BIOGRAPHIES OF NEW BLESSEDS - 2002
The following Blesseds were beatified by John Paul II in 2002:
20 October 2002

Andrea Giacinto Longhin
Marcantonio Durando
Mary of the Passion
Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa
Sr Liduina Meneguzzi


Bl. Andrea Giacinto Longhin (1863-1936)
Capuchin Bishop of Treviso 

The Servant of God was a Capuchin Friar who was appointed Bishop of Treviso in 1904. After a lengthy pastoral ministry in which he stood out as a wise and saintly bishop, he died in 1936, venerated by the bishops of the region, his priests, people and the Holy Father Pius XI for having steered the ship of the Church through stormy waters. In this period of Italian history, Italy experienced the struggle over the labour unions, the rise of modernism among the clergy, the ongoing political struggle between Church and State, World War I and the reconstruction, the beginning of Luigi Sturzo's Popular Party, the rise of Mussolini and Fascism, the Concordat of Pius XI, to mention a few of the changes that are associated with modern times.

Early life

On 22 November 1863 Giacinto Bonaventura was born in Fiumicello, Italy, in the diocese of Padua, the only child of Matteo and Giuditta Longhin. The example of lived faith at home and in his parish stayed with Giacinto throughout his life. He remarked that "Fiumicello is full of people who live a deep piety and faith". He received the name Andrea when he joined the Capuchins.

Capuchin Friar

In 1879 he entered the Capuchin Friars at their house of the Holy Redeemer in Venice and received the habit. On 4 October 1883 he made his final profession and on 19 June 1886 he was ordained priest.

Fr Andrea was an excellent and talented preacher. However, after a few years, his superiors assigned him to the work of formation in his province where he taught theology and was spiritual director for the students of the Order. On 18 April 1902, at the age of 40, Fr Andrea was elected provincial minister. For two years, he governed the 200 friars of the province, a task that prepared him to be Bishop of Treviso.

Bishop of Treviso: the Bishop of Pius X

In April 1904, much to his surprise, during a private audience, St Pius X personally appointed the Servant of God as Bishop of Treviso and obliged him to accept the appointment. Shortly thereafter on 17 April 1904, Cardinal Merry del Val consecrated him in the church of Trinità dei Monti in Rome.

Bishop Longhin accomplished a great deal as diocesan bishop. The first thing he did was to set out on a visitation of the diocese that lasted from 1905 to 1909. Then he organized and held a Synod in 1911 using much of the material from a Synod Pius X held as Patriarch of Venice. In 1912 he began a second visitation of the diocese that was interrupted by World War I and finished in 1925. In 1923 the diocese held a Eucharistic Congress. In 1923, from March to October he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Padua. In 1926 he launched the third pastoral visitation which he finished in 1928. In 1927 he was appointed Visitator and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Udine.

Bishop Longhin was a great promoter of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. He was also a bishop who promoted holiness among the clergy with retreats, days of recollection and formation weeks. He was known for his careful preparation of his sermons and addresses and for his zeal in consulting theologians and scholars.

In the 1900's Treviso was the centre of a strong lay Catholic movement in the Veneto area. Everyone noted his ability to guide this movement without a mis-step in a positive direction.

To do so he had to foster among the priests and laity a knowledge of the social doctrine of the Church. He backed the factory workers when they set up their unions. He supported Catholic farmworkers as they began their own organizations to deal with the farm owners. In 1920 the bishops of the region issued a Letter to the farmers' league to condemn their violence and urging them to concentrate on setting up structures for negotiation.

He was responsible for a strong diocesan Catholic Action movement for the formation of every age group, especially young people, to live their faith in the world. Catholic Action had its own president and communications media. The Fascists attacked the offices several times and shut down the newspaper. In 1934 he joined the bishops of the region in sending a memorandum to Mussolini.

Bishop Longhin's bravery during World War I

During the First World War, 1915-1918, a section of the diocese of Treviso located near the Piave River was the scene of some of the battles of the war. 47 churches of the diocese of Treviso were destroyed or damaged. Despite the danger of grenade and bombing attacks, Bishop Longhin remained in Treviso while the civil authorities and the population fled to safer areas. Because of his heroism, he was decorated with the Military Cross, the Order of Sts Maurizio and Lazzaro and the White Cross of the Third Army as a token of gratitude for his service of charity to his country and to the local community. He accepted the decorations in the name of the clergy who followed his example and stayed in their parishes.

Illness and death

In 1932 he began to show the first signs of arteriosclerosis. On 3 October 1935, while he was in Salzano to confer the sacrament of Confirmation, he completely lost his sight, thus ending his pastoral activity. Less than a year later, on 26 June 1936, he died, after 18 hours of agony.

Pastoral Spirituality

St Pius X said that Bishop Longhin was truly "a holy and gifted Bishop ... a man who would leave an indelible mark of apostolic zeal on the diocese". A deeply interior Franciscan spirituality, his apostolic effort to form and guide the clergy to holiness; the teaching of the catechism to children and adults; the promotion of social and Catholic action; untiring and courageous dedication for rebuilding the churches destroyed during the First World War: these are fundamental elements of Bishop Longhin's fidelity to God's call. He used to say: "Our perfection and the end for which we are created lie in this: to do God's will on the bad days as well as on the good, in joy and in sorrow, because it is always God who sends this to us and we must be happy with what He wants".

He educated the faithful to live their faith not superficially or "devotionally", but with "a firm hope, deep faith, and perfect love". To the priests he said, "I bless you all, become saints, become saints. Make yourselves holy, my sons; families, parishes, the country and the world need saints". "I have had one ambition: to make all my priests saints". Andrea Giacinto Longhin became a Capuchin friar to reach holiness by preaching the Gospel to the people. He was a holy bishop who led many others to holiness.

On 23 April 2002, John Paul II approved the decree on a miraculous healing due to his intercession. On 20 October, Mission Sunday, he will be beatified in St Peter's Square.


Bl. Marcantonio Durando (1801-1880)
Priest of the Congregation of the Mission, Founder of the Nazarene Sisters

Marcantonio was born in Mondovi, Italy, on 22 May 1801, of the distinguished Durando family. His mother, a devout person, instilled religion and faith in the hearts of her eight children. His father had liberal ideas tending toward secularist and agnostic positions. Two of Marcantonio's brothers assimilated his ideas and became involved in the events of the Italian Risorgimento. They both held important positions in political and military life. Giacomo was minister for foreign affairs in the Piedmont government in 1862. The other was commander of the army of the Papal States and then an officer of the Piedmont army.

Joins the Congregation of the Mission

Marcantonio was influenced by his mother. At the age of 15 he manifested a desire to go to China as a missionary, and later he entered the Congregation of the Mission of St Vincent de Paul which was being re-established in Italy. When he was 18, he made his final profession and on 12 June 1824, he was ordained a priest. For five years he lived in Casale Monferrato. In 1829 he was assigned to Turin where two years later he was made superior. He stayed there until he died.

Popular missions

Instead of being a missionary in China, Fr Durando was destined for preaching popular missions in the Piedmont area where he would live his missionary passion of preaching Christ. Avoiding both the extremes of laxism and of Jansenist rigorism, Fr Durando preached the mercy of God, attracting the people to love God. He did not just preach but, with the help of his confreres, he looked for concrete ways to remedy critical situations of poverty. What he did in the town of Locana can serve as an example. He got permission to use the finances of the house, 700 lire, to buy corn flour for the rural poor. He practiced the teaching of St Vincent de Paul to serve the poor spiritually and materially.

Promoted the Propagation of the Faith to support the foreign missions

He spread the new association of the Propagation of the Faith set up 1822 in Lyons. In 1855 he established the Brignole-Sale College for the foreign missions; it had the goal of forming priests for the mission ad gentes.

Introduced the Daughters of Charity into Northern Italy

He also saw the advantage of introducing into northern Italy the Daughters of Charity, fruit of the charism of St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac. After being dispersed during the French Revolution, the sisters were reorganizing their Congregation. In 1833 King Charles Albert welcomed them and asked them to take charge of five military and civil hospitals in Turin, Genoa, Castellamonte. He also promoted the Marian Association of the Miraculous Medal among the young people. (In 1830 Our Lady gave the "Miraculous Medal" in a vision granted to St Catherine Laboure, a Daughter of Charity. In 1842 it received Papal approval).

Vocations to the Daughters of Charity began to flourish: in ten years 260 sisters joined the community. Fr Durando was able to provide the city of Turin with a network of charity centres, called Misericordie, from which the sisters and the Ladies of Charity set out to serve the poor in their homes. Around the Misericordie, were set up the first nursery schools for poor children, homes for young working girls, and orphanages. Because of their assistance to the sick and the poor and their service in the educational field, the Daughters of Charity made a valuable contribution to the development of social Catholicism in Italy.

Spiritual Direction

In 1837, when he was 36 years old, Fr Durando was appointed major superior ("Visitor") of the Province of Northern Italy of the Vincentian Fathers, a post which he occupied for 43 years until his death. Consequently, he had to reduce his time for the missions since now he had to dedicate his time to the organization of the Congregation and to preaching spiritual retreats for the priests and clerics of the Turin diocese.

The quality of his spiritual direction brought him to the attention of new religious congregations being set up in Turin. Archbishop Fransoni entrusted to him the direction of the Sisters of St Joseph who had just arrived in Italy, and he also became the spiritual director of the Poor Clares. He was asked to contribute to the writing of the Rule of the Sisters of St Ann.

Founded the Nazarene Sisters

In 1865 he was instrumental in founding the Nazarene Sisters. On 21 November 1865, the feast of the Presentation of Mary, Fr Durando entrusted to the Servant of God, Sr Luigia Borgiotti, the first three postulants of the new Company of the Passion of Jesus the Nazarean. They were young girls who turned to him because, although they desired to consecrate themselves to God, they lacked some of the canonical requisites for entering religious communities. He gave them the task of serving the sick as suffering members of Christ crucified, going to assist them in their homes, day and night. Because of the charity of these sisters who accompanied the dying with gentleness, discretion and faith, many conversions took place of such famous Italians as Guido Gozzano, Sofia Grata and Annie Vivanti.

