THOUGHT FOR TODAY BY
ST. ANTHONY ZACCARIA
If through perfect humility you will be able to know objec tively yourself, only then will you be.
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Menologion - May
Oh, the fidelity, the care, the zeal showed always by our ancestors as devoted and fond sons of such a Mother! They realized that Mary did not need them at all, but instead they had a great need of her maternal protection.
They came to know that the real devotion consists not in a vain exteriority without effect, but rather in a generous willingness to follow promptly any hint...; in short, to be authentic servants of the Mother, we must be devoted servants of her divine Son, and must regulate our life according to the spirit and the directives of Jesus Christ, who is, and must be, the great model of his fortunate believers.
(Card. Louis Lambruschini, Homilies, vol. II)
Fr. Magnaghi was born in Bursto Arsizio (Milan) on September 3, 1849, from Charles and Theresa Giardini. His uncle, Rev. Charles Giardini, parish priest in Magenta, encouraged him toward the priesthood. In 1862 the Barnabite Fr. Villoresi had opened a seminary in Monza for diocesan clergy. There, Joshua completed his philosophical studies, but at the same time he fell in love with the Barnabites. His father was not too much in favor, but gave in to the pressures of two uncles-priests: Rev. Charles in Magenta, and the Barnabite Father Alphonse Giardini. So Joshua entered the novitiate in St. Barnabas, Milan, and professed his vows on October 1, 1870.
He was ordained a priest in 1872 in the Cathedral of Milan, and was assigned to teach at first in Monza and then in Lodi, where he remained in his teaching position for 17 years in all humility and dedication. Once he was the discreet, and the last year the Procurator. So it was a surprise when in January 1891, he was elected Provincial Superior of Lombardy, a position he held for nine years until he was called to become Superior General of the Order.
A man of great humility, meek, and of deep prayer, his greater concern was to lead all in perfection through personal example: “It is not possible for me to lead others to perfection if I myself am not living as holy religious... If I was not living as a good person and holy religious, I should fear God’s punishment on the whole Province for my sins,” he wrote.
As soon as he became Provincial he cared to find the remains of the Holy Founder, and he was blessed with success, therefore he build the crypt in St. Barnabas as a worthy shrine for the Blessed Father. To increase the number of the Holy Father’s followers he opened the minor seminary in Cremona, the philosophy house for the professed students in Lodi, and remodeled a section of St. Barnabas for the theology students.
In 1901 the General Chapter elected him Superior General. It was his joy to see and encourage the opening of new foundations in Brazil by the French Fathers. Unfortunately he was not able to accomplish much as he got sick and in a short time reached the end on May 2, 1903.
THE VENERABLE SERVANT OF GOD
Simon Joseph Cortenovis was born in Bergamo on October 28, 1729. He completed his studies in Milan. His two older brothers Angel and Peter were already members of our Congregation when he asked to be admitted. He professed his vows in Zagarolo in 1748.
His first assignment was to teach in Arpino, and he had the privilege of having the young Francis Xavier Bianchi as one of his students. It was from Arpino that he left on September 1, 1757, for the Missions. On March 7, 1758 he sailed together with Fr. Benigno Avenati. A storm almost destroyed the ship and they were forced to stop in Lisbon waiting for another vessel. But meantime the Propagation of the Faith had received news about the martyrdom of Fr. Nerini, so asked to go back to Italy. Fr. Cortenovis temporarily was assigned as a teacher in Finale, Asti and Thonon but always longing for the missions. His brother Fr. Angel wrote to the other brother, Fr. Peter: “Gerhard has written me a letter full of spiritual consolation for the victory reported against the enemy (that is, the devil), who wanted to disturb with thoughts of mistrust his vocation for the Missions in India; and he tells me to be more than determined to go, and that he has written to Father General and to the Procurator General, and he hopes his wish to be granted.”
And it was: in December, 1764, Fr. Cortenovis left from Livorno together with Fr. Melchior Carpani, Fr. Ambrose Miconi, and Fr. Filiberto Re. Since the trip through the Atlantic Ocean had proven fatal for previous missionaries, this time they landed in the Middle East to cross the Syrian desert, dressed as Arabs. It proved to be a very adventurous trip. Here is an excerpt from a letter by Fr. Carpani:
“After dinner, the kalek (a floating wooden platform) had stopped. One of the Turks was the cook, when some of the bales caught fire. The Turks were all on shore for their prayer, so we were the first to run over; but Fr. Cortenovis as he walked into the water to throw there the brazier, was thrown into the river by the crowd of people that had rushed over. He grabbed one of the small boxes that had fallen into the water, but he was in danger of perishing if the commander of the kalek had not been prompt in diving to his rescue: thank God he was not injured by the water except a wound to his right hand by the fire.”
