Blessed Elisabetta Renzi & How Her Legacy Lives On in Shreveport, Lousiana

Sister Martinette Rivers, OLS

By: Kierstin Richter, Editor

“Adhere et lucere,” or to “burn and to light.” This is the motto Blessed Elisabetta Renzi attributed to her order – that we must burn to give light and warmth to our brothers and sisters. “Contemplative life is not enough,” she says. “Active life alone is vain. Together, contemplation and action are perfect. This is our life.”

Nestled away down Norris Ferry Road in Shreveport, Louisiana, surrounded by trees and gardens and incomparable peace, the women of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows not only serve the Shreveport community through education, but also travel worldwide to the order’s other locations such as Italy, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Brazil to expand their ministry. Well traveled and well spoken, each sister is fluent in multiple languages, specifically Italian.

Their foundress, Maria Elisabetta Renzi, born and raised in Saludecio, Italy, was on her way to beatification from a young age. “Even as a child,” her brother said, “Elisabetta opened herself up to silence and prayer…a ray of light shining on pure gold; she did not acquire beauty from the wealth around her, but everything precious around her. She herself made beautiful with her great goodness and sweetness.”

Renzi entered the monastic life at the age of 21, but her time was cut short after the storm of the Napoleonic Revolution, sending her home to stay with her family for the next fourteen years. She was later invited to the Conservatory at Coriano, where she realized her vocation was to be an educator. She soon became the directress of the conservatory and purchased the property. To improve the reputation damaged by the Masons, she chose a deep spiritual life as the foundation for the community.

In 1839, she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, and soon her own niece came to Coriano as a boarding student and joined the order.

A little over a century after her death, Renzi’s beatification process began after a miraculous healing of Sister Agostina Galli, OLS in 1965. Galli suffered from a dry bilateral pleurisy, and later, tubercular peritonitis, unable to eat solid foods. After development of cardiovascular problems as well, doctors gave her hardly any hope of recovery. She received her last rights while on oxygen, but  through it all, she says she was “convinced [she] was not going to die.” She and her sisters prayed to Mother Elisabetta for a miracle, and sure enough, after her profession of the restoration of her health, she immediately sat straight up and walked around the room like nothing had ever happened. After this miraculous healing, Elisabetta Renzi was declared venerable in 1988 and beatified in 1989.

In partnership with Donna Service, a local artist, the Shreveport sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows designed an after school program for at-risk youth called the Renzi Art & Education Center, a free program that gives children the opportunity to “explore, learn and create under the guidance of professional teachers and artists.” As well as studying music theory, language arts, graphic design and dance, this summer, the kids also had the opportunity to work with local filmmakers and artists to create a music video for a local band.

The Sisters also own and operate the OLS Cookie Jar in Alexandria, proudly claiming “there are NUN better.” From brownies to cinnamon rolls to mini-cheesecakes, these ladies have got you covered.

Renzi’s legacy lives on in the lives of these children and sisters who guide them, carrying on her life and spirit right here in Shreveport, Louisiana.

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