4 November 2001
Bl. Pavel Peter Gojdic
Bl. Methodius Dominic Trčka,
Bl. Paolo Manna
Bl. Luigi Tezza
Bl. Bartolomeu Fernandes dos Mártires OP
Bl. Gaetana Sterni
Bl. Giovanni Antonio Farina
Bl. María Pilar Izquierdo Albero
Bl. Pavel Peter Gojdic, (1888-1960) Basilian Bishop of Presov
Pavel Peter was born on 17 July 1888 at Ruske Pekl'any near Presov (Prjasev)
in Eastern Slovakia the third child of Stepan Gojdic and Anna Herberij. He grew
up in the village of Cikel'ke where his father was parish priest. From his
father he learned the love of neighbour that fuels pastoral care, and from his
mother he acquired a spirit of prayer that remained with him until death. One
must remember that in this century alone the flag over the city of Presov
changed three times. As he left the gymnasium in 1907, he felt called to the
priesthood. His two older brothers had already opted for the priesthood. He
began his formation in Presov. As a capable student, he was sent to the Major
Seminary in Budapest. He was ordained with his brother Cornelius on 27 August
1911 in Presov. He began his parish ministry by helping his father. Then he
became prefect in the diocesan boarding school. In 1914 Bishop Nowak made him
assistant protosyncellus (chancellor). In 1919 Dr Rusnak, the Apostolic
Administrator, appointed him Moderator of the Chancery of the Eparchy. On 20
July 1922, he entered the Order of St Basil the Great, taking the name of Pavel
(Paul). He satisfied a desire for a regular spiritual life and hoped to avoid
being a candidate for the episcopacy. He was solemnly professed on 28 November
1926. On 14 September 1926, he was named Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy
of Presov (Prjasev). In 1927 he was appointed titular Bishop of Harpasa and was
consecrated on 25 March in the Roman Basilica of San Clemente, near the relics
of St Cyril, St Ignatius and St Clement. On 29 March, Pius XI gave him a gold
pectoral cross, saying: "This cross is only faintly symbolic of the
heavy crosses God will send you...".
"God is love, let us love Him!" was the motto of the zealous
pastor as he founded parishes, orphanages, schools, supported the teaching
academy and seminary, besides launching new publications. It was only in 1940
that the Holy Father appointed him Bishop of Presov (Prjasev); until then he had
been Apostolic Administrator, and for the year 1939 Apostolic Administrator of
Mukacheve. During the period before the war he had to defend the Ruthenians
against the onslaught of Slovak nationalism. During the war the bishop was busy
helping refugees, prisoners and rescuing inmates of concentration camps. The
"man with a heart of gold" deserved this name. Foreseeing the
Communist take over, with the help of a new auxiliary, Bishop Hopko, he launched
a campaign to reinforce the faith of his people by mobilizing every possible
means: visits, missions, retreats, the press and the radio. He realized that the
Communists would use the Orthodox Church to persecute Greek Catholics and try to
make them break with Rome.
The Communists offiicially dissolved the Greek Catholic church in 1950, and
Bishop Gojdic was arrested and imprisoned. He withstood the pressure to break
with Rome. So began his heroic way of the Cross through the prisons of
Communist Czechoslovakia. He never complained, despite torture, humiliation and
isolation. Bishop Gojdic died of terminal cancer on 17 July 1960, in the prison
of Leopoldov, on his 72nd birthday. He was buried in an anonymous grave, n. 681,
in the cemetery. In 1968, his remains were moved to Presov (Prjasev) and since
1990 have been kept in a sarcophagus in the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St John
Bl. Methodius Dominic Trčka,
Methodius was born in Frydlant nad Ostravici (today the Czech Republic), on 6
July 1886. He entered the Redemptorists in 1902, was professed in 1904, and
ordained in Prague on 17 July 1910.