Fr Durando died on 10 December 1880 at 79 years of age. His mortal remains were buried in the little sanctuary of the Passion, annexed to the Church of the Visitation in Turin, where he founded the community of the Nazarene Sisters.

The spirituality of Fr Durando was that of his spiritual father, St Vincent de Paul: "We must love God and neighbour, but with the sweat of our brow and the hard work of our arms". He assimilated conformity with Christ Crucified. From this centre, he could let his missionary zeal reach out in an unlimited number of works that had as their common denominator charity and service to the poor. He taught the value of preaching above all with good example and not just with words. He was very "down-to-earth" and believed that, when someone worked with a genuine spirit of charity and sacrifice, he/she was certainly following the Lord. He was "suspicious" of the extraordinary and believed in the sanctification of ordinary, daily life.


Bl. Mary of the Passion (Hélène Marie Philippine de Chappotin de Neuville), 1839-1904 
Foundress of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary

She was born on 21 May 1839 in Nantes, France, the youngest of the five children born to Charles de Chappotin and Sophie Galbaud du Fort. She showed from childhood eminent natural gifts and a deep faith. This faith carried her through the many trials that she had to face from an early age: the death of her cousin, Aurelia in 1850, her sister Martina just two months later, and in 1854, when Hélène was 15 years old, the death of her other sister, Louise. Her family was plunged into sorrow and Hélène came face-to-face with the problem of death. God was already preparing her soul for her future mission, revealing to her how transitory life is and the need for detachment from created things.

Vocation to the Poor Clares

In April 1856, during a retreat in Nantes, Hélène experienced a call from God to a life of total consecration, but the unexpected death of her mother delayed its realization. In December 1860, with the consent of the Bishop of Nantes, she entered the Poor Clares whose ideal, based on St Francis' simplicity and poverty, attracted her.

On 23 January 1861, while still a postulant, she had a profound experience of God who invited her to offer herself as a victim for the Church and the Pope. This experience marked her entire life. A short time after, having become seriously ill, she had to leave the convent.

Call to join Society of Mary Reparatrix

When she was well again, her confessor directed her to the Society of Mary Reparatrix whose members were dedicated to Eucharistic adoration in union with Mary at the foot of the Cross, making reparation for the sins of the world. Mother Mary of Jesus, the foundress, accepted her into the order and on 15 August 1864, in Toulouse, she received the religious habit and the name "Mary of the Passion".

Sent to India

In March 1865, while still a novice, she was sent out to India, to the Apostolic Vicariate of Madurai, entrusted to the Society of Jesus. The experience awaiting the Reparatrix Sisters was anything but simple. They had to adapt themselves to a completely strange geographical, cultural and religious context and to a style of religious life that they had never imagined when entering the institute. They also had to train young Indian women for the religious life. These girls came from a completely different background and outlook whose mentality and culture were completely different from their own. It was an introduction to the concrete reality of missionary life: the long journeys by ox-cart, the stifling heat, the poverty and discomfort of the small convents which were quite unsuited to the Indian climate.

Because of her gifts and virtues, Mary of the Passion was nominated local superior and then, in July 1867, she was named provincial superior of the three convents of the Reparatrix. She had pronounced her temporary vows only a year earlier, on 3 May 1866. Under her guidance, the works of the apostolate grew, peace which had been somewhat disturbed by tensions already existing in the mission was re-established and fervour and regularity flourished again in the communities. She searched for God's will continually, and notwithstanding her already poor health, further exacerbated by the difficult missionary conditions in India, she carried out her duty as Superior with maturity and continual self-giving.

Foundation in Ootacamund of Missionaries of Mary

In 1874, a new house was founded in Ootacamund in the Vicariate of Coimbatore, under the direction of the Paris Foreign Mission Society. However, in Madurai the dissensions became exacerbated to such an extent that, in 1876 some religious, among them Mary of the Passion, were driven to leave the Society of Mary Reparatrix, reuniting at Ootacamund under the jurisdiction of the Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore, Mons. Joseph Bardon, M.E.P.

In November 1876, Mary of the Passion went to Rome to regularize the situation of the 20 separated sisters and on 6 January 1877, obtained the authorization from Pius IX to found a new Institute which was to be specifically missionary and was to be called the "Missionaries of Mary". Her activity as a missionary foundress would remain deeply marked by the years lived in India, having experienced first hand the conditions and difficulties of life on the missions.

Foundress opens novitiate in Bretagne

At the suggestion of Propaganda Fide, she opened a novitiate in Saint-Brieuc in France, where very soon numerous candidates entered. In April 1880, and in June 1882, the Servant of God went to Rome to resolve the difficulties which were threatening to hinder the stability and growth of the young Institute. This journey marked an important stage in her life.

Franciscan connection

On 1 June 1882, she was authorized to open a house in Rome and through providential circumstances, she rediscovered the Franciscan direction which God had indicated to her 22 years before. On 4 October 1882, in the Church of the Aracoeli, she was received into the Third Order of St Francis and thus began her relationship with the Servant of God, Fr Bernardin de Portogruaro, Minister General, who with paternal solicitude would support her in her trials.

In March 1883, due to latent opposition, Mary of the Passion was deposed from her Office of Superior of the Institute. However, after an inquiry ordered by Leo XIII, her innocence was established and at the Chapter of July 1884, she was re-elected. The Institute of the Missionaries of Mary then began to develop rapidly. On 12 August 1885 the decree of praise and that of affiliation to the Order of Friars Minor were issued. The Constitutions of the "Franciscan Missionaries of Mary" were definitively approved on 11 May 1896. Missionaries were sent regularly to the most dangerous and distant places overcoming all obstacles and boundaries. The zeal of the Foundress knew no bounds in responding to the calls of the poor and the abandoned. She was particularly interested in the promotion of women and the social question: with intelligence and discretion she willingly cooperated with the pioneers who were working in these spheres, which they appreciated very much.

Spiritual teaching: soul of the mission is contemplation and adoration of the Eucharist

Her intense activity drew its dynamism from contemplation of the great mysteries of faith. For Mary of the Passion, all led back to the Unity-Trinity of God truth-love, who communicates himself to us through the paschal mystery of Christ. It was in union with these mysteries that, in an ecclesial and missionary dimension, she lived her vocation of offering. For her, Jesus in the Eucharist was "the great missionary" and availability to Mary in the readiness of her "Fiat" traced out for her the path of unconditional self giving to the work of God. Thus she opened her Institute to the horizons of universal mission, accomplished in Francis of Assisi's evangelical spirit of simplicity, poverty and charity.

She took great care, not only of the external organization of the works, but above all of the spiritual formation of the religious. Gifted with an extraordinary capacity for work, she found time to compose numerous writings on formation, while by frequent correspondence, the foundress followed her daughters dispersed throughout the world, relentlessly calling them to a life of holiness. "Surely when I was twenty-one I could not understand your wishes for my path in life, my God, nor what the term true power meant.... I can see true power resplendent: Truth and Charity. God communicating himself to the Church through the Holy Spirit".

First Martyrs in China

In 1900 the Institute received the seal of blood through the martyrdom of seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in China, who were beatified in 1946 by Pope Pius XII and canonized during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 by Pope John Paul II. To be the spiritual mother of these missionaries who had known how to live to the shedding of their blood, the ideal proposed by her, was for Mary of the Passion both a great sorrow and a great joy: "Now I can say that I have seven true Franciscan Missionaries of Mary!", she exclaimed. "Their martyrdom speaks for itself. By their vocation, they had offered themselves for the Church and for souls. They have lived their holocaust right to the end".

Death in San Remo

Worn out by the fatigue of her constant journeys and daily labour, she died after a brief illness on 15 November 1904 in San Remo, Italy, leaving more than 2,000 religious and 86 houses, spread throughout four continents. Her mortal remains repose in a private oratory of the Institute's Motherhouse in Rome. The Congregation now has 7,700 sisters who are missionaries in 77 countries, on every continent.

In February 1918, in San Remo, the Informative Process was opened for the Cause. After the Consultors voted unanimously in its favour, the Decree for the Introduction of the Cause was published on 19 January 1979, with the approval of His Holiness John Paul II.

On 28th June 1999 the Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II solemnly promulgated the Decree on the heroicity of the virtues of Mother Mary of the Passion.

On 5 March 2002, the healing of a religious, suffering from "pulmonary and vertebral TBC, Pott's Disease", was recognized as a miracle granted by God through the intercession of the Venerable Mary of the Passion. In 23 April 2002, in the presence of the Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, the Decree for the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God was promulgated.


Bl. Daudi Okelo and Bl. Jildo Irwa (ca. 1902-1918), Martyrs of Uganda, died for the faith on 18 October 1918. Daudi was 16 years old, Jildo 12. Both were catechists of the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda.

Daudi Okelo was born in 1902 in the village of Payira and was baptized by the Combonian Father Cesare Gambaretto on 1 June 1916 at the age of 14. He received first communion on the same day. Daudi spontaneously joined the other Catholics who attended school for formation as catechists. Those that knew him said that he had a calm disposition, was assiduous in his responsibilities as a catechist and was loved and respected by everyone.

Jildo Irwa was born in 1906 in Bar Kitoba, on the outskirts of Kitgum, and was also baptized on 1 June 1916, when he was 10 years old. The local Catholics recalled him as having a lively, intelligent character and as working sometimes as clerk to a local assistant chief, Ogal who gave room and boarding to the catechists. Jildo attracted many young people to the faith, encouraging them to join the catechism lessons, and was a big help to Daudi.

The two catechists expressed their willingness to be transferred to Paimol, a northern village in the Upper Nile basin, so that they could begin teaching the first catechumens who lived there. Paimol was an area that was afflicted by the smallpox epidemic, by famine and by the tribal movements that were against "outsiders". There were many other elements that added to the instability: the repercussions of the World War, the removal of traditional tribal leaders, the restrictions put on the missionaries, forbidding them to dress in European clothing, and the supposed negative influence of the "spirits of the ancestors" that seemed to have stopped protecting the inhabitants of Paimol.

In this particular case, the two catechists were sent to carry out their mission in an area where the traditional chief, Lakidi, had been replaced by a chief not of the place, Amet. With opposition to Christianity on the rise, some friends suggested to Daudi and Jildo that they leave. Their reply was edifying: "We aren't going to run away; it will be as God wills it to be".