The trip lasted more than two years. When they reached Bombay, Fr. Cortenovis caught a high fever, but his only reaction was: “My God, I did not know what fever was!” It was in January of 1767 that finally he put foot in Rangoon: “It is a miracle if I can still write to you although so badly and in short; it is three days that the whole city of Rangoon has been burning. Our kitchen has been burned and the fire has reached the church too. How could we defend from fire a house and church made of wood and covered with straw! We have worked hard, but without a miracle from the Lord nothing could have been saved. In carrying things out in the open, so many things got lost or broken, because besides the fire there were thieves, indeed it is possible that the thieves were the ones to put the place on fire...”
Fr. Cortenovis was assigned by Fr. Percoto in Monlà to study the language and to teach more than fifty kids among whom they hoped to find some vocations. Indeed He even built a residence as a seminary which, in 1770, was destroyed by the Talapuins. Bishop Percoto and Fr. Cortenovis did not get discouraged, instead, with the permission of the Court, they built another one in a better location.
When Fr. Carpani went back to Italy in 1774, Fr. Cortenovis was assigned to Rangoon where there were already more then three thousand Christians. In 1776, the Community suffered the loss of Bishop Percoto, after fifteen years of faithful service in the Mission. Fr. Cortenovis took over as Pro-Vicar, until the Propagation of the Faith confirmed his nomination as Apostolic Vicar. This is what he wrote: “I have received through Macao the Bulls with my nomination as Apostolic Vicar... I had written to you in all sincerity about my defects making me incapable of this kind of an office, and you have not wanted to listen to me; there was nothing left for me but to obey. I arrived in Madras on January 24. I went right away to Meliapur and St. Tomé to present your letter to the Prelate. He has graciously offered to consecrate me on the feast of the Purification, as then it has been done.... You would ask me what are the fruits of this Mission. We take care of the Christians brought in by my predecessor, and they are not few; as for the rest, the Holy Spirit knows. We speak freely about our Religion to the high as well as low people, to rich and poor: those who listen agree with our reasoning, but they lack determination. Their answer usually is: ‘our Talapuins are so good and exemplary, so it is impossible that they are deceiving us; the prosperity of our land is based on the observance of our Religion.’ Reason has no value against these sayings, only the hand of God can lead them to reflect.”
Back in his mission, Bishop Cortenovis worked to build a church, but before he could finish it as he got sick with malaria, which in a few days led him to his death on May 5, 1780, assisted by a certain Anthony Montagna, from Novara, who buried him in the unfinished church, and brought the news to the community in Rangoon. He was only 50 years old.
News about Bishop Denti is very scarce. What we know is that he was born in Bellano, in 1606. On August 28, 1626 he received the Barnabite habit from the Provincial Superior, Fr. Cagnola, and changed his name from Peter to Martin. After his profession he completed his studies partially in St. Barnabas and partially in St. Alexander in Milan.
After his ordination he was assigned to Pavia as a teacher. He dedicated himself right away his apostolic ministry in the country side, preaching for Lent. In 1633 he was transferred to St. Alexander and in 1644 to St. Barnabas, where he was also Procurator for three years. For one year he went to teach in Pisa, to return then to St. Barnabas and to dedicate himself exclusively to preaching.
In 1648 he was nominated Superior in Perugia to the delight of the community. He remodeled the building, improved the production of the olive grove and rebuilt the oil mill. His ability as a preacher and as a confessor inflamed the hearts of the people toward the devotion to the Passion of Christ, and he was able to build a special chapel in honor of the Holy Shroud.
In 1650 he was nominated Superior of Pavia, but only for a short while because he was made Bishop of Strongoli in the South of the Kingdom of Naples. We have almost no news of his years as a Bishop, because in 1806 the city was burned by the French troops and all the archives were destroyed.
He was a Bishop for over ten years until his death on May 6, 1665, at the age of 59.