From the start of his priesthood, in the Czeck Republic, he began his
apostolate of preaching popular missions. During the First World War at Svata
Hora, he took care of Croatian, Slovene and Ruthenian refugees. In 1919 in
answer to his request to work with the Eastern Catholic Church, his superiors
sent him to Lviv, to work among the Greek Catholic faithful. He learned their
language with the help of a confrere, Bl. Fr Nikola Carneckyj. At that time he
took the name Methodius. In December 1921 he was sent to Stropkov, in Eastern
Slovakia, where he founded the first mixed Latin and Byzantine rite Redemptorist
community and served as superior. He was a zealous missionary in the Eparchies
of Presov (Prjasev), Uzhorod and Krizevci. As superior he oversaw the
installation of Greek Catholic Redemptorists in Michalovce. In 1932 he returned
to Stropkov to rest and do parish work. In 1935, he returned to Michalovce where
the Congregation for the Oriental Churches appointed him Apostolic Visitor to
the Basilian Sisters in Presov (Prjasev) and Uzhorod. In Michalovce, he served a
second term as superior from July 1936 to April 1942; he completed the church,
helped found a convent, set up one retreat house and started another in the
Eparchy of Uzhorod. He founded an association for women domestics, the most
neglected group at the time. During the Second World War, the Slovak State
suspected the Redemptorists of anti-State propaganda since they were helping
Ruthenians in a Slovak nationalist situation. Since Fr Methodius was the chief
suspect as superior of the house, to save the community he resigned his post as
superior. In 1945, at the end of the war, the Redemptorists established the
Vice-Province of Michalovce. Fr Methodius was appointed the first
Vice-Provincial on 23 March 1946. He encouraged the Redemptorists' return to
Stropkov where they worked until the Communists came to power.
In 1949 the Communists suppressed the Vice-Province; and on the 13 April 1950
all were taken to concentration camps, to be interrogated and tortured. Fellow
prisoners said that to protect his confreres Methodius would take the blame and
calmly endure torture.
On 12 April 1952, he was accused of collaboration with Bishop Gojdic because
he spread his pastoral letters. He continued the regular reports to his
superiors in Prague and through them to the ones in Rome. This was called
espionage, high treason and brought him the sentence of 12 years in prison. He
held out, despite ill health, trusting in God and doing His will. In April 1958
he was moved to Leopoldov prison. At Christmas he was caught singing a carol and
condemned to the "correction cell" where he contracted pneumonia.
Another prisoner, a doctor, asked that he be admitted to hospital,
obtaining only his transfer to solitary confinement. Finally, he died in his own
cell on 23 March 1959, after forgiving his persecutors. In 1969, his remains
were transferred from the prison cemetery to the Redemptorists' Church of the
Holy Spirit at Michalovce.
Bl. Paolo Manna (1872-1952)
He was born in Avellino, Italy, on 16 January 1872, the fifth of six
children. Two of his uncles were priests and so was his older brother. Fr Manna
studied Latin and Greek in Naples and philosophy in Rome. In 1891 he entered the
seminary of the Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan. In 1894 he was ordained
in the Cathedral of Milan. In 1895 he departed for the mission of Toungoo in
Burma where he worked until 1907. He had to return to Italy three times because
he suffered from tuberculosis. At 35 he said he was an unsuccessful missionary.
But, in fact, in Burma he was appreciated for his writings. In 1909 he was
appointed editor of Le Missioni Cattoliche and published reflections on
the vocation to the foreign missions, entitled The Workers Are Few, which
were the source of hundreds of missionary vocations. In Italy he relaunched the
Mission Societies for the Propagation of the Faith and Holy Childhood and
promoted other initiatives for missionary cooperation. In 1916 he started the
Missionary Union of the Clergy, today the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU)
which Pius XII called "the jewel of Fr Manna's whole life". In 1919 he
started the Italia Missionaria magazine to encourage vocations. In 1924
he was elected superior general of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions,
and later superior general of PIME, established on 26 May 1926, by the will of
Piux XI, who unified the two foreign-mission seminaries in Milan and Rome. Many
letters to missionaries that he wrote are collected in a book Apostolic
Virtues which was translated into English. In December 1936, he was asked to
establish the PIME Missionary Sisters of Immaculate Mary. In the last years of
his life, Fr Manna was superior of the PIME southern region. In 1950 he
published Our Churches and the Spread of the Gospel, in which he says
that the bishop and his clergy are responsible for spreading the Gospel among
non-Christians and that diocesan priests must take part in the universal
missionary activity of the Church. Pius XII took up the proposal in the 1957
Encyclical Fidei Donum, which opened the way for direct missionary
service by dioceses and diocesan clergy. Fr Manna's greatest legacy is the
example he left behind: he was driven by a passion for the missions that
sickness, suffering and setbacks could never diminish. His motto was "All
the Church for All the World". Fr Manna died on 15 September 1952 in a
hospital in Naples. The diocesan process was begun in Naples in 1974.