At daybreak on 18 October 1918, four men attacked the hut where the two catechists lived, dragging them outside the camp. They killed Daudi first. Jildo replied to one of his assassins, who took pity on his young age, encouraging him to escape: "If you killed Daudi, you have to kill me because I came here to teach the faith just as he did".

They then killed Jildo holding up in front of him the catechism he promoted.

Since the day of their martyrdom, the place of their martyrdom has been called "Wi-polo" ("In Heaven"), of the two boys' reward. In the depositions all the witnesses affirm that the two catechists were killed "for nothing" meaning that they had nothing to do with reasons for the uprising. The witnesses added that they died "for the sole reason of teaching religion".

In 1952-53 an investigation on their martyrdom was begun, lead by Bishop Battista Cesana, who published a document written by his predecessor, Bishop Angelo Negri, entitled "The Paimol Tragedy". Two Combonian fathers, Victor Albertini and Vincent Pellegrini, also collected an extensive documentation on the heroic martyrdom of the two Acholian boys, This 300-page typewritten document was mysteriously lost without a sign for 40 years; on 26 December 1996 it was providentially found, and opened the door for their claim to holiness.

Uganda already has a history of martyrdom. In 1969 in Namugongo, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the first 27 martyrs Charles Luwanga and companions. They had died a century earlier.

Today, Christians make up 70% of Uganda's 23.9 million people.


Bl. Liduina Meneguzzi (1901-1941)
Missionary of the Order of the Sisters of St Francis of Sales

She lived in the first half of the 20th century in Italy and in Ethiopia where she finally realized her wish to be a missionary. Beatifying her on World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father holds her up as an example of missionary generosity.

"Angelina" was born on 12 September 1901, the second of eight children in Abano Terme (near Padua), Italy. In her solid but poor Catholic family, her mother formed her in a spirit of prayer and service for others. Angelina was the "good angel" at home; everyone could count on her. As she grew up, she used to gather her brothers around her to teach them their catechism. She did everything to help her parents' financially. When she walked to school, she carried her shoes so as not to wear them out. When in 1923 her father died, she encouraged her mother and extended her work at the Hotel "Due Torri" in Abano, where she had been employed since she was 14. She began each day with the Mass and the Rosary, making sure that she would have time for daily prayer.

In 1917, she met the Sisters of St Francis of Sales when they took over the kindergarten and elementary school in Abano. Inspired by their example, Angelina felt "called" to the religious life. However she did not tell her mother until 1926, three years after her father's death because she did not want to leave her mother alone.

On 5 March 1926, accompanied by her mother, Angelina entered the Congregation in Padua. In the same year she received the religious habit and the name "Liduina". On 8 September 1929, she made her final profession. She would have liked to go to the missions, but she had to wait another eleven years. She absorbed the spirit of charity of St Francis of Sales. Her way of life was "Yes", "right away", "happy to do so". She was ever ready to give joy to others and to hide her own tiredness. From the beginning, she felt inadequate to the call to religious life since she was convinced that she was "little and ignorant". At the same time she was decisive: "I want to do all I can to become a saint".

After her religious profession she was assigned to the linen-room and the dining room of the boarders at the "Collegio Santa Croce" (Boarding School of the Holy Cross) connected with the Motherhouse. She helped the young girls by making herself available for their needs, and kept things clean and neat at the school. Everyone loved and respected her for her patience and openness, and the students sought her out when they needed counsel. She became a "true friend" to the girls. In 1937 she was appointed to her new mission in Ethiopia.

From the time of her childhood, she was motivated by a "missionary spirit", wanting to reach out to everyone to bring God everywhere.

On 16 July 1937 she left Italy with 15 of her sisters, the first group who were to open the mission. She began her mission in the public hospital "Giacinto Parini" of Dire-Dawa, in Ethiopia. She tried to make living conditions better, to keep the hospital clean and orderly, sacrificing her time, sleep and physical energy for the sick. After 1940 she was assigned to a military hospital where she took care of the young wounded soldiers, accomplishing miracles to find what was needed. Those who worked alongside Sr Liduina felt that she genuinely loved them and helped them with the constant joy and serenity that she transmitted. Even the Muslim men and women, attracted by her spirit of openness, called her "sorella gudda" (great sister). She made it her mission to be "all to all in charity", and although she was "poor" in human talents, she used all her strength and trusted in God's grace to make her capable to serve in various areas of the hospital the kitchen, in the emergency room, comforting the dying and their families.

There was also a doctor who worked with Sr Liduina and, instead of admiring and praising her, humiliated her by speaking harshly and creating problems for her. He did not "admire" her work or the way she spoke openly of Jesus and the faith. Sr Liduina never answered him harshly, but tried to treat him all the more with respect and love getting him a cold drink or a fresh cup of coffee. However, she did react when he insulted or cursed God. "It does not matter that you treat me badly, but why do you offend the Lord this way?" Sr Liduina also had the gift of making Jesus "known and loved" by pagans and Muslims. She got along well with the Orthodox and members of other faiths who worked in the hospital when interreligious dialogue was almost impossible.

The African climate, malaria, and flea bites all wore her out. When she was only 40, the doctors discovered that she had an abdominal tumor that caused her death on 2 December 1941. The night before her unsuccessful operation she visited all her sick. She did not want to hear about rest, for "these [sick] are worse off than I am". Until her last day, Sr Liduina "gave [her] all to all in charity" to the suffering. In 1961 her mortal remains were transported from Dire-Dawa to the Motherhouse in Padua. With a Decree of 7 July 2001 on a miraculous healing due to her intercession, John Paul II opened the way for her Beatification on 20 October.


18 August 2002

Sigmund Felix Felinski 
John Adalbert Balicki
Santia Szymkowiak
John Beyzym, S.J.

 

Bl. Sigmund Felix Felinski (1822-1895)
Archbishop of Warsaw and Founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary

He was born on 1 November 1822 to Gerard Felinski and Eva Wendorff, in Wojutyn in Volinia (present-day Ukraine), in what was then Russian territory. He was Archbishop of Warsaw for 16 months, spent 20 years in exile in Siberia, spent 12 years in semi-exile as tit. Archbishop of Tarsus and parish priest in the country. He died in Kraków, which then belonged to Austria, on 17 September 1895. Indeed, he spent 58 of his 73 years in territory that belonged to the Russian Empire.

Spiritual and national figure

He is venerated as Shepherd in exile, an apostle of national harmony and unity in the spirit of the Gospel, a model of priestly dedication. As Archbishop of Warsaw and founder of a religious congregation, he exercised his duties and role as "Good Shepherd" with great strength, love and courage, always keeping careful watch over himself. "I am convinced that by keeping my heart uncontaminated, living in faith and in fraternal love towards my neighbour, I will not go off the path. These are my only treasures and are without price", he wrote.

Family

The third of six children, of whom two died at an early age, he was brought up with faith and trust in Divine Providence, love for the Church and Polish culture. When Sigmund was 11 years old his father died. Five years later, in 1838, his mother was arrested by the Russians and sent into exile in Siberia for her involvement in patriotic activity. Her patriotic activity was working for the improvement of the social and economic conditions of the farmers.

Education and background

Sigmund was well educated. After completing high school, he studied mathematics at the University of Moscow from 1840-1844. In 1847 he went to Paris, where he studied French Literature at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France. He knew all the important figures of the Polish emigration, e.g. Adam Mickiewicz. He was a friend of the nationalist poet Juliusz Słowacki who died after the revolt of Poznan. In 1848, he took part in the revolt of Poznan which failed. From 1848-50 he was tutor to the sons of Eliza and Zenon Brzozowski in Munich and Paris. In 1851 he returned to Poland and entered the diocesan seminary of Zytomierz. He studied at the Catholic Academy of St Petersburg. On 8 September 1855 Archbishop Ignacy Hołowinski, Archbishop of Mohilev ordained him. He was assigned to the Dominican Fathers' Parish of St Catherine of Siena in St Petersburg until 1857, when the bishop appointed him spiritual director of the Ecclesiastical Academy and professor of philosophy. In 1856 he founded the charitable organization "Recovery for the Poor" and in 1857 he founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

Archbishop of Warsaw

On 6 January 1862, Pope Pius IX appointed Sigmund Felinski Archbishop of Warsaw. On 26 January 1862 Archbishop Zylínski consecrated him in St Petersburg. On 31 January he left for Warsaw where he arrived on 9 February 1862. The Russians brutally suppressed the Polish uprising against Russia in Warsaw in 1861 creating a state of siege. In response to the harsh measures of the Russians, the ecclesial authorities closed all the churches for four months. On 13 February 1862, the new Archbishop reconsecrated the cathedral of Warsaw; the Russian Army had profaned it on 15 October 1861. On 16 February he opened all of the churches in the city with the solemn celebration of the Forty Hours Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sigmund Felinski was Archbishop of Warsaw for 16 months, from 9 February 1862 to 14 June 1863. Times were difficult since there were daily clashes between the occupying Russian power and the Nationalist Party. Unfortunately, he was met by an atmosphere of distrust on the part of some citizens and even clergy, since the Russian government deceived them into thinking that he was secretly collaborating with the government. The Archbishop always made it clear that he was only at the service of the church. He also worked for the systematic elimination of governmental interference in the internal affairs of the church. He reformed the diocese by making regular visits to the parishes and to the charitable organizations within the diocese so that he could better understand and meet their needs. He reformed the programmes of study at the Ecclesiastical Academy of Warsaw and in the diocesan seminaries, giving new impetus to the spiritual and intellectual development of the clergy. He made every effort to free the imprisoned priests. He encouraged them to proclaim the Gospel openly, to catechize their parishioners, to begin parochial schools and to take care that they raise a new generation that would be sober, devout and honest. He looked after the poor and orphans, starting an orphanage in Warsaw which he entrusted to the Sisters of the Family of Mary.

In political action he tried to prevent the nation from rushing headlong into a rash and inconsiderate position. As a sign of his own protest against the bloody repression by the Russians of the "January Revolt" of 1863, Archbishop Felinski resigned from the Council of State and on 15 March 1863 wrote a letter to the Emperor Alexander II, urging him to put an end to the violence. He likewise protested against the hanging of the Capuchin Fr Agrypin Konarski, chaplain of the "rebels". His courage and interventions quickly brought about his exile by Alexander II.