Born in Udine in 1733, Fr. Alpruni attended the Barnabite school of St. Lawrence in the same city. When 18 he asked to enter our Congregation and professed the vows on October 19, 1752 in Monza. He studied in Cremona, Macerata, and finally in Rome where he was ordained a priest in 1758. Cardinal Fontana wrote that Fr. Alpruni was a born preacher, and so he was assigned to Crema as professor of Eloquence. After three years he was assigned to St. Barnabas with the same task, but after one year he was at the Longoni school as vice-Rector. Six years later we find him in Udine, where he would stay for almost thirty years involved in all kinds of ministries: teacher, preacher, confessor, theologian. He became famous for his interest and dedication to the agrarian development of the region creating a Society of practical agriculture, supported by conferences and many publications. At various times he was Superior and Rector.
One of the glories of Fr. Alpruni is to have introduced the cause of canonization of our Holy Founder, as he was in Rome for the General Chapter. In 1799 he was elected Visitor General and three years later Superior General.
Those were tormented times due to the political situation. For 15 years the houses in the Kingdom of Naples could not be visited by royal decree, but he was able to obtain through Fr. Bianchi to have a third person do the official canonical visitation. We know from Cardinal Fontana that it was through Fr. Alpruni that the Community of St. Charles ai Catinari, reduced by then to extreme poverty, was financially reorganized.
In 1807, at the end of his term, he stayed in Rome busy working for the Cause of canonization of the Founder, bringing to positive conclusion the ordinary and apostolic processes. Unfortunately he had to witness the suppression of the Order by Napoleon in 1810, and the consequent dispersion of all the confreres. He was allowed to stay in some rooms in St. Charles together with Fr. Grandi and Fr. Cortes. This little community was to be the seed of the rebirth of the Congregation after the Napoleonic storm was over. During these years he composed and published a life of the Holy Founder, a joyful occasion as Plus VII officially reestablished the Order. He dedicated the publication to Fr. Fontana, who shortly after was made a Cardinal. By then Fr. Alpruni had reached the ripe age of 83, and death caught up with him on May 9, 1816.
Bishop Sfondrati was a grand-nephew of Gregory XIV, and brother of Cardinal Celestine Sfondrati.
He was born in Milan in 1637, and attended the Arcimboldi school. When 15 he entered the Congregation and was co-novice with the future Cardinal Morigia; they professed the vows together in Monza in 1653. After his studies in Milan he was ordained a priest in 1660. His first assignment was to teach in St. Alexander, but to be moved soon to Pisa.
In St. Fredian he excelled with youthful fervor in the apostolic ministry as well as a teacher. Among other things he cared deeply for the liturgical services enriching the church of many precious liturgical furnishings. He has a special dedication for the prisoners in the local jail, leading many of them to repentance and interior peace. One example suffices: one of them, the day he was scheduled to die, chose to walk on bare feet toward the scaffold, asking in a loud voice forgiveness for his crime. In 1670, at Easter time, he spent his time, besides confessing the prisoners, helping them with alms, and even obtaining freedom for some of them.
He enjoyed a great esteem with the Court of the Grand-Duke of Tuscany, which came very handy in 1675, when St. Fredian church, destroyed by a fire, had to be rebuilt. Above all, his esteemed was generated by his great amiability, gentleness and sweetness of character, his piety, great constancy and prudence in handling situations. So it was not a surprise when, in May, 1677 Innocent XII, by request of Cosimo III, Grand-Duke of Tuscany, elected him Bishop of Volterra..
Unfortunately he did not have a chance to do much as he lasted only three years. He died on May 11, 1680, at the age of 43. It is well known that the Pope wanted to make him a Cardinal.
Fr. Jerome Boverio was born in 1568, in Sale, a distant relative of Fr. Dominic Boverio. He was able to attend the University of Pavia, but after two years he asked for admission in our Congregation. He professed his vows on October 22, 1589 in the hands of Fr. Bascapè.
In October 1594 he was ordained a priest, and because of his solid character, he was immediately admitted to hear confessions of both men and women. In 1599 he was made Superior of St. Blaise all’Anello in Rome and then of St. Paul in Piazza Colonna. Two years later he was Master of novices in Monza. In 1605 he was Superior in Cremona and remained there for 12 years. The Community had forty members and so it was very demanding. He promoted studies and the ministry, and with determination he pursued the building of the school to replace the conglomerate of various old buildings.