Bl. Luigi Tezza (1841-1923) Founder
Luigi was born in Conegliano, Treviso, on 1 November 1841, the only son of
Augustine Tezza, a physician, and Catherine Nedwiedt. At nine he lost his father
and his mother moved to Padua, where Luigi did his high school studies. In 1850,
at 15, he entered the Order of the Ministers of the Sick of St Camillus de
Leilis in Verona. After entrusting her son to the Camillians, convinced of his
true vocation, his mother entered the convent of the Visitation at Padova. In
1858 Luigi made his religious profession and in 1864 he was ordained. In 1871
Luigi was made master of novices. In 1871 he was sent to begin a new foundation
in France, and later became its first provincial. He succeeded in establishing
community life and in setting up Camillian homes for the sick. When religious
institutes were suppressed in 1880 he was expelled from France as a foreigner,
but secretly returned and was able to unite the scattered religious. He resisted
the suppression, and was also responsible for laying the foundations for future
growth. In 1891 he was elected Procurator and Vicar General of the Camillians,
and providentially met Josephine Vannini on his return to Rome (beatified on 16
Oct. 1994) who had the desire to live in a Camillian institute. So it was that
the Congregation of the Daughters of St Camillus came into being on 2 February
1892, enriching the Camillian charism with the feminine qualities of tenderness,
hospitality, intuition and attentive listening. These were the gifts Camillus
sought in his nursing religious women. The Institute was approved by the Holy
See in 1931, and grew rapidly. In 1900, Fr Luigi, then 59, was sent with Fr
Angelo Ferroni as Visitor to Lima, Peru, to refound the Camillian community in
Lima, separated from the Order for more than a century. Although the task was
completed, the Archbishop and the Nuncio considered him indispensable, so his
superiors allowed him to stay on until his death, 23 years later in the city of
Los Reyes, 26 September 1923. His mortal remains rest in the chapel of the
Generalate of the Daughters of St Camillus in Grottaferrata, Rome. Luigi devoted
himself to meeting the needs of the sick, especially the poor, at home, in
hospital and in prison. He was confessor and spiritual director of the
archdiocesan seminary and of religious orders. On his tomb an unknown visitor
carved the words: "Apostle of Lima"; and Cardinal Lauri was to
describe him as "the holiest priest in the Diocese of Lima".
Bl. Bartolomeu Fernandes dos Mártires OP (1514-1590), Archbishop of
He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, on 3 May 1514. He was named of the
Martyrs after the Church of Our Lady of the Martyrs where he was baptized.
He entered the Dominican Order in 1528 and made his perpetual profession on 20
November 1529. Having completed his philosophical and theological studies
brilliantly, in 1538 he began teaching philosophy in the college of St Dominic
of Lisbon, and then in 1540 theology in the college of Batalha for 11 years. At
Évora he became the royal tutor and preacher.
In 1558 Queen Catherine of Portugal presented him as her candidate for the
Archbishopric of Braga, and Pope Paul IV confirmed this appointment despite the
reluctance of Bartolomeu himself. He accepted out of obedience to his
provincial, Ven. Luis of Granada. In September 1559, he was consecrated in the
church of St Dominic in Lisbon.
On 4 October 1559, he began his apostolic mission in his vast Archdiocese
maintaining his austere life style and devoting himself to the good of his
preists and people. The outstanding features of his ministry were his pastoral
visits; his commitment to evangelization which led him to draft a Catechism
of Christian doctrine and spiritual practices (15th edition in 1962); his
deep care for the culture and holiness of the clergy which led him to set up
schools of moral theology for them in many parts of the archdiocese; and his
doctrinal writings. In all he produced about 32 literary works. Among them the Stimulus
Pastorum (22 editions) deserves mention as still being valid. It was given
to the Fathers of the First and Second Vatican Councils. From 1561 to 1563 he
attended the Council of Trent, urging the reform of the Church from the highest
dignitaries. His teaching and example had a noteworthy influence on the
decisions taken. Pius IV and St Charles Borromeo, with whom he was friendly,
often asked and followed his advice. To put the Council's directives into
practice, the Archbishop organized a Diocesan Synod in 1564 and the Provincial
Council of Braga in 1566. In 1571 he began building the seminary in Campo Vinha.