Exile in Siberia for 20 years

In fact, on 14 June 1863, he was deported from Warsaw to Jaroslavl, in Siberia, where he spent the next 20 years deprived by the Czar of any contact with Warsaw. He found a way to organize works of mercy to help his fellow prisoners and especially the priests. Despite the restrictions of the Russian police, he managed to collect funds to build a Catholic Church which later became a parish. The people were struck by his spiritual attitude and eventually began calling him the "holy Polish bishop".

Semi-exile in Kraków region

In 1883, following negotiations between the Holy See and Russia, Archbishop Felinski was freed and on 15 March 1883, Pope Leo XIII transferred him from the See of Warsaw to the titular See of Tarsus. For the last 12 years of his life he lived in semi-exile, in southeastern Galizia at Dzwiniaczka, among the cropfarmers of Polish and Ukrainian background. As chaplain of the public chapel of the manor house of the Counts Keszycki and Koziebrodzki, he launched an intense pastoral activity. Out of his own pocket, he set up in the village the first school and a kindergarten. He built a church and convent for the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

Writings

In his leisure, he prepared for publication the works he had written during his exile in Jaroslavl. Here are some of them: Spiritual Conferences, Faith and Atheism in the search for happiness, Conferences on Vocation, Under the Guidance of Providence, Social Commitments in view of Christian Wisdom and Atheism; Memories (three editions).

Remains in Warsaw

He died in Kraków on 17 September 1895 and was buried in Kraków on 20 September. Later he was buried at Dzwiniaczka (10 October 1895). In 1920 his remains were translated to Warsaw where, on 14 April 1921, they were solemnly interred in the crypt of the Cathedral of St John where they are now venerated.


Bl. John Adalbert Balicki (1869-1948)

Bl. John Adalbert Balicki was born on 25 January 1869 in Staromiescie, Poland (today the district of Rzeszow). He died of pneumonia and TB in Przemysl on 15 March 1948.

Education

John Adalbert was raised in a deeply religious family and, although materially poor, they were a family rich in honesty and virtue. From 1876-1888 he attended the schools of Rzeszow under the guidance of high level educators imbued with a love for Polish culture. In September 1888 he entered the diocesan Seminary of Przemysl. After four years of study and spiritual preparation, he was ordained on 20 July 1892.

The bishop sent him to be assistant pastor in the parish of Polna. He was appreciated as a man of prayer, a patient confessor and a gifted preacher. After about a year, he was sent to Rome to pursue his formation at the Pontifical Gregorian University. During his four years of study(1893-1897), he was aware of a dual responsibility: as a priest, to continue to make progress in Christian perfection, and as a student, to complete his studies. His spiritual approach to theology bore fruit later on in his teaching. He listened to the lectures in the morning. In the afternoon he read the authors referred to and, above all, St Thomas Aquinas. Then he went to the chapel to pray over what he studied. He spent his free time in Rome visiting the shrines of the Apostles and the rooms of the saints. It was a concrete way of learning about the faith.

Professor of theology, prefect of studies

In the summer of 1897, he returned to Przemysl of the Latins, where he was appointed professor of dogmatic theology in the diocesan seminary. He was convinced that theology is not only the science that regards God, but the science that can turn man to reach God. His lessons were meditations on the mysteries of God and had a good influence on the moral formation of his students. Up till 1900, Fr. Balicki was also prefect of studies.

Rector of the seminary

In 1927, in a spirit of obedience, he accepted the post of vice-rector of the seminary and a year later he was appointed rector. He was concerned about the spiritual formation of the priests. Before he presented the candidates to the bishop, he studied the reports and prayed for light to make the proper decision.

Spiritual direction and confession

In 1934 he was forced to resign as rector and professor of theology due to poor health, but he continued to live at the seminary. From 1934-1939 he could only hear confessions and give spiritual direction. Many of his penitents testified that he had an extraordinary gift of penetrating the profondity of their soul. As confessor he had an open heart for everyone who approached him with sincerity. He was always available for confession despite poor health. He was not just a judge or giver of absolution, but he did all he could to motivate his penitents to grow spiritually. He regularly gave direction through letters.

World War II: restrictions, worsened health

In September 1939, Poland was plunged into the tragedy of the Second World War. Right away the city of Przemysl was divided into two parts: the old section occupied by Soviet troops, and the rest of the city occupied by the Germans. Although the priests and the bishop and his collaborators thought it safer to move to the German side, Fr Balicki remained in the Soviet zone hoping to start again the activity of formation in the Seminary. In the end, he was forced to move into a room in the bishop's temporary housing.

In October 1941, the fighting in the area stopped and the artificial barrier that divided the city was abolished. Fr Balicki stayed there in his temporary room with the bishop.

In the second half of February 1948, he became gravely ill and was diagnosed as having bilateral pneumonia and tuberculosis in its advanced stage. He was admitted to the hospital where he died on 15 March 1948.

He was considered by all to be a "holy priest" and "humility in person".

Teaching and example

After his death, the fame of his holiness spread throughout Poland and beyond Poland by means of the Polish emigrants. Eventually the people began to report to the authorities the answers to their prayers in which they begged John Adalbert to intercede for them.

Those who knew him report that his whole life was motivated by the desire to be the least among his brothers. His humility was simple, natural, authentic. There was no room for pride or vanity. He was gentle and careful in his dealings with others. He never desired to call attention to his own pains or sufferings.

What stood out as the fruit of humility was his great love of God and neighbour. Love was the dominant attitude. Humility allowed him to tend constantly toward God. He said that the life of grace was revealed in the dominion of the spirit over the flesh and its disordered inclinations. He stressed the role of the virtues in the growth of the spiritual life; especially mortification, patience and humility. Mortification submits nature to grace, patience, inseparable from love, makes man capable of sacrifice for God, humility dethrones the ego to place the Lord at the centre of his heart. He held up prayer as the indispensible nourishment for the growth of the interior life and for final perseverance. Prayer is the elevation of the mind and heart to God so that we can live for him and we love God with the love that he infuses into our hearts.

He did a study of mystical prayer in which he emphasized four degrees: prayer of quiet, prayer of simple union, ecstatic union and perfect union.

He also gave a list of the 7 steps for progress in the spiritual life. They are a serious approach to life, readiness to be critical of self, unshakable confidence in prayer, joy of spirit, love for suffering, praise of divine mercy, and continuous self amendment.

Model for Diocesan Priests

On 22 December 1975, the then Cardinal Wojtyła wrote to Paul VI to hold him up as a model for priests in our time.


Bl. Santia Szymkowiak (1910-1942)

Bl. Santia Szymkowiak was born on 11 July 1910 in Mozdzanów (Ostrów Wielkopolski), Poland, to Augustine and Mary Duchalska. She was the youngest of five children, her parents' only girl. She was baptized "Giannina". On 29 August 1942, she died of tuberculosis of the pharynx, brought on by the hardships of the war. Throughout her life, she desired to become a saint in a "hidden way", and wanted only to do God's will, living a profound union with him in every event. Her motto was "God's will is my will. Whatever he wants I want". By abandoning herself into the arms of a loving Father, she offered a wonderful example of serene acceptance of her sufferings.

Education

Giannina was born into a believing and well-to-do family who gave her a wonderful education. In 1929, after her high school studies, she studied Languages and Foreign Literature at the University of Poznah. During her school years, she was an attractive person because she was a happy and joyful person who thought of those around her and was generous in reaching out to them in any need. Throughout her school years, she was a member of the Sodality of Mary, and was remembered for a discrete and effective apostolate of trying to share her happiness with those around her.

Giannina also went beyond her own circles and showed a special attention to the needs of the poor of the city. She was interested in everyone, was open to others and had a "spirit of holiness" that struck those around her.

Call to religious life

While still young, Giannina felt called to the religious life. During the summer of 1934, she went on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Lourdes, France, and here offered herself to the Blessed Virgin, wanting to put her life entirely and without reserve into the hands of the Mother of God. In June 1936, at Poznah, after spending a year with the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Montlucon, she returned to Poland and entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows, better known as the "Seraphic Sisters". It was then that she received the name Mary Santia. From the beginning, she was zealous in observing the rules of the Congregation and in performing every kind of service. Her life, which apparently had nothing extraordinary about it, hid a profound union with God with a total readiness to embrace his will in everything. She desired to become a great saint and all her life tended to communion with Jesus, ready to bear any sacrifice and humiliation to console his Heart and make reparation for sin.

First Vows and apostolate

On 30 July 1938 she made her first vows. She once wrote in her diary: "Jesus wants me to be a holy religious, and He will not be happy with me until I use all my strength for Him and become a saint. God is everything, I am nothing. I have to become a saint at all costs. This is my constant preoccupation".

After her first vows, Sr Santia worked for a year in the nursery school of Poznan-Naramowice and also began a course of studies in pharmacology. However, she was unable to continue her studies, because in September 1939 the war broke out.

World War II

Poznah was occupied by the Germans, and the sisters were put under house arrest. They were forced to look after a hundred German soldiers who were housed there and English and French prisoners of war, who were lodged in and around the convent. She was able to translate for the foreign prisoners. The forced labour was very difficult, but she was willing to serve everyone as she would Christ himself.

In February 1940, the religious persecution worsened and Sr Santia was given permission to return to her family for safety. However, she stayed in the convent and submitted to the hard labour imposed by the occupying forces. She believed it was God's will that she remain, that she be a "mother" to those around her: the prisoners, the soldiers, and her own sisters. Sr Santia was an instrument of God's love and peace, and became a sign of hope to those around her. The English and French prisoners called her the "angel of goodness" and "Saint Santia".

The constant fatigue and difficult conditions took their toll on Sr Santia, and she began showing symptoms of tuberculosis. She continued with the same spirit of abandonment and serenity, and accepted her sufferings as a "preparation" for her solemn vows, which she professed on 6 July 1942. She died a little more than a month later, on 29 August 1942, when she was 32 years old.