The General Chapter of 1614 elected him Assistant General, so he moved to Milan, and three years later he was elected Superior General, to be confirmed for a following three years term. Worthy of mentioning is the fact that somebody from Bologna sent to the Pope a memorial accusing Fr. Boverio of influencing people in his favor as if he was power hungry. The Holy Father concerned about the future of the Congregation called him to Rome for a meeting without explaining the reasons. Fr. Boverio was shocked but with calm answered, one by one, all the accusations, putting the heart of the Pontiff at peace. On his way back to a Milan he stopped in Bologna to make peace with those members. On his way, in Macerata he had the pleasant surprise of a rich endowment for the construction of a local school. In Milan another great surprise was waiting for him, a letter from the Bishop of Lescar approving the establishment of the Barnabites in the Bearn with schools in Lescar.
In 1623 the Chapter wanted him General for a third term, but he was adamant in his refusal, although he accepted to be Assistant General. He became also the regular confessor of the Angelic Sisters. During this time the Duke of Mantua wanted to expel the Barnabites accused of grabbing property under the excuse of a bequest. Fr. Boverio was asked to resolve the problem, so he went to Mantua. The Duke became furious when he was told by his counselors that Fr. Boverio was not from a noble family, therefore the Barnabites were trying to humiliate him! So the meeting was purposely postponed for a few days. When finally the meeting took place, Fr. Boverio, with his meekness, gentleness and piety, but determination, was able to convince the Duke about the Fathers’ innocence: “This Father has God’s spirit and is a perfect Religious,” he exclaimed.
His health started to deteriorate and he died on May 12, 1626, in St. Barnabas, at the age of 58, after 38 years as a religious.
CARDINAL LOUIS LAMBRUSCHINI
Lambruschini was born in 1776 in Sestri Levante. When only 17 he was already a Doctor in Liberal Arts, and joined the Barnabites.
At 23 the young Lamsbruschini was able to teach Liberal Arts, Philosophy, Theology, Mathematics, Hebrew and Greek. He was Master of novices in Macerata, and Bishop Strambi selected him as his confessor, theologian and synodal examiner. In Rome Pius VII liked to ask for his advice in various matters. In 1815 Cardinal Fontana named him Vicar General of the reborn Congregation, and Pius VII made him Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs. He was also asked to draft the Concordats with France, Bavaria, Tuscany, and Naples.
In 1819 he became Bishop of Genoa, and in 1826, Nuncio in Paris. In 1831, back in Rome, Gregory XVI made him a Cardinal, and in 1836, his Secretary of State: “he was able to free the Papal State from the double occupation by Austria and France and to put an end to the General Commission of the Legues through which the Papal State was treated childlike by those who called themselves his friends. And, according to the guidance of his prudence and conscience, he opposed the antireligious and antistate movements of the sects.” His attitude in defense of the Papal State caused the liberals to describe his character as despotic and intolerable.
Cardinal Lambruschini gave a great contribution in the development of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He always encouraged and supported all the liturgical devotions in Her honor. In Rome he was the first to spread the devotion to the Miraculous Medal, and became the advocate of Gregory XVI for the Living Rosary. One of his major aims in the pastoral education of his faithful was a fervent piety toward our Lady, the Immaculate. For example in 1846 he suggested the Indult to lessen the Lenten rigor, at least to visit the Shrine of St. Mary’s in Farfa... “where, prostrated at the feet of the great Virgin Mary, after having rejoiced with her for her Immaculate Conception, by a very singular privilege granted only to her among all the creatures, she was not effected by not even the minimu
The most valid contribution of Card. Lambruschini to the dogma was the publication, in 1843, of the “Polemic dissertation on the Immaculate Conception.” The favorable reception in Italy and outside Italy encountered by this publication was justified by the historical circumstances and especially by the fact that Cardinal Lambruschini was Secretary of State.
“The dissertation,” Bonnetain wrote, “represents the conclusion of the numerous instances and petitions that in the last years had multiplied” in favor of the dogma. The conclusion seems to be an advance announcement of the upcoming proclamation by the Pontiff.”
Gregory XVI died on June 1, 1846. The new Pope, Pius IX was too concerned about the political situation to worry about the dogma. His greatest fear was to upset nations like England, Germany and Ireland which had not presented any petition in favor. But on December 1, 1848 he created a congregation, headed by Cardinal Lambruschini, to study the possibility of the dogma. The congregation, after a thorough study, prepared its conclusions drafted by Lambruschini in what would be known as the Encyclical UBI PRIMUM, promulgated by the Pope on February 2, 1849. A second commission kept studying the possibility of the dogma, and finally another commission of 21 cardinals took over to reach the conclusion.
This time Cardinal Lambruschini, because of his age, had to withdraw his participation, and retired in Naples, where he died on May 12, 1854.