After repeated requests to resign from his pastoral office, his resignation was
accepted in 1582, when he retired to the Domenican convent of the Holy Cross in
Viana do Castelo. He died there on 16 July 1590, recognized and acclaimed by the
people with the title, Holy Archbishop, father of the poor and of the sick.
His tomb is venerated in the old Domenican Church of Viana do Castelo.
Bl. Gaetana Sterni (1827-1889) Foundress
Gaetana was born on 26 June 1827 in Cassola, in the province of Vicenza,
Italy, as one of six children. In 1835 the family moved to Bassano, where it was
hit with tragedy. Gaetana's elder sister died at 18 and her father who was sick
for six years died shortly afterwards. Her brother Francesco left home to become
an actor, leaving the family in financial straits. These events made a deep
impression on Gaetana who, sharing life's daily trials with her mother, was
forced to grow up before her time. She received a sound religious education,
based on her mother's example of living faith. Not yet 16, after much thought
and prayer, she married a young entrepreneur, Liberale Conte, who was a widower
with three children. Unfortunately after only eight months of married life,
Liberate died. Gaetana was expecting his child at the time. Her baby also died
after only a few days of life. She was 16 years old now, overwhelmed by sorrow
but putting her trust in God. She had to face problems with her husband's family
and her subsequent separation from his children when at 19 she returned home to
her mother. Despite the forced separation from her children, she defended their
rights, was generous in her forgiveness, and obtained the full reconciliation of
the two families. From 1843 to 1853 Gaetana felt called to belong to God alone
and through prayer tried to find where she should live her call. She joined the
Canossians in Bassano but her mother's sudden death five months later obliged
her to leave to take care of her brothers. She was 26 years old when she was
finally free of family obligations and could at last follow God's call. In 1853
"only to do the will of God" Gaetana took charge of the municipal poor
house, which gave shelter to 115 people. 1860 became the year of the foundation
of the congregation because in that year Gaetana took a vow of chastity and was
privately clothed as a religious. In November 1860 she was professed adding the
specific vow of total self-giving to God and so became the first Daughter of
the Divine Will. She stayed in Bassano for 36 years until she died in 1889.
She treated everyone in the poor house with the sensitivity and gentleness of
those who know they are serving the Lord in the poor.
The Congregation of the Daughters of the Divine Will grew with the
profession of her first two companions in 1865. The Bishop of Vicenza approved
their Rule in 1875 officially recognizing the valuable work of the congregation.
Gaetana died on 26 November 1889 lovingly assisted by her daughters. Her mortal
remains are venerated in the Mother House, and today her congregation has spread
in Europe, America and Africa.
Bl. Giovanni Antonio Farina (1803-1888) Founder
He was born into a religious family in Gambellara, Italy, on 11 January 1803,
as the second of five brothers. After the premature death of his father, Fr
Antonio, his uncle, took the family into his home. This priest was his spiritual
and intellectual mentor. When he was 15 he entered the diocesan seminary of
Vicenza where at 21 he was asked to begin teaching. On 15 January 1827, he was
ordained priest and immediately afterwards earned an elementary
school teacher's diploma. On account of his pedagogical gifts, he was appointed
as teacher and spiritual director at the seminary where he served for 18 years.
He was assistant pastor at St Peter's Parish for 10 years and headmaster in
elementary and secondary schools in Vicenza. In 1831 in Vicenza he founded the
first school for poor girls and in 1836, the Institute of the Sisters
Teachers of St Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts, to supply suitable
teachers. He wanted his religious also to care for deafmutes, blind girls and
the psychologically handicapped. They nursed the sick and the elderly in
hospital and at home. There was no form of suffering that this farsighted
founder overlooked. In 1850 Fr Farina was appointed Bishop of Treviso. Here he
undertook a variety of pastoral initiatives, forming his priests and laity for
evangelization and catholic action. Throughout his ten-year term, canonical
problems with the Cathedral Chapter caused him constant suffering and setbacks.
