII approved her life of heroic virtue and proclaimed her to be Venerable on 26 June 1953.

Two investigations into two alleged miracles were held and were both validated and ratified on 16 October 1953. The miracle was soon approved (after passing several boards) and allowed for Pope John XXIII to celebrate her beatification on 26 April 1959 in Saint Peter's Basilica.[6] 5000 of her own congregation attended the beatification celebration.[2] The apostolic letter Renovanis faciem terrae' was the document that authorized the beatification, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Cardinal Domenico Tardini.[2]

The current postulator overseeing this cause is the Cistercian priest Ugo Gianluigi Tagni.


  1. ^ a b c d "Saint of the Month - April, 2016: Blessed Elena Guerra". Guadalupe House. 1 April 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Blessed Elena Guerra". Saints SQPN. 10 April 2017. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "Blessed Elena Guerra". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  4. ^ Pope Leo XIII. Divinum illud munus, May 9, 1897, §13, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  5. ^ Lumini, Antonella. "Apostle of the Holy Spirit", L'Ossservatore Romano, November 2, 2016
  6. ^ Nucci, Alessandra (18 May 2013). "The Charismatic Renewal and the Catholic Church". The Catholic World Report. Retrieved 11 September 2017.

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