Gregory XVI in the Consistory of September 30, 1831, when he created him a Cardinal, said: “Son of an illustrious religious family which in our time has produced two great men, Card. Gerdil and Card. Fontana; known for his genius, integrity of life, and his knowledge of sacred disciplines, he was nominated consultor of the Supreme Inquisition and examiner of Bishops. As, later, he became Secretary of the Congregation of Extraordinary Affairs of the Church, the ability with which he dealt with his office aroused great expectations. As his fame grew day after day, he was created Archbishop of Genoa, among universal consent (1819-1826). In the development of this activity too, he did not fail to manifest the treasury of his high piety, doctrine, pastoral zeal, untiring care for his flock. Our predecessor, Leo XII, taking this into consideration and trusting him for the high task, nominated him Ordinary Nuncio of the Holy See with the Very Christian King (of France, 1826-1831). The events took care to demonstrate how wise such a choice had been. As a matter of fact he handled so well his mission as Archbishop of Genoa that even our interests and the ones of the Apostolic See were treated by him with the greatest fidelity and equal diligence.”
And finally the judgment of a contemporary: “Lambruschini, in a certain sense, is under the dominion of a true passion for the Church and the Holy See, to which he has consecrated his life; so, to be able to appreciate him, we have to stand outside our own opinions and judge him according to his dedication to the immutable principles of the Church. Then we will be able to enhance his firm, worthy, noble, loyal character, his ability in the affairs and his apostolic zeal.”
Born in Desio, on September 14, 1873, Fr. Meda attended the minor seminary in Cremona, was a novice in Monza, professing his vows in October, 1892, and studied theology in Rome where he was ordained a priest on August 14, 1898. He exercised his first apostolic ministry in the Oratorio of Perugia, until 1903 when he volunteered as missionary in Brazil.
Fr. Meda was assigned to Our Lady of Nazarè parish in Belèm, Parà, and then in Bragança. A local newspaper wrote: “All those who knew him could testify to the zeal of Fr. Meda in promoting the splendor of the liturgy, in the teaching of Catechism, and in the reception of the Sacraments. During his first year in Bragança, every Thursday and Sunday, very faithfully Fr. Meda, good or bad weather, would enter the church, and would try to gain the love of his parishioners, and with a thousand practical ways he would teach them the truth of the faith. Through prizes he obtained from them what he wanted, especially a faithful attendance to the Sunday Mass, during which it was very edifying to hear 150 children sing, together with the people...”
Another testimony to his zeal was Fr. Richert: “How many trips did Fr. Meda make in the immense territory of Bragança, on horse back, after long and dangerous boat rides. He would spent long days, and even nights, teaching the young, preaching to the adults, baptizing, confessing, uniting in marriage people coming from far distant places to attend Mass, hear the Word of God, and receive the Sacraments! He would be the worker, the painter, as he loved to clean and decorate the church, and so prepare the feast days in an attractive way for the people who loved the external manifestations of Religion. Calm by nature, but firm, he knew in all the difficulties common to all zealous priests, how to refuse guided by his conscience, and to present, when demanded by abuses, needed protest...”
After the Easter celebration of 1903 he was assigned to Belèm to teach in the Major Seminary, but he did not last too long as he fell victim of the yellow fever on May 12, 1906.
FATHER DOMINIC MAJETTI
Disciple of St. Francis Xavier Bianchi
Born in Naples in 1762, Fr. Majetti entered the novitiate of St. Charles alle Mortelle and professed the vows on April 4, 1779.
There is no news about him until 1794 when we find him Superior in Arpino.
During the tragic years of the Napoleonic imperialism, Fr. Alpruni, Superior General, to help the regular observance in the Neapolitan houses, asked Bishop Joseph Carano for an extraordinary visit, which took place in 1805. The Bishop asked the special permission to have Fr. Majetti as his companion. At the end of the visit Father was made Superior of St. Mary’s in Portanova. In his efforts to keep regular discipline he was encouraged and helped by the Blessed Father Bianchi. He was in St. Mary’s when, in 1810, the suppression by Napoleon became effective. During this time he dedicated himself to assist with great care and dedication the ailing Father Bianchi, obtaining the privilege to stay in a room in St. Mary’s next to the Saint’s cell.
When the Order was reestablished, Fr. Majetti moved to St. Joseph in Pontecorvo, given to the Congregation instead of St. Charles alle Mortelle. (1819). Together with Fr. Grandi he founded the local college, and he was four times the Superior, serving the Congregation also as General Visitor.