Bl. John Beyzym, S.J. (1850-1912)

Bl. John (Jan) Beyzym was born in what is now Ukraine, at Beyzymy Wielkie on 15 May 1850, and died on 2 October 1912, in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar, the apostle of the lepers of Madagascar.

Fr Beyzym was the first priest to live among the victims of Hansen's disease in the entire history of the mission of Madagascar.

Teaching apostolate

After his secondary school studies, he entered the Jesuit novitiate on 10 December 1872 at Stara Wies. On 26 July 1881 he was ordained in Kraków.

For 17 years, Fr Beyzym worked as an educator among young people in the Jesuit Colleges at Tarnopol and Chyrów. During this time he was also discerning the second call he received from God which was to serve in the difficult mission among the lepers in Madagascar. In 1898, when he was 48, he left for Madagascar to begin the apostolate. "I know very well", he wrote to the Fr General Louis Martin in Rome in 1897, "what leprosy is and what I must expect, but all this does not frighten me, on the contrary, it attracts me".

Mission among the lepers in Madagascar

On arriving in the Red Island (Madagascar) he was posted to the leprosarium of Ambahivoraka near Antananarivo, where 150 sick people lived in almost total abandonment in the desert, far from healthy people. They lived in crumbling shacks which were divided into small windowless rooms without flooring or furniture. They received no medication and lived, day by day, without any help. They often died of hunger rather than of sickness.

After two weeks in the hospice, Fr Beyzym wrote in 1899 to Rodolphe de Scorraille, Head of the Province of Champagne and its missions, a letter to present the indescribable conditions he found, admitting that he asked the Good Lord to help him bring relief to this misery and that he wept in private at the sufferings of these unhappy people.

However, he did not shrink from the reality. He devoted all his strength, his talents as an organizer and, above all, his heart to the sick. He lived among them to bear witness to the fact that they were human beings and that they must be saved.

He collected money and tried helping them in any way he could. At the time there was no effective medication for Hansen's disease. However, Fr Beyzym noticed that healthy food and adequate hygiene limited the contagion and that these two conditions together prevented the disease from progressing.

An eyewitness, Fr P. Sau, wrote of Fr Beyzym that during his life, "painfully surprised at the sight of the extreme poverty of Ambahivoraka, he called on the charity of his Polish compatriots and soon was able to increase his children's ration of rice. The improvement of the diet reduced the number of burials from 5 - 7 a week to 5 a year" (La Mission de Madagascar a vol d'oiseau, pp. 62-63)

Another eye witness, Fr A. Niobey, wrote about Fr Beyzym's devotion to the body and soul of the sick: "His devotion to his lepers was unequalled. He possessed nothing but he gave the little he could dispose of unhesitatingly. His answer to every objection was always: 'What you do for the least of my creatures, that you do unto me. We must be like the merchants of this earth: we must always aim at a greater gain'" [Letter, 3 June 1913).

He answered the provincial who asked him about working conditions among the sick: "One must be in constant union with God and pray without respite. One must get used little by little to the stench, for here we don't breathe the scent of flowers but the putrefaction of bodies generated by leprosy". (Letter, 18 April 1901)

However, this "ease" did not come at once. Fr Beyzym admitted that at first he felt repulsion at the sight of the victims. Several times he even fainted.

His burning goal was to build a hospital where the lepers would be taken care of and protected from the moral permissiveness that prevailed in the state-run hospices. In 1903 he left Ambahivoraka to go to build a hospital at Marana near Fianarantsoa. Speaking of the inauguration of the hospital on 16 August 1911, Fr J. Lielet, a medical doctor, said "Fr Beyzym's leposarium had finally been opened.... The construction and equipping of this vast hospital in a country where everything is lacking was a colossal undertaking, but he completed the task. Arriving there penniless, he found ways of collecting thousands of francs in Europe (principally in Poland, Austria and Germany) for such a distant project, his trust in God's help was unshakeable. Providence has almost performed miracles for him" (Chine, Ceylan, Madagascar, 1912, p. 94). He hoped that it would provide more human conditions of life for the victims of Hansen's disease.

The hospital still exists today and radiates love, hope and justice the virtues which made its construction possible. Since 1964 new little houses very close to the hospital have been built for the families of the sick people.

Inner life, soul of his apostolate

Fr Beyzym's inner life was marked by a profound bond with Christ and the Eucharist. The Mass was the centre of his life; he deplored the fact that the little church near the mission did not even have a permanent tabernacle and that during the rainy season the water dripped down onto the altar during Mass. He was greatly devoted to Mary and attributed his successes to Mary seeing himself as her instrument. He was a man of action and an untiring worker, but also a man of prayer He attributed to prayer an essential role in the apostolic life, underlining its importance to achieve sanctity. Fr Beyzym was a contemplative in action in the style of St Ignatius. He had daily problems and battled against a thousand worries and sufferings, but was above all a man of prayer. Prayer was the source of his strength. Not having much time for quiet prayer, he prayed everywhere all the time. He often repeated that his prayer was not worth much and that he had trouble praying. This was why he asked the Carmelite nuns to pray for him.


1 August 2002

Jacinto de los ángeles and Juan Bautista
Kamen Vitchev, Pavel Djidjov and Josaphat Chichov
Eugene Bossilkov


Bl. Jacinto de los ángeles and Bl. Juan Bautista (1660-1700)

Bl. Jacinto de los ángeles and Bl. Juan Bautista were born in 1660 in San Francisco Cajonos, State of Oaxaca, Mexico. These Servants of God were martyred together on 16 September 1700, confessing and defending the Catholic faith from the act of idolatry.

Juan Bautista was married to Josefa de la Cruz, and they had a daughter named Rosa. Jacinto de los ángeles was married to Petrona de los ángeles, and they had two children, Juan and Nicolasa. Jacinto was a descendant of important tribal chiefs. These two laymen belonged to the Zapoteca tribe of the State of Oaxaca. As qualified "attorneys general", their main duty consisted in watching over and ensuring the purity of the faith and the moral practices in the town, and, in helping the priest do so, especially in outlaying places. As Oaxaca was a newly evangelized area, "vigilance over the flock" was a priority since idolatry had been common practice before the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. In the Zapotecan social and religious hierarchy, to reach the grade of an attorney general, one began as an altar server, progressing to judge, councilor, municipal president, constitutional mayor, and finally attorney general. These categories were established by the Third Provincial Mexican Council in 1585. Juan and Jacinto, dutiful assistants of the priest, were loyal to the Catholic faith throughout their lives and, moved by their fidelity to the Church and the responsibility entrusted to them, remained staunch defenders of the truth. They communicated to the ecclesiastical authorities any problems or controversies that arose. The sacrifice of their lives is the testimony they have left to us of their supreme fidelity.

The letters written by two Dominican religious, Fr Alonso de Vargas and Fr Gaspar de los Reyes, in charge of the parish of San Francisco Cajonos, confirm that Juan and Jacinto were attorneys, and the testimonies of those who were present when they were killed contain important information about their martyrdom.

On 14 September 1700, Juan and Jacinto learned that on that evening, a rite of idolatry was to take place in the home of the local Indio Jose Flores. The attorneys notified the two Dominicans and it was decided that they should intervene. That evening, they went in secret to the home of Jose, where they surprised the idolaters and those present at the ceremony. When the attorneys and Dominican religious began to reprove them, the Indies blew out their candles and ran out of the house covering their faces. Confusion followed, and the idolaters' sacrilegious instruments were confiscated and taken to the Domincan convent.

The following morning the Dominican Provincial Superior of Oaxaca and the authority of Villa Alta of San Ildefonso were informed of what had happened. By noontime, the attorneys had received notice that the idolaters were preparing to retaliate and so they took refuge in the Dominican convent. At around 8.00 p.m., the rebel Indies went to the convent armed with spears and clubs, and their faces and feet were covered (so as not to be identified). They demanded that Juan and Jacinto be handed over to them, or else they would kill everyone in the convent. Besides the attorneys and the religious, there were other faithful who had accompanied them to the rite of idolatry.

Fr Gaspar and Fr Alonzo would not hand them over. The rebellious Indies threatened to burn down the church and in their fury they broke down the doors of the convent, reclaiming the instruments of idolatry that were in the storehouse. They set fire to the nearby home of Juan Bautista. Finally, realizing that there was no other choice since everyone in the convent would be in danger, the two attorneys were handed over.

When Juan was consigned, he said: "Here I am. If you have to kill me tomorrow, do it now instead". Jacinto asked the Dominican priest for Confession and Holy Communion before leaving, because he wanted to "die for love of God and without using weapons". The attorneys were brutally beaten and tortured by the rebel Indies, who tried to persuade them to abjure their faith and to approve idolatry. The attorneys never defended themselves or complained, but only responded: "If your religion is authentic, why don't you build temples for public worship instead of practising at night to trick the poor Christians who are ignorant?". They were then taken to the local prison for further torture; the next morning, they were moved to the nearby village of San Pedro, to Tanga Hill.

On Thursday afternoon, 16 September, Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los ángeles were thrown down Tanga Hill (now called Monte Fiscal-Santos), and were then beaten with clubs and cut up with knives. Their chests were cut open and their hearts were taken out and given to the dogs. Their mortal remains were thrown into an open pit, where they were eventually collected and preserved in the Church of Villa Alta. In 1889 their remains were given to the Bishop Eulogio G. Gillow y Zavalza of Oaxaca, who took them to the Cathedral of Oaxaca, where they are venerated today. The place of their martyrdom continues to be a centre of pilgrimage and a testimony in the face of the difficulties and perversions that the evangelization of Mexico encountered, and their supreme witness of fidelity continues to bear fruit.


