Blessed Clelia Merloni Shrine Graces Tuckahoe Church


It is befitting a shrine dedicated to the foundress of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been blessed at Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady parish in Tuckahoe, said the parish’s director of religious education, who belongs to the religious order of Blessed Clelia Merloni.

“Immaculate Conception and Assumption parish is very warm and loving,” said Sister Cora Lombardo, A.S.C.J. “And if there was any place that was going to host a shrine of Blessed Clelia, God knew what He was doing in having it established here.

“When they come, they can feel it, they sense it,” she added in a phone interview with CNY Oct. 15.

Father Anthony Sorgie, pastor of Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady, presided at the blessing of the shrine during the 5 p.m. Vigil Mass he celebrated Oct. 17 at Immaculate Conception Church on Winter Hill Road in Tuckahoe. 

The shrine includes an image of Blessed Clelia in hand painted Talavera tiles from Talavera de la Reina, Spain. Next to it is a custom-made beveled glass and lead reliquary that contains a first-class relic of Blessed Clelia embedded within a likeness of a heart in a wooden mission lamp carved in Brazil. The image, relic and reliquary are appropriately situated next to a carved marble statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was originally in the now-closed St. Joseph’s Church on Monroe Street in Manhattan.

The shrine has a personal connection for Father Sorgie as well, he explained to CNY in a phone interview two days before its blessing.

“I knew of their sisters all of my life” because of the ties his paternal grandmother had to the order. She welcomed the sisters upon their arrival to a convent and school in the Bronx. In addition, a child whose family lived in an apartment in Father Sorgie’s grandmother’s house was befriended in a special way by his grandmother and would grow up to become an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

As providence would have it, Sister Cora, shortly after taking her first vows, would reside for a while in St. Louis with that same sister, who was some 40 years her senior.

Sister Cora is in her 11th year of service at Immaculate Conception and Assumption in Tuckahoe; before becoming DRE three-and-a-half years ago, she was the adult faith formation director for seven years.

The Tuckahoe shrine’s mission lamp—each one of the congregation’s provinces has such a lamp—that contains Blessed Clelia’s relic “captures what it’s all about,” Sister Cora shared with CNY, in that Blessed Clelia sent the sisters to the United States and Brazil “to help the immigrants, to bring the love of the heart of Jesus to people who really were suffering tough times and having a struggle—pretty much what we’re going through right now with Covid-19.

“So when I look at the lamp and I see the candle there,” Sister Cora continued, “it’s the love of the heart of Christ that set her heart on fire and sets our hearts on fire, to bring that love and to be the presence of Jesus to other people—to comfort them and to encourage them, to help them get through these tough times.”

Mother Clelia, who was born in Italy, was beatified Nov. 3, 2018, at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. Her feast day is Nov. 20, the eve of the anniversary of her death at age 69 in Rome in 1930. Her cause for canonization was opened in 1988. She was declared Venerable in December 2016.

The order was founded in Viareggio, Italy, in 1894. The congregation arrived in the Archdiocese of New York in 1926.