The Workers of Charity is a Catholic lay religious order founded by the Italian Catholic mystic Elena Cimorelli in 1356. The members live in a semi-monastic community but did not take formal religious vows, having an active and prayerful life, in a similar way to the beguines and beghards of Northern Europe. The Workers of Charity uses the Rule of Saint Augustine.
The visions of Elena Cimorelli
During the Jubilee of 1350, Elena Cimorelli visited Rome with her widowed mother, her older brother and her sister-in-law. After returning to her home in Ostia, Elena Cimorelli said to her mother and brother that she wanted to become a Mercedine nun, but they were against it. They planed to marry her with a wealth man. Elena refused and spent her days praying for God's help. Elena Cimorelli resisted the efforts of her mother and brother to marry her. She constantly repeated that her husband is Christ, but the pressure that they made for her to get married was becoming unbearable and she prayed every day to God help her. She was answered in 1352. While praying, Elena entered in a state of ecstasy. After returning to her senses, she started to shed tears of happiness. God have talked to her and had given to her a mission: Show His infinite love to all human beings.
Since she had the vision, Elena started to give food and clothes to the poor of Ostia, she also preached about Christ's Infinity Love for humanity and comforted those that lost relatives for the Plague. Her mother and brother tried to stop her and find a husband, but she ignore them. Due to her actions of charity and simple lifestyle even coming from a wealth family, Elena attracted a group of woman that wanted to imitate her. Her visions and ecstasies continued and she talked about them to her confessor, the priest Leonio Fabozzi. Father Fabozzi taught Elena how to write so she could write her visions in a book. He also helped Elena convince her relatives to allow live as she wanted. Rather than becoming a nun, Elena decided to live an active and prayerful life in a similar way to the beguines of Northern Europe. With more and more women following her each day, she decided to form a congregation named Workers of Charity.
With the number of followers growing, Elena traveled to Rome with Father Fabozzi to have an audience with the pope. Her congregation was approved by Pope Innocent VI and received a building in the outskirts of Ostia. IN this building she formed the Convent of Saint Augustine.