Bl. Kamen Vitchev, Bl. Pavel Djidjov and Bl. Josaphat Chichov

At Plovdiv, on Sunday, 26 May, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Father beatified three Assumptionist priests (Augustinians of the Assumption), Kamen Vitchev, Pavel Djidjov and Josaphat Chichov as martyrs for the faith. As the Communist archives now reveal, their martyrdom took place at the hands of a firing squad on 11 November 1952 at 11:30 p.m. in the central prison of Sofia, Bulgaria. With them the Passionist Bishop of Nicopoli, Blessed Eugene Bossilkov was also shot. Fr Kamen Vitchev was ordained for the Eastern Rite, Frs Pavel Djidjov and Josaphat Chichov were ordained for the Latin Rite. All three were known for their talents in the field of the education of the young, ability to generate vocations, and one showed great skill in the the formation of future priests and religious. They also knew how to write and placed articles in Catholic and other magazines. They were also friends of the Apostolic Visitator of the time, Archbishop Roncalli, now Blessed John XXIII. On account of their influence, they were singled out by the Communists for special attention. Their example of faith and constancy in the face of suffering and imprisonment are well remembered by their students (Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims alike), parishoners, the religious who knew them, and by their prison companions.

Kamen Vitchev was born in Strem, Diocese of Thrace (department of Bourgas) in Bulgaria on 23 May 1893. His parents belonged to the Eastern Rite Church. He was baptized Peter. He attended school in Strem and in 1903 was accepted into the grammar school of Kara-Agatch in Adrianopoli where he continued his studies until 1907, when he moved to Phanaraki (on the outskirts of Istanbul) and remained there until 1909, On 8 September 1910 he began his novitiate with the Augustinians of the Assumption (Assumptionists) in Gemp and received the name "Kamen". He made his final profession in 1912 in Limperzberg. He began his ecclesiastical studies that same year and in 1918 he was made professor at the College of St Augustine in Plovdiv and then at the Little Seminary of Koum Kapou in Istanbul. In 1920 he returned to Louvaine to complete his studies and the following year he was made professor of theology in Kadiköy where he taught until 1925. On 22 December 1921 at Kadiköy (a suburb of Istanbul), he was ordained priest in the Eastern Rite.

In 1927 he went to Rome and Strasbourg to continue his studies and in 1929 he obtained a doctorate in theology. In 1930 he went back to the College of St Augustine in Plovidiv, Bulgaria, where he was eventually college rector, dean of studies, and lecturer in philosophy until the Communists closed the school on 2 August 1948. Fr Kamen had a seemingly "severe" nature, and he governed with authority; his students, however, had a deep respect for him. He did much for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, and welcomed to the school all believers without distinction; Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Jews and Muslims lived together in perfect harmony.

He was often asked to give lectures on issues regarding young people and social life. He wrote articles for the magazine Istina and for the "Review of Byzantine Studies". He also published numerous articles for scientific newspapers and magazines, using different "pen-names". In 1948, when the college was closed by the government authorities, Fr Kamen was named superior of the Seminary of Plovdiv. In 1948 when all foreign religious were expelled from Bulgaria, he was appointed Provincial Vicar of the Bulgarian Assumptionists. There were twenty of them; they staffed five Eastern Rite parishes and four Latin parishes. In a letter sent to the Superior General, Fr Kamen foresaw a terrible future: "The Iron Curtain becomes increasingly thick, without doubt, they are preparing dossiers on Catholic priests ... ". On 4 July 1952 he was arrested, accused of heading a Catholic conspiracy against the State. There was no news of his whereabouts until on 20 September when the newspapers published an accusation against a list of 40 people condemned as "spies for the Vatican and the French and conspirators, seeking to foment an imperialist war against the USSR, Bulgaria and the Popular Democracies". Fr Kamen was on this list as the organizer of the conspiracy.

Pavel Djidjov was born on 19 July 1919 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, of Latin Rite parents. His baptismal name was Joseph. From 1926-1930 he attended the Assumptionist St Andrew's School. From 1931-1938 he continued his studies at the College of St Augustine in Plovdiv. On 2 October 1938, he entered the Assumptionist novitiate of Nozeroy, Jura, France, where he took the name of Pavel. On 8 September 1942 he made his final vows. He was an outgoing young man, athletic and practical with a good sense of humour. He dedicated most of his time to the education of young people. After his vows, he had to return to Bulgaria because of illness, and remained there doing his theology studies outside of class. He was ordained a priest for the Latin Rite on 26 January 1945 in the Cathedral of Plovdiv. He moved to Varna, on the Black Sea, where he taught and continued his studies in business management and social sciences. He was made treasurer of the College of St Augustine when Fr Kamen was rector and stayed there until the college was closed in 1948. In Varna he was active among the students and did not hide his anti-Communist sentiments; for this reason he was closely observed by secret service agents. In 1949 he was made treasurer and procurator of the Bulgarian Assumptionists and showed great courage in defending the rights of his Congregation and of the Church. At the time the Assumptionists were without funds; their colleagues the French Assumptionists tried to send money through the French Ambassador. A month before his arrest, Fr Pavel commented on the arrest and condemnation of several priests and wrote: "May God's will be done. We await our turn". On the night of 4 July 1952 he was arrested together with Fr Kamen and in September his name was on the list of the 40 persons accused of espionage against the People's Republic.

Josaphat Chichov was born on 9 February 1884 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He was baptized Robert Matthew and belonged to a large family of fervent Latin Rite Catholics. He did his studies at the school of Kara-Agatch from 1893-1899. When he was nine years old, he entered the minor seminary of the Assumptionists of Kara-Agatch. On 29 April 1900 he began his novitiate and was given the name "Josaphat". In 1901 he was made teacher at Kara-Agatch and in 1902 at Varna, where he directed the college's musical band and wrote articles for Bulgarian magazines. In 1904 his superiors sent him to Louvain, Belgium, where by 1909 he completed his studies in philosophy and theology. On 11 July 1909, at Malines, Belgium, he was ordained priest for the Latin Rite. Back in Bulgaria, he taught at St Augustine College, Plovdiv, and then at St Michael College, Varna. He was also superior of Sts Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Yambol. He served as parish priest of the Latin parish in Yambol and was chaplain of the Oblate Sisters of the Assumption. Then he returned to Varna and served there until he was arrested in December 1951 by the Communist militia.

He was a man who was full of energy, a man of great erudition who quoted the famous Protestant and Catholic exegetes of the era, a fine musician, a great preacher and a good educator with a fine sense of humour. He had one of the first typewriters with Cyrillic characters, a record player and a film projector to show Pathé-Baby newsreels. He expanded the seminary to take thirty seminarians for both rites, the Latin and of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite. He celebrated the liturgy one week in Latin and the next in Slavonic. In order to cope with financial needs, he organized collection campaigns and earned money teaching French to teachers, civil servants and officers of the Bulgarian Army. At Varna he started the "St Michael French-Bulgarian Circle" that had more than 150 members, most of them students of Advanced Business Studies, since the town was a port on the Black Sea. He was often the host of Bishop Roncalli who liked to drop into the Seminary for a rest. In 1949 he became parish priest at the Latin parish of Varna. He worked hard in the parish while writing the articles that were published in Poklonnik (the Pilgrim), a magazine for Catholic Bulgarians. The priests also introduced the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the families. He was arrested in December 1951 and there was no news of his whereabouts for a year. On 16 September 1952 his name was on the list when the act of accusation against the 40 accused was published. His life could be summed up in a short sentence in a letter he wrote in 1930: "We seek to do as well as we can in order to sanctify ourselves without seeming to do so".


Bl. Eugene Bossilkov

The trial of the 40 Bulgarian Catholic priests, religious and laity, including these three martyrs, began on 29 September 1952 in Bulgaria's Supreme Court in Sofia. Among them was also Blessed Eugene Bossilkov, Passionist, and Bishop of Nicopoli, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 15 March 1998. The prisoners were abused and tortured, the recipients of an "act of accusation against the Catholic Organization of Conspiracy and Espionage in Bulgaria". The allegation accused them of being "organized and directed ever since 9 September 1944, an organization whose objective was to invert, undermine, and weaken the popular democratic power through a coup d'Etat, insurrection, revolts, terrorist acts, crimes, and foreign armed interventions". They were also declared "members of an espionage and conspiracy organization, in several of the country's cities, preparing an imperialist war against the USSR, Bulgaria and other countries of popular democrary". The sentence, announced on 3 October 1952, eve of the opening of the 19th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow, declared the three Assumptionist religious "guilty of having organized and directed in Bulgaria, since 9 September 1944 until the summer of 1952, a clandestine organization, a secret service agency of the Pope and of imperialists", and condemned them "to death by a firing squad with privation of their rights, confiscating all their properties in benefit of the State".

On 19 September 1995 the process was begun for the cause of the martyrdom of the three Assumptionists. Many years of silence passed before it was known whether those condemned had been executed and where they were buried. It was only after the fall of the Berlin wall (November 1989) and the opening up of the archives of the fallen Communist regimes that researchers could discover that they had been shot on 11 November 1952 in the central prison of Sofia and piece together what happened to them after their arrest. The Exarch emeritus who was in jail at the time is still living as are many former students.


14 April 2002

María del Tránsito Cabanillas
Gaetano Errico
Artemide Zatti
María Romero Meneses
Lodovico Pavoni
Luigi Variara

Bl. María del Tránsito Cabanillas (1821-1885)
Foundress of the Third Order Franciscan Missionary Sisters (Argentina)

Blessed María del Tránsito Cabanillas de Jesús Sacramentado was born on 15 August 1821 in Cordoba, Argentina, and died on 25 August 1885 in Cordoba. In 1879 she founded the Congregation of the Third Order Franciscan Missionaries of Argentina and guided them until her death in 1885. The sisters were founded for an apostolate of charity: to educate and take care of needy and abandoned children. María del Tránsito Cabanillas was the third of 11 children born to Felipe Toranzo Cabanillas and Francisca Antonia Luján Sánchez on an estate near Cordoba. Of the children, three died as infants, four married, and the others were consacrated to God: one as a secular priest and three as women religious in different institutes. At her baptism María received the names of María del Tránsito (the Virgin Mary passing to heaven) or María Asunción (Mary of the Assumption) because she was born on 15 August, and Eugenia de los Dolores (Eugenia of Our Lady of Sorrows).

Following her education in her family, she went to school in Cordoba, the seat of a rich cultural tradition with its university founded in the 17th century and with the colleges of Santa Catalina (1613), where she was educated, and of Santa Teresa (1628). From 1840 on, while pursuing her studies, she took care of her younger brother, who was in Cordoba preparing for the priesthood. After the death of her father in 1850, the whole family moved to Cordoba where María set up home for her mother, her priest brother, her sisters, and five orphan cousins. She was noted for her life of prayer and devotion, especially towards the Eucharist, her visits to the poor and sick, and her catechetical activity.

