Collevalenza is a tiny village not far from Todi – about 4 miles -, belonging to the Municipality, and quite famous in Italy as a pilgrimage site thanks to the Sanctuary of Merciful Love.
Founder and beating heart of both the order and the sanctuary is the Blessed Mother Speranza, a charismatic woman and nun who was born in Santomera – Spain – in 1893. She took vows at the age of 21; in 1930 she founded the Congregation of the Handmaids of Merciful Love and a few years later the order of the Sons of Merciful Love. The first community of the new order was opened in Rome.
In 1951 she moved to Collevalenza with her nuns and soon afterwards their humble house became too small to welcome all the people gathering there to ask for help and prayers. The work for a new and bigger sanctuary began in 1954 with a first small chapel, “The Chapel of Merciful Love”. The sanctuary was designed by Spanish architect Julio Lafuente. The construction was completed in 1965; the building – basilica and crypt – was officially consecrated by Mons. Fustella, bishop of Todi, and solemnly inaugurated by His Eminence Cardinal Ottaviani, along with another 62 bishops from all over the world. The aim of the sanctuary was to spread the concept of the huge unlimited love of Jesus for us.
Mother Speranza died in 1983, but 2 years before her death she had the immense joy and grace of welcoming Pope St. John Paul 2nd to the Sanctuary; it was a memorable day for the order and for the sanctuary since a few months later the pope himself conferred upon the sanctuary the title of Minor Basilica.
The pope also visited Todi on the same day, November 22nd, 1981.
Mother Speranza was buried in the crypt of the Sanctuary.
She was beatified on May 31st, 2014.
Mine was just an attempt of introducing a holy place which attracts many visitors, not just pilgrims, but also curious people browsing Todi’s countryside. It’s not easy to explain the deep spirituality of Mother Speranza and her sanctuary. If you would like to learn more about Mother Speranza’s spiritual message, check the collevalenza.it or this other article