Here he was able to follow the preparation of Giuseppe Sarto (the future St Pius
X) for the priesthood ordaining him in 1858. In 1860 he was transferred to
Vicenza. Despite the turbulent period in Italian history, during his 28 years as
bishop he embarked on an ambitious pastoral programme that included the
spiritual and cultural formation of the priests and of the laity for
evangelization, the reform of studies and discipline in the seminary, and the
organization of associations for the care of the poor. He was called the
"Bishop of Charity". In 1889 he was able to hold a diocesan synod. He
was devoted to the pastoral visit and visited every parish even those that had
never seen a bishop. His strength ebbed after a serious illness in 1886 and he
died from a stroke in Vicenza on 4 March 1888. His compassionate treatment of
the poor and his enlightened views on teachers and education make Bishop Farina
one of the more outstanding bishops of the 19th century. Today, the institute he
founded is involved in education as well as health care and pastoral assistance
in many countries.
Bl. María Pilar Izquierdo Albero (1906-1945) Foundress
She was born into a poor family in Saragoza, Spain, on 27 July 1906. From her
youngest years Maria shone with radiant love for God and for the poor; she was
always trying to find ways to help the poor. After spending four years in
Alfamen for health reasons, she returned to Zaragoza and began work in a shoe
factory to help her family financially. There her simplicity, natural sympathy,
kindness and diligence made her popular with one and all. However, the Lord
wanted to lead her ever more deeply into the mystery of the Cross. María Pilar
so loved suffering that she was in the habit of saying "In suffering I find
so great a love for our Jesus that I die".
Returning from work one day in 1926, she fractured her pelvis falling from
the tram; in 1927, an outbreak of cysts paralysed her and made her blind. Thus
began for her a sorrowful way, between the hospitals of Zaragoza and her poor
attic home. During the Spanish Civil War it was here that she prayed, cultivated
evangelical friendships and helped many to discern God's call.
In 1936 María Pilar began to talk of a Work of Jesus whose purpose would be
"to reproduce the active life of the Lord on earth through works of
mercy". On 8 December 1939, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to whom
she was deeply devoted, María Pilar was miraculously healed from the paralysis
that had confined her to her bed for more than 10 years. The cysts disappeared
and she instantly recovered her vision. In 1939, she went about setting up her
missionary work, and with a group of young people, moved to Madrid where she
could begin her work as an apostolate for the poor. The Bishop of Madrid gave
her first foundation, "Missionaries of Jesus and Mary", a first
official approval. However she ran into great difficulties and as a result, the
bishop withdrew his approval and asked that the work be dissolved. She was
forbidden to exercise any form of apostolate until 1942. In that year the Bishop
of Madrid canonically approved a second form of her missionary work, known as
the Pious Union of Missionaries of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
After two years of a fruitful apostolate on the outskirts of Madrid, she fell
ill again. At the same time, calumnies and plotting forced her to withdraw from
her congregation in 1944, and she was followed by nine of her daughters. She
died at San Sebastiano when she was only 39, on 27 August 1945. After her death
the religious were able to realize her plan. In 1948, her religious obtained the
approval of the bishop for a third and final form of congregation called the Missionary
Work of Jesus and Mary.
7 October 2001
Bl. Alfonso Maria Fusco
Bl. Tommaso Maria Fusco
Bl. Emilie Tavernier Gamelin
Bl. Eugenia Picco
Bl. Ignatius Maloyan
Bl. Maria Euthymia
Bl. Nikolaus Gross
Alfonso Maria Fusco, the oldest of five children, was born on 23 March
1839 in Angri, in the province of Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno,
Italy. His parents, Aniello Fusco and Josephine Schiavone, were both of peasant
stock but were raised from their infancy with strong Christian principles and
with a holy fear of God.
They were married in the Collegiata of St John the Baptist on 31 January
1834, and for four long years the cradle they had lovingly prepared remained
painfully empty. In Pagani, only a short distance from Angri, the relics of St
Alfonso Maria de Liguori were preserved. It was to his tomb that Aniello and
Josephine went in 1838 to pray. While they were there, the Redemptorist
Francesco Saverio Pecorelli told them: "You will have a son; you will name
him Alfonso; he will become a priest and will live the life of Bl.