After the death of her mother in 1858, María entered the Secular Third Order Franciscans, and in 1859 made her profession adding a vow of perpetual virginity. Even in 1859, she felt called to found a religious congregation dedicated to the Christian instruction of poor and abandoned children, but God did not then reveal His entire plan to María. She continued her search in contemplative orders to know what he wanted her to do for Him. In 1867 she was distinguished for her generous care of the sick during an epidemic of cholera that struck Cordoba. From 1873 to 1874, she was in the newly-built Carmelite monastery of Buenos Aires and had to leave for reasons of health. From 1874-1875 she was in the convent of the Sisters of the Visitation in Montevideo but was again forced to leave due to bad health. María accepted everything resigned to God's will, abandoning herself with great confidence to Divine Providence. At the same time, the Lord seemed to be inspiring her more clearly with the idea of founding an order to educate and assist orphans and needy children. Various Franciscans encouraged her in this. Fr Agustin Garzón offered her a house and his cooperation and put her in touch with Fr Ciriaco Porreca, OFM, of Rio Cuarto. On 8 December 1878, at the mature age of 57, with her project and the constitutions of her congregation approved, María del Tránsito Cabanillas began the Congregation of the Third Order Franciscan Missionaries of Argentina, together with her first two companions, Teresa Fronteras and Brigida Moyano. On 2 February 1879 the three sisters made their religious profession and on 28 January 1880 the Institute was joined with the Order of Friars Minor by the will of the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Fr Bernardino de Portogruaro. The new Congregation flourished immediately, and, during Maria's lifetime, three large schools were started in San Vicente, Rio Cuarto and in Villa Nueva.

María continued to guide the Institute until her death on 25 August 1885, at 64. She is remembered for her heroic humility and charity in the service of children, the poor, the sick and her sisters, her devotion to catechizing and looking after abandoned children. She was known for her confidence in Divine Providence, from which she received many signs, her prudence, patience and fortitude of spirit in dealing with the trials of life. As Foundress she knew how to inspire in her own sisters a supernatural spirit, generosity, spirit of penance, mortification, and great love of children. Life for her was "the very precious time that God has granted us to love him and sanctify ourselves". She died in Cordoba on 25 August 1885. The Order spread throughout Argentina and the neighboring countries. The Third Order Franciscan Missionary Sisters direct educational institutions at all levels, and every kind of apostolic activity in the world, with an emphasis on charity in hospitals, homes for senior citizens, and student residences. Bl. María Cabanillas told her sisters: "Let divine love be the motive for all our actions".


Bl. Gaetano Errico (1791-1860)
Founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Blessed Gaetano Errico was born on 19 October 1791 in Secondigliano, a small village in the northern outskirts of the city of Naples, Italy. He was the second of nine children born to Pasquale and Marie Errico. Gaetano was a simple child, who helped his father in the pasta factory that he managed. He shared his parents' deep faith, and while still young, felt a calling to the priesthood.

At the age of 14, Gaetano applied to enter both the Capuchin and the Redemptorist Orders, resolving to "live not in the world but in a monastery", but was rejected because he was too young. When he was 16, he applied to the Archdiocesan Seminary of Naples and was accepted, beginning his studies in January 1808. On account of his family's meagre income Gaetano could not board at the seminary but had to walk about seven km. to the seminary each day. Gaetano was known for his modesty and devotion to his studies. He gave his free time to assisting and taking care of the sick in the nearby hospital. On Sundays, he walked through the town encouraging the children to attend their catechism classes.

On 23 September 1815 Gaetano was ordained a priest, and spent the next 20 years as a teacher in the local public school. Gaetano fulfilled his responsibilities for the educational and spiritual formation of his students with untiring dedication. In an age of anti-Church revolution, he instilled Christian values, love for Our Lady, respect and obedience for parents and modesty and respect for the needs of others. He had a special charism for preaching, and taught Christian doctrine and moral values to the Neapolitans, calling many to repentance and filling many with the desire to imitate his love and self-giving for God and neighbour.

In 1818, while on retreat in a Redemptorist house in Pagani, Salerno, Gaetano received an extraordinary grace that changed his life forever. During prayer, Gaetano had a vision during which the founder of the Redemptorist Order, St Alphonsus Liguori, appeared to him and revealed to him that God wanted him to found a new religious congregation. Furthermore, as a sign of this desire, he was to build a church in Secondigliano in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows. Fr Gaetano revealed this apparition to the parish priest and confessor, Fr Vitagliano, who told him to wait some more time in order to discern God's will better. He also spoke to Fr Rispoli, a Redemptorist priest who prompted and encouraged him in this task. Finally, in 1822, Fr Gaetano was allowed to acquire land for the construction, a project that would cost him much sacrifice and humiliation because of the jealousy and distrust of certain villagers. After eight years, on 9 December 1830, the completed Church of Our Lady of Sorrows was blessed; it was now time for Fr Gaetano to begin the main work that St Alphonsus had passed on to him: "to found a Congregation similiar to his, starting from Secondigliano". St Alphonsus also revealed to him a year later, again during retreat, that the new congregation to be founded must be named in honour of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to whom Fr Gaetano had an abiding devotion.

At the beginning of 1833, to the sorrow of his relatives, Fr Gaetano left his father's house and went to live in a small room in the house adjoining the new church. On 8 February 1834, he and other priests signed the request to the Cardinal to start an order for priests in Secondigliano, in honour of the Sacred Hearts, to be engaged in the work of the missions. However, God permitted Gaetano to be deserted by his first companions, leaving him alone in the new mission. To those who pointed out this fact, he simply answered: "When St Alphonsus started his Congregation only a companion remained with him".

Soon after his faith was rewarded, and he was joined by other young men. On 14 March 1836 he gained approval for the new congregation and its statutes, and on 1 October he opened the first novitiate with eight novices. By August 1846, the Congregation had grown, the number of its members had increased and new houses had been opened in southern Italy. On the feast of St Gaetano, 7 August 1846, Pope Pius IX issued the Apostolic Brief of approval for the Congregation. The work asked by God was accomplished.

Fr Gaetano remained the Superior General of the new Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary until his death on 29 October 1860, at the age of 69. When the townspeople learned of his death, they affirmed: "a saint is dead". On his deathbed, Fr Gaetano gave his last testament to his missionary sons: "Love one another and be very observant of our Rules". The secret of his holiness was a life of prayer and penance, where he found the strength and discernment to fulfil God's plan.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts are present today in Italy, Argentina, the USA, India, and Slovakia, and they work through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments for the conversion of sinners, and the human uplifting of the weakest sections of society.


Bl. Artemide Zatti (1880-1951)
Salesian religious brother, father for the sick and poor

Blessed Artemide Zatti was born on 12 October 1880 in Italy, and died on 15 March 1951 at Viedma, Argentina. As a Salesian religious brother, he became a saint by running a hospital and pharmacy for the sick poor for 40 years in Viedma, Argentina. In 1897, when Artemide was 17 years old, his family emigrated from Reggio Emilia to join Artemide's uncle who had a good job in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. There they found steady work and a livelihood. In his "new life" in Argentina, Artemide worked in a hotel and then in a brick factory. On Sundays the Zatti family faithfully assisted at Mass and other activities in the parish of the Salesian Fathers who in 1890 set up a community in Bahía Blanca. With true apostolic spirit, Artemide used his free time to help the Salesian parish priest in his parish activities and, especially, in visiting the sick.

He was inspired by the life of Don Bosco and by the Salesian priests and felt called to imitate him. In 1900 when he was 19, the Salesians accepted him as a student for the priesthood. But he had great difficulty with the studies since he had left elementary school long before. Also, during the novitiate, Artemide contracted a severe case of TB from taking care of a young priest who was a TB victim. In 1902 Artemide was forced to leave the house of studies to seek a cure in the pure air of Viedma, a city located high in the Andes. Little did he realize that Viedma was going to be his city for the rest of his life. Along with the healthy climate, in Viedma there was a hospital and pharmacy attached to the Salesian College run by Fr Evaristo Garrone, a priest and physician who was known for his empirical approach to medicine. Fr Evaristo was also known for his trust in God's Providence; he never turned away the poor who could not pay. Under the guidance of Fr Garrone, Artemide made a promise to Our Lady, Help of Christians, that if she would obtain a cure for him, he would serve the sick poor for the rest of his life. When he was cured, he promptly continued his training as a Salesian religious brother. In 1908 he was professed and began his mission alongside Fr Garrone. When Fr Garrone died in 1911, Artemide was put in charge of the pharmacy and the hospital. He was a trained pharmacist, nurse, operating-room assistant, as well as juggler of finances and head of personnel. He followed Fr Garrone's rule that "he who has little, pays little and the one who has nothing pays nothing". In running the hospital, Artemide also depended entirely on Providence and the generosity of the people. In his 40 years of dedicated service, he found in his religious life with its periods of prayer and community life the secret of balancing the daily tasks of administering the hospital and pharmacy, taking care of patients inside and outside the hospital. Despite the demands of the sick and the needs of the hospital, Artemide was known for his "Salesian joy", a sign of his holiness for those around him. He was "not only provider of medicine, but was himself a medicine for others by his presence, his songs, his voice ...".

In 1913 he was the force behind the building of a new hospital which was demolished in 1941 when the spot was taken as the residence of the bishop of the newly-founded diocese.

In July 1950, after falling off a ladder that he was climbing to get on the roof to fix a leaky water tank, Artemide was forced to take a period of rest and recovery. After a few months the doctors diagnosed his livid skin colour as a serious cancer of the liver. He was sick from January to March. He died on 15 March 1951. His mortal remains repose in the chapel of the Salesians at Viedma.

Bl. Artemide lived what St John Bosco said to the first Salesians leaving for America: "Take special care of the sick, the children, the elderly, the poor, and you will receive God's blessing and the respect of those around you".