Having spent precious moments with St. Francis Bianchi, he left many notes and news about him, and worked tirelessly as Postulator for his Beatification.
“In the space of 43 days, unable to move from his bed...no other words would come from his mouth,” Fr. Priscolo wrote, “but, my God, my delight! to the admiration of all, so that a person did not want to leave his bedside for all five days to be able to experience such joyous acceptance of suffering.”
He died on May 18, 1843, at the age of 81.
BISHOP RAYMOND RECROSIO
Bishop of Nice
Raymond entered the Barnabites when he was 16. He was lucky to have as novice master the Venerable Canale, in whose hands he professed the vows on January 31, 1675. From Monza he went to St. Alexander in Milan to study philosophy and theology, and then he was sent to Annecy where he was ordained a priest on September 22, 1680.
His first assignment was to take care of the Confraternity of the Holy Cross, and, because of his reputation, many Bishops entrusted to him the spiritual direction of the Visitation monasteries.
After 18 years in Annecy, in 1701 he was transferred to Tonon, where he dedicated himself to the Missions among the people of the country side, and he dictated some guidelines which were in effect until the French Revolution. He was instrumental for the construction of many new churches.
He used the free time to write on spiritual subjects to help him in his apostolic endeavors. After 14 years in Tonon the Superiors made him Master of the novitiate in St. Charles & Christine in Bonneville, but he stayed there only a few months, as he was transferred back in Italy to Vercelli. His greatest concern here was to establish a retreat house for the sake of the local clergy.
In 1727, Victor Amedeo II proposed him to Benedict XIII as Bishop of Nice. As a bishop he continued with the same dedication and enthusiasm to serve the people of God, and it was during a pastoral visit that he felt sick and died at the age of 75, on May 22, 1732. His body was brought to Vercelli to be buried in St. Christopher’s church.
FATHER GIOVANNI BERNASCONI
71st Superior General
“Whoever is back from a trip is never the same person” an old Chinese proverb proclaims.
Fr. Giovanni Bernasconi is not an exception. 71st Superior General of the Congregation (1964-1976), with a smile on his face, was able to face one of the most disturbing moments of the history of the Church, drawing wisdom and strength from the lesson of life learned during his long years in Afghanistan. Shortly before his death, at the end of 1958, he wrote that he still had a little of the Orient in his heart. He died in Rio de Janeiro on May 22, 1986, in the silence of the humility and along the not so easy roads of that youth he had loved so much, after dedicating so much of himself to guide so many of his young confreres.
He was born in Pogliano Milanese on July 3, 1910. Once a priest he was sent to Florence as spiritual director. At the end of the war, in 1947 he was called to succeed Fr. Egidio Caspani in Kabul, Afghanistan as chaplain of the Italian Embassy, or better as Ordinary of all Catholics. He remained there for 11 years (1947-1957), absorbing an extraordinary sensitivity and human warmth while leaving behind great admiration. He was highly esteemed by the international community as well as from the Afghan government and the Royal family.
Before the Vatican Council II he had been able to start an inter-religious dialogue which will be recommended in that prestigious assembly where he will take part as Superior General.
His well-known serenity and infinite patience gained him admiration and respect from the diplomats as well as the Muslims who called him a “sufi.” He was able to obtain the most unespected, like the permit to reside in Kabul for the Petites Soeurs of Père de Foucauld as nurses of the hospital. Sr. Chantal de Jésus remembers: “Fr. Bernasconi was a real father for us… I believe that first of all he was a priest, a man of God, so good, so humble, and so full of humorism… For sure he will remain for a long as an example, a model to be imitated here in Kabul.”
He would celebrate the Sunday Mass in three languages, teach the children of the Diplomats of any language or religion, establish a friendly dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. All this while leading a almost “monastic” life. In fact, during the long and rigid Afgan winters, he would spend even months in his little house in the Embassy compound, happy to read, write, and especially pray. Many are his letters and articles in the “Eco dei Barnabiti” to keep confreres and friends informed about everything he was interest in.
But on June 21, 1957, a mild heart problem forced a drastic change in his life. He did recover, but back in Italy, the doctors, out of prudence because of the altitude in Kabul (1,800 meters) imposed on him the sacrifice not to return anymore. It was a heavy sacrifice to give up all his dreams in a world so much alive then: the women were not imprisoned in the burqua, and the city had become a point of encounter between artists and intellectuals coming from every corner of the world.