The little boy quickly revealed a mild, gentle, lovable character, responsive
to prayer and to the poor. His teachers in his father's house were learned and
holy priests who instructed him and prepared him for his first meeting with
Jesus. When he was seven, he received his First Holy Communion and Confirmation.
He told his parents when he was eleven that he wanted to become a priest and,
on 5 November 1850, "freely and with the sole desire to serve God and the
Church", as he himself declared many years later, he entered the episcopal
Seminary of Nocera dei Pagani. On 29 May 1863, he was ordained by the Archbishop
of Salerno, Mons. Anthony Salomone, amid the joy of his family and the
enthusiasm of the people.
Quickly he distinguished himself among the clergy of the Collegiata of St
John the Baptist in Angri for his zeal, his regular attendance at liturgical
services and for his diligence in the administration of the sacraments,
especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation where he revealed his paternal
understanding of his penitents. He devoted himself to the evangelization of the
people through his simple and incisive style of preaching.
The daily life of Fr Alfonso was that of a zealous priest, but he carried in
his heart an old dream. In his last years at the seminary, one night he had
dreamt that Jesus of Nazareth was calling him to found an institute of sisters
and an orphanage for boys and girls as soon as he was ordained.
It was a meeting with Maddalena Caputo of Angri, a strong-willed woman
aspiring to enter religious life, which impelled Fr Alfonso to move more quickly
in the foundation of the institute. On 25 September 1878, Miss Caputo and three
other young women met at night in the dilapidated Scarcella house in the
Ardinghi district of Angri. The young women wanted to dedicate themselves to
their own sanctification through a life of poverty, of union with God, and of
charity in the care and instruction of poor orphans.
The Congregation of the Baptistine Sisters of the Nazarene was thus begun;
the seed had fallen into the good earth of the hearts of these four zealous and
generous women. Privations, struggles, opposition, and trials were their lot,
and the Lord made that seed grow abundantly. The Scarcella House was quickly
named the Little House of Providence.
Other postulants and the first orphans began to arrive, and with them the
first problems. The Lord, who allows those whom he loves much to suffer much,
did not spare the founder and his daughters. Fr Alfonso accepted these trials,
at times very difficult ones, demonstrating an absolute conformity to the
will of God, an heroic obedience to his superiors, and an unbounded trust in
The unjustified attempt by the diocesan Bishop Saverio Vitagliano to remove
Fr Alfonso as director of the institute was based on false accusations; the
refusal by his own daughters to open the door for him of the house on Via
Germanico in Rome because of their desire for a division; the words of Cardinal
Respighi, the Vicar of Rome: "You have founded this community of good
sisters who are doing their best. Now withdraw!" were for him moments of
great suffering. He was seen praying in anguish, like Jesus in the Garden, in
the small chapel in the Mother House in Angri and in the church of St Joachim in
He directed the institute wisely and prudently. Like a loving father, he
watched over the sisters and the orphans. He showed an almost maternal
tenderness for all, especially for the most needy of the orphans. For them there
was always space in the Little House of Providence, even when there was a
scarcity of food or absolutely nothing. Then Fr Alfonso would reassure his
worried daughters saying: "Don't worry, my daughters. I am going to Jesus
now and he will worry about us!". And Jesus answered quickly and with great
generosity. To him who believes, everything is possible!
At a time when an education was the privilege of the few, denied to the poor
and to women, Fr Alfonso did not mind sacrificing to give the children a
peaceful life, an education and a trade for the older ones so that once they
were grown up, they could live as honest citizens and as committed Christians.
He wanted the sisters to begin their studies as soon as possible so that they
could teach the poor and, through their instruction and evangelization, prepare
the way for Jesus especially in the hearts of the children and of youth.
His tenacious will, totally anchored in Divine Providence, the wise and
prudent collaboration of Maddalena Caputo, known as Sr Crocifissa, who was the
first superior of the growing institute, the ongoing spur of the love of God and
neighbour, contributed to the extraordinary development of the work in a very
short time. The growing requests for assistance for an ever greater number of
orphans and children urged Fr Alfonso to open new houses, first in Campania, and
then in other regions of Italy.
During the night of 5 February 1910, he felt unwell. He requested and then
received the sacraments on the morning of 6 February; after having blessed with
trembling hands his own daughters weeping around his bed, he exclaimed:
"Lord, I thank you. I have been a useless servant". Then, turning to
the sisters: "From heaven I will not forget you. I will pray for you
always". And then slept peacefully in the Lord.