Bl. María Romero Meneses (1902-1977)
Salesian Sister, Social Apostle of Costa Rica

Blessed María Romero Meneses, Salesian Sister, Social Apostle of Costa Rica, born in Granada, Nicaragua, on 13 January 1902, died on 7 July 1977 at Leòn, Nicaragua. Her body rests in the Salesian chapel at San José, Costa Rica. In Costa Rica María was a social apostle though a multiplicity of initiatives designed for the needs of the poor starting with teaching catechism and vocational skills and finishing with a medical centre, a school for teaching the social doctrine of the Church and seven villages for poor families.

She was one of eight children of an upper class family of Nicaragua. She was beautifully educated by her aunts and her parents. Since she had artistic talent, her parents had María trained in drawing and painting as well as in piano and violin by outstanding teachers. She was also enrolled in the Salesian Sisters' school. In 1914 when she was 12, she underwent a year of sickness whose miraculous cure led to her total confidence in Our Lady, Help of Christians and to the vision of her Salesian vocation.

María came down with a serious form of rheumatic fever that paralyzed her for six months, a real source of trial and suffering because it made her miss a year at her beloved school. However, during this trial, María already showed a mature faith, character and will. She called her sufferings "gifts of God". Even when a doctor informed her that her heart had been seriously damaged, she did not complain, but put her confidence for a complete recovery in Our Lady, Help of Christians. To a school friend who visited her, she said after receiving heavenly guidance, "I know that the Blessed Virgin will cure me". A few days later, María returned to school in good health; no one could believe she had ever been so sick.

On 8 December 1915 María joined the Marian Association "Daughters of Mary" offering herself with great confidence to the Mother of God. Her Salesian spiritual director Don Emilio Bottari helped her discern her vocation and her mystical experiences. In 1920, at age 18, María joined the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians. Her spiritual director Fr Emilio Bottari gave her a prophetic recommendation: "Even though difficult moments will come and you will feel torn to pieces, be faithful and strong in your vocation". For María, these words sustained her for the rest of her religious life.

On 6 January 1929 in Nicaragua, María made her final profession. Her interior life unfolded as each day she strived to live joyful union with God as his instrument, after the example of Don Bosco as is apparent from her spiritual writings.

In 1931 she was sent to San José, Costa Rica, which became her second country. In 1933 she was teaching music, drawing, and typing to the rich girls in the school, while beginning in the barrios with catechetics and practical trades. In 1934 Sr María began to win over the young girls who were her students in the school (misioneritas) to join her in the work of evangelizing, catechizing and advancing materially the oppressed, isolated and abused. She found the shape of her life's work: bringing about the revolution of charity by inspiring the have's to help the have-not's. In 1945 she began to set up recreational centres; in 1953 centres for the distribution of food. In 1961 she opened a casita as a school for poor girls. In 1966 a clinic where God's Providence helped her with the volunteer services of fine doctors and donations of needed medicines. Soon she started to plan a village so poor families could have decent homes. On a piece of land outside the city, María began to build homes. In 1973, the first seven homes were built in the Centre San José. Then a farm and a market along with school space for religious formation, catechesis and job training. There was also a church dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians. María always joined love and devotion to the Eucharist and Mary with her social apostolate. María was very "limited" in terms of available funding; but, with total confidence, she always left everything in the hands of Our Lady since it was God's work. In her old age, she retired from full time teaching but never from catechesis of young and old. On 7 July 1977, in Leòn, Nicaragua in the Salesian house where she had been sent for a good rest, María died of a fatal heart attack at age 75. Her mortal remains were sent back to San José Costa Rica, to be buried in the Salesian Chapel.


Bl. Lodovico Pavoni (1784-1849)
Founder, Congregation of the Sons of Mary Immaculate

Blessed Lodovico Pavoni was born in Brescia on 11 September 1784 and, after 30 years of service to young people, died in Saiano, outside Brescia, on 1 April 1849. For 30 years he followed his inspiration to serve the needs of the young boys on the streets with positive methods of education. He began by opening his own oratory (catechetical and recreation centre) that in 1821 he expanded it into a hostel for their shelter and a school to teach them a trade. In 1825 he founded a religious congregation of priests and brothers to run the educational and industrial activities that grew out of his intuition.

Lodovico was a lively and bright child, interested in the world around him and quick to grasp the social problems of his day. He prepared for the priesthood by receiving his theological formation at the home of the Domenican, Fr Carlo Domenico Ferrari, future Bishop of Brescia. During the Napoleonic era in Italy (1799-1814), the French Emperor closed seminaries. In Brescia, in 1807, he was ordained a priest and first launched the oratory. A book by Pietro Schedoni Moral Influences listed the reasons for the "rebellion" of young boys: leaving inadequate schools for a job, bad influences of adult workers, and peer pressure. The author confirmed Lodovico in his personalist approach: to concentrate on the personal and social formation of the young with a positive and preventative approach.

In 1812 when appointed secretary to Bishop Gabrio Nava, he received permission to continue with his "oratory". In 1818 he was named rector of the Church of St Barnabas with permission to found an orphanage and a vocational school that in 1821 became the "Institute of St Barnabas". Lodovico decided that the first trade would be book publishing; in 1823 he set up "The Publishing House of the Institute of St Barnabas", the precursor of today's Ancora press. The boys could also choose to be carpenters, silversmiths, blacksmiths, shoemakers, experts in tool and dye making. In 1823, Fr Pavoni welcomed the first deafmutes to the school. He purchased a farm to set up an Agricultural School.

In 1825 he established a religious institute to continue his work. In 1843 Pope Gregory XVI authorized it for Brescia. On 11 August 1847, the Brescia Vicar Capitular, Mons. Luchi, established the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Immaculate or "Pavoniani". On 8 December 1847, Lodovico and the first members made their religious profession.

On 24 March 1849, during the "Ten-Days" when Brescia rebelled against the Austrians, and both sides were ready to pillage the city, Bl. Lodovico, who had taken care of citizens during a cholera epidemic, performed his last heroic act of charity when he led his boys to safety to the novitiate on the hill of Saiano, 12 kilometres away. A week later he died at the dawn of Palm Sunday, 1 April 1849 as Brescia was in flames. Lodovico's ideal of education was a broad one, to dispose a person in his wholeness to be good. Fifty years before "Rerum novarum", he grasped the religious significance of social justice and set an example by his own dealings with his employees. Like St John Bosco after him, Pavoni's used encouraging and preventative methods; he preferred gentleness to severity. He used to say, "Rigorism keeps Heaven empty".

His Congregation numbers 210 members in six nations: Brazil, Colombia, Eritrea, Germany, Italy and Spain. They still publish books. In Rome they run the Ancora bookstore outside St Peter's Square.

Bl. Luigi Variara (1875-1923)
Founder, Congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Blessed Luigi Variara was born in Viarigi (Asti), Italy, on 15 January 1875 and died on 1 February 1923 in Cucuta, Colombia. He was an apostle to the lepers in Colombia and founder of the congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who ran the homes he set up for lepers. He was born to Pietro Variara and Livia Bussa. When he was 12 years old he entered the Salesian Oratory in Turin, while the founder Don Bosco of the Salesian Congregation, was still alive. Luigi had the privilege of meeting this living saint on one occasion, and it was an encounter that changed his life. John Bosco looked into the eyes of the young boy, and this gaze was for Luigi a confirmation of his future Salesian vocation. John Bosco died a month later on 31 January 1888.

In 1891 he entered the novitiate and shortly afterward he made his profession in the hands of Bl. Michael Rua, Don Bosco's first successor. After his novitiate, Luigi did his study of philosophy at Valsalice and there he met Fr Michele Unia, the Salesian apostle of lepers of Colombia, who had come to speak to the community about his mission. His talk won Luigi over, and in 1894 he left for Colombia with Fr Unia when he returned. Here he dedicated himself to the lepers of Agua de Dios, sharing with them his passion for music and drama. Fr Unia died shortly thereafter, leaving Luigi and three other priests in charge of the leper colony. The three years before his priestly ordination in 1898 proved to be a time of spiritual growth and maturation for the young Luigi, who came to understand better the reality of sacrifice and self-giving in serving others, and in running the risk of contagion through continual contact with lepers. After his ordination, he exercised his duties as priest in the leper colony, and with responsibility for the parish, often spending four or five hours a day in the confessional. He also continued to teach music and drama, especially concerned for the moral health of the young people of Agua de Dios. From the first year of his priesthood, Luigi felt the need to open a leprosarium for young patients, a project that mirrored that of his predecessor, Fr Unia. The scope of such a foundation was to educate these children in the faith, to teach them how to read and write and skills in manual labour, so that they would be saved from a life of desolation and vice. In 1905 the "Michele Unia Youth Hostel" was opened. On 7 May 1905 he founded the Congregation of the "Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary", in order to provide care for the residents of the hostel. "Our goal", he stated, "along with that of our own personal sanctification, is to care for the leperosy patients in the hostel and in serving God by offering ourselves as victims of expiation". He also said of the year 1905: "Never as in this year did I feel so happy to be a Salesian and I bless the Lord for having sent me to this leper colony where I learned how to gain heaven". As the Congregation was also founded with the intention of offering to women lepers the possibility to consacrate their lives to God, Fr Variara's initiative was much criticized and misjudged by other religious institutes and even by some of his own brothers, who questioned whether this new Salesian "branch" was in accordance with the charism of their founder. He had founded a community of "outcasts" it seemed, in the eyes of the world. Luigi, however, held firmly to God's will, and began to climb the Calvary of not being understood or accepted by those who should have been closest to him. He received, however, the consolation and relief of knowing that he was acting out of obedience, since Fr Michael Rua, Don Bosco's first successor stood behind him and encouraged him to continue with the foundation. His greatest trial proved to be his transferral from Agua de Dios to Venezuela, a separation from his Congregation which cast a shadow of mystery on the foundation itself and began 18 years of misunderstandings for Luigi. He was transferred from city to city after leaving Agua de Dios, and in 1921 he was definitvely moved to Táriba. He continued, however, to keep in contact with Mother Lozano, cofoundress of the Institute. He assured her that there was "nothing to fear: if it is a work of God, it will last". Luigi Variara died on 1 February 1923 in Cucuta.

The Congregation is currently present in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Dominican Republic and Equatorial Guinea and is dedicated in the service of the poor and the sick.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
Various dates, 2002

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