[LDSWorld-Gems subscriber, Marilyn Jewett Sughrue , of Bartlesville, Oklahoma served as a sister missionary in the Italy North Mission, in 1973-74. She tells us that the missionary work in Italy during that time was "seed-sowing," difficult and discouraging. "A highlight of my mission was witnessing the baptism and confirmation of a former nun, Sister Piera Bellaviti, now residing in the Salt Lake area."]

Piera Bellaviti Schorr was born in Italy. At the age of seventeen she decided to become a nun in the Catholic Church. After World War II, she entered a convent. She worked twelve years in the Vatican with three popes. A Catholic bishop invited her to do missionary work in North Carolina, where she worked for five years. She then returned to Italy.

One evening while riding a streetcar in Milan, she sat down next to two clean-cut young men. They struck up a conversation and she soon learned that they were two Mormon Missionaries, Elders Scott Blaser and David Maxwell. She knew next to nothing about the Church. The elders told her about the Book of Mormon and she asked them to bring her a copy. About two weeks later the elders brought the book to the convent.

I decided if this book was against Christ I wouldn't waste my time. I would just discard it. I went to the index and found all the titles about Christ and became really excited about this book, for it was all about Christ. In fact, it was another witness of Christ. I read most of it, and I was really enthusiastic about this book. (Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, 4:3).
Sister Bellaviti went to her priest and told him about the book. She encouraged him to read it but he didn't want to waste his time, that he believed the book was of Protestant origin and false." Sister Bellaviti recalled:
So I said, "Well, I will go home and read it again and see if it is really Protestant." But the more I read the book, the more I saw that it was true. I was really excited about finding out more about the Book of Mormon. I didn't call the missionaries because I thought that I knew the book was true, but I wanted to see if I could find somebody else who believed in the book so we could use it. However, the missionaries found some excuse to come back and see me. (Ibid. p.4)
She told them that she believed in the book, but was satisfied being Catholic. But she did ask to read more about the Church. The elders gave her a copy of "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards" which she also read with interest. The missionaries asked if they could help with the children in her classroom sometime. One day Sister Bellaviti lost her voice. She accepted the offer and invited the elders into her classroom. They taught the children to sing "I am a Child of God" and other Primary songs. The children loved the elders and asked them to come back.

Some other nuns asked Sister Bellaviti who the young men were. They were aghast when they learned that they were Mormons and reported the incident to the priests. The Mother Superior said that the elders could not come back to work with the children. The Elders continued to stop by now and then, and soon sent Sister missionaries to visit and other local members. Soon, serious thoughts about the Church came into Sister Bellaviti's mind:

If I join this church, I have to give up everything. I don't know if the Lord would really want me to do that because I have "everything" here in the convent. I have my job. I don't have money because I have taken the vow of poverty, but they take care of everything I need, even when I am sick. My security is here, and I am doing good. I am serving the Lord. But this book is true, and this is the true Church. I think I have to pray and ask the Lord what he wants me to do. "Do you really want me to go through thisto join this Mormon church?" I asked the Lord. And so I started praying and fasting, and after I prayed and fasted three days I felt strongly this is the true Church, and if I wanted to be happy I had to follow the truth. (Ibid. p. 6)
She wrote a letter to the Mother General sharing her plans to join the Church and leave the convent. After receiving the letter, the Mother General took the next train to Milan. She tried to convince Sister Bellaviti that psychiatric help was needed, or that she was possessed by the devil. Sister Bellaviti next wrote to the pope and asked him to release her from her vows. His reply was: "You have your free agency. It's your decision. I counsel you to pray again and fast, and then if you decide to stay where you are, everything is forgotten. Let me know what you are going to do."

After the school year was over, Sister Bellaviti dropped the "bomb shell" on the missionaries that she was coming out of the convent to be baptized into the Church. She would be without a home and without a job. The missionaries were shocked and didn't know what to do. They called another former nun, a member of the Church in Venice, Sister Davies, who said she would come to Milan to pick up Sister Bellaviti.

So, I left the convent. I went to the railroad station to wait for Sister Davies who was coming from Venice. When she stepped from the train, right away she came to me because she recognized me immediately. I was standing with two elders, still dressed in my habit! (Ibid. p. 8)
The following Sunday was the first time she went to Church, still dressed in her habit. The members of the branch didn't know what to think but were thrilled when they learned about her conversion to the gospel. A family in Venice gave her "street clothes" to wear. She wrote, "I started my new life."
I was baptized in Milano on June 8, 1974. I will never forget the spirit I felt and the gratitude I felt toward my Father in Heaven. He had sent the missionaries and had given me the Book of Mormon. He gave me the courage to give up everything - to go against everybody, to follow the truth and join the Church. (Ibid p. 9)
Sister Bellaviti decided to go back to America, to start her new life. First she had to deal with the challenge of telling her family. "Everybody in my family was upset. I called them on the phone, but they would barely talk to me. They would only ridicule me and say that I was really bizarre." She went to America and as time past her family accepted her once more.

Sister Bellaviti later married a wonderful man in the temple. They worked for two years in the Swiss Temple and she developed a great passion for going genealogy work. Fifteen years after her baptism she wrote:

My conversion cost me a lot, but I'm as grateful for the cost as I am for all the blessings I am enjoying in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the Church is true. I know that Christ is the Son of the living God, and I love him with all my heart. (Ibid p. 12).