Tommaso Maria Fusco, the seventh of eight children, was born on 1
December 1831 in Pagani, Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno, Italy, to Dr
Antonio, a pharmacist, and Stella Giordano, of noble descent. They were known
for their upright moral and religious conduct, and taught their son Christian
piety and charity to the poor.
In 1837, when he was only six years old, his mother died of cholera and a few
years later, in 1841, he also lost his father. Fr Giuseppe, an uncle on his
father's side and a primary school teacher, took charge of his education.
On 1 April 1851, Tommaso Maria received the sacrament of Confirmation. On 22
December 1855 he was ordained a priest by Bishop Agnello Giuseppe D'Auria.
In those years, which were saddened by the loss of those who were close to
him along with his uncle (1847) and his brother, Rafaelle (1852), he found
support in the devotion to the Patient Christ and to his Sorrowful Mother, as
his biographers recall: "He had a deep devotion to the crucified Christ
which he cherished throughout his life".
From the start of his priestly ministry, he educated the young, opening a
school for them in his house and at the parish restored evening devotions that
included prayer, religious and vocational formation.
In 1857, he was admitted to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Nocera
under the title of St Vincent de Paul and became an itinerant missionary,
especially in the regions of Southern Italy.
In 1860 he was appointed chaplain at the Shrine of our Lady of Carmel in
Pagani, where he built up the Catholic associations and set up the altar of the
Crucified Christ and the Pious Union for devotion to the Most Precious Blood of
In 1862 he opened a school of moral theology in his own home to train priests
for the ministry of confession, kindling enthusiasm for the love of Christ's
Blood; that same year, he founded the "(Priestly) Society of the Catholic
Apostolate" for missions among the common people; in 1874 he received the
approval of Blessed Pius IX.
Deeply moved by the sorry plight of an orphan girl, a victim of the street,
after careful prayer of discernment, Fr Tommaso Maria founded the Congregation
of the "Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood" on 6 January,
the Solemnity of Epiphany in 1873. This institute began the Church of Our Lady
of Mount Carmel, in the presence of Bishop Raffaele Ammirante, who, with the
clothing with the habit of the first three sisters, blessed the first orphanage
for seven poor orphan girls. The religious family and the orphanage also
received the Pope's blessing.
It was not long before Fr Tommaso Maria, envied for the good he achieved in
his ministry and for his life as an exemplary priest, had to face persecution
and even calumny from his confreres. He recalled what Bishop Ammirante had said,
"Did you choose the title of the Precious Blood? Prepare to drink the
bitter chalice". During the harshest trials, which he bore in silence, he
would repeat: "May work and suffering for God always be your glory and
in your work and suffering, may God be your consolation on this earth, and your
recompense in heaven. Patience is the safeguard and pillar of all the
Wasting away with a liver-disease, Fr Tommaso Maria died, 59 years old, on 24
February 1891, praying with Simeon: "Lord, now let your servant
depart in peace, according to your word" (Lk 2,29).
His life was directed to the highest devotion of Christian virtues by the
priestly life, lived intensely in constant meditation on the mystery of the
Father's love, contemplated in the crucified Son whose Blood is "the
expression, measure and pledge" of divine and heroic charity to the
poor and needy, in whom Fr Tommaso Maria saw the bleeding Face of Jesus.
His writings, preaching and popular missions marked his vast experience of
faith and the light of Christian hope that shone from his vocation and actions.
He had a vital, burning love for God; it enflamed his words and his apostolate,
made fruitful by love for God and neighbour, by union with the crucified Jesus,
by trust in Mary, Immaculate and Sorrowful, and above all by the Eucharist.
The cause for the beatification of Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco was initiated in
1955. With his beatification, Pope John Paul II presents Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco
as an example and a guide to holiness for priests, for the people of God and for
his spiritual daughters, the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood.
Emilie Tavernier Gamelin was born the youngest of the 15 children in
Montreal, Canada, on 19 February 1800, of hard working and virtuous parents.
Both of her parents died young, but they left to their children a strong
Christian education marked by the presence of Providence in their lives.
From the age of four, Emilie was looked after by a paternal aunt