To recover, in January 1958 he went to Naples at the Bianchi Institute, free from any responsibility. But his rest lasted only seven months as he was elected as a member of the General Chapter, where he became Assistant General. As he moved to Rome he was made Superior of the Community and Master of the theology students. In 1962 he celebrated his silver Jubilee as a priest.
In 1964 he was elected Superior General, a position he will hold for two terms until 1976. In 1967 he called for the extraordinary General Chapter to update the Congregation to the Vatican Council II. He had to face the not easy task of guiding the Congregation through the adaptation to the demands of the Council in the midst of the turmoil experienced by the modern society and the Church itself.
Fr. Bernasconi in his first Circular Letter of 1964 was acknowledging that “if we want to be sincere, we have to say that the known uncomfortable events find their cause especially in the profound tribulations of the modern society. Sons of our times, we feel the impact; we absorb its principles; sometime we are its victims.” Well aware that the future of the Congregation was on the line, he faced the turmoil with his well-known calm and serenity and great charity, trying to avoid drastic exasperations.
He concentrated his work on the new generations, especially caring for the development of new vocations and their formation. He backed the opening of new formation houses to compensate the loss experienced by the whole Church, like Palencia in Spain, Bragança and Belém in North Brazil, Caseiros in South Brazi, Los Quillayes in Chile, Montaldo in Piedmont, etc.
It was during his term that the two Communities of the students and of the Curia were separated with the acquisition of the villa in Via Medici 15, left empty by the cloistered Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary, with a notary document of June 28, 1967. The new Curia was inaugurated on March 19, 1972, feast of St. Joseph.
At the end of his second term in 1976, he chose to the community of St. Paul parish in Copacabana (Rio de Janeiro). In few months he mastered also the Portuguese language, so on his confessional a note advised: «Confessor in Portuguese, Italian, English, French, German.”
In 1984 he underwent two operations for incurable. On March 27, 1986, 49th anniversary of his priestly ordination was able to preside on wheelchair for the celebration of Holy Thursday, aware that he was not going to reach the 50th. He died on the morning of May 22, surrounded by the confreres and the admiration and affection of the Brazilian people.
FATHER ANTHONY MAURO
Custodian of the house in Monza
Born in Milan in 1747, Fr. Mauro entered the Congregation in 1764. In 1771, he was ordained a priest in St. Alexander, Milan. His first assignment was to teach in Florence, hoping that a better climate there would help his failing health. Back in Lombardy he was assigned in Lodi first, then in Monza. Because of his religious spirit and great dedication in 1803 he was made master of novices.
At the suppression of the Orders in 1810, Fr. Mauro was lucky to be able to remain at Our Lady of Carrobiolo in Monza, although had to wear not the religious habit but the secular one. Besides leading regular life he kept constant epistolary contact with many of the Barnabites dispersed here and there. In 1812 he instituted a special school for poor orphan girls, which he entrusted to the Ursuline Sisters. In 1822 he cooperated with Father Redolfi for the foundation of the future Oratorio for the youth.
In 1825 Fr. Mauro had the joy to see the reestablishment of the Congregation in Milan, and right away he was made Master of Novices. He worked for seven years happy to see the Order reborn, until he died on May 23, 1831.
“Fr. Mauro, in the course of his long life, more than 80 years,” Fr. Leonardi writes, “showed great simplicity of spirit and customs, both in the observance of regular observance as well as in sincere piety, and also in an admirable constancy in refusing any gift, so he enjoyed a deep esteem among our confreres and the rest of the people.”
FATHER HENRY ABBONDATI
Dedicated to the French province
Fr. Abbondati was born in Naples in 1845. His mother was the sister of the Camillian Bishop Danise of Coiazzo. An alumnus of our school in Naples, he entered the Congregation, professing the vows on May 26, 1863, in San Felice a Cancello Novitiate. He was ordained a priest in Rome on March 27, 1869.
He was assigned to the French Province, and his first assignment was in Gien as a teacher and to help the vice-rector. During the war of 1870 our house was transformed into a first aid center, and Fr. Abbondati dedicated himself to care for the sick, facing the bitter cold to look for food, in the midst of the warring parties, as he was prisoner first of the French and then of the Prussians.
After the war he continued his teaching in Gien, and at various time he was Procurator and Vice-Rector. When, in 1880, the religious Orders were suppressed in France, unable to go back to Naples, he obtained from the Superiors to stay with friends in Gien, then in Switzerland, and finally in Paris as secretary of the Prince Sturdza. To avoid expulsion from the French territory, in 1881, using as merit his service during the war, he was able to obtain the French naturalization. This allowed him to return to Naples to visit his family after 16 years.
For the next 19 years he would stay in Gien, mostly as Superior/Rector, safeguarding the school, as well as the community. In 1884 he renovated the whole building and reopened the minor seminary, and in the years 1896-98 he purchased some land to enlarge the garden, and to build a new wing for the seminary. He became also Provincial Superior and forming a civil society he tried, without success, to safeguard the community properties in Paris. He opened the new novitiate in Mouscron and in 1896 the house in Brussels. In 1903 he carried through the desire of the General Chapter to open Missions in Brazil, and finally he opened the minor seminary in Turnai.
In the General Chapter of 1904 he was elected Visitor General and Superior in Paris, but only to have to endure the pain of seeing the church and house closed by the government, against his useless protest. He himself found refuge with a relative and a Brother in a little apartment, helping in the local parish church. He died there on May 24, 1906. His remains were brought and buried in Gien.
FATHER GUERINO BENEDICT FRACCALVIERI
67th Superior General
Fr. Fraccalvieri was born in Santeramo in Colle on May 9, 1870 from Maurice and Maria Santoro. When 15, a very zealous priest, Fr. Paul Tangorra, accompanied him to our minor seminary in Perugia.
He entered the novitiate in Monza, professing his vows on November 3, 1888. In Rome he finished his theological studies and reached the deaconate. Because of his health he went to Noli first, then to Moncalieri, and so he was ordained a priest in Turin on August 26, 1894.
While busy with the apostolate he attended the University and he graduated in 1899 in Arts, and then in 1905 in philosophy at the University of Bologna. When only 30 years old, he became Rector of the college in Moncalieri. In 1916 he was even elected Provincial Superior, and in the General Chapter of 1922 he was called to guide the Congregation as Superior General, and reelected in 1925 and 1928.
Fr. Fraccalvieri was a man of a vast culture, a well learned professor, lover of music, painting, architecture, and plastic. Of course he was also a tremendous Religious, very observant, delicate and caring for the confreres, exact and diligent in liturgy.
Under his government the Mission in the Amazon was opened, as well as houses in Como and Trani. Three times he made his canonical visitation to all the houses in Italy and outside. He was instrumental for the opening of the new International theologate in Rome.
His health had always been a problem for him, and he developed hypertension, which brought him to his sudden death on May 25, 1930. The solemn funeral took place in St. Charles al Catinari in the presence of numerous Bishops and Curial representatives, besides confreres, Sisters, and alumni.
SAINT PHILIP NERI
When Father General Omodei was asked by the confreres in Rome to open a novitiate, he responded: “Yes, on condition that the so dear friend Sir Philip Neri be consulted!” How come such a dear friendship?
In 1574 Fr. Omodei sent Fr. Titus Degli Alessi and Fr. Dominic Boerio to Rome to open a house. Bishop Speciano referred them to Sir Philip, as he was known in the City. The Saint welcomed them with greet affection, promising to do his best. This was the beginning of a lasting and deep friendship.
In 1575, St. Philip accompanied the two Fathers to take possession of the first house, St. Blaise all’Anello, giving them his blessing with many best wishes.
But the friendship with the Barnabites had started even before that, as the Saint had come to know another Saint, Alexander Sauli: “they would help each other, glad to encourage each other in holy fervor toward God’s love, the exercise of penance, and works of charity.”
FATHER INNOCENT GOBIO
Historian of the Congregation
Fr. Gobio was born in Mantua in 1821. While studying at the University of Pavia he asked for admission to our Congregation. His first assignment was as a teacher in Lodi and then in Monza for 25 years, as professor of Latin, Greek, and Italian. He excelled also in his ministry in the Carrobiolo church, at the Villoresi seminary and in the Oratorio of Our Lady of Sorrows.
He introduced in Monza the French Nuns of the Good Shepherd, and created the Circle of St. John the Baptist for the Catholic youth of the city.
He produced many publications in literature and ascetical theology, wrote the biographical notes of many confreres, composed a variety Sacred Dramas, and most importantly he composed the Historical Memoirs of our Congregation.
During his last year he had to experience the persecution in Lombardy against our Congregation. He went to France and Piedmont to search material for the history of the Order, but his health started to falter. While in Asti, the Carmelite Bishop Mascaretti of Susa, obtained to keep him with him so that the fresh, country air would benefit him, but to no avail as he collapsed on May 26, 1874, at the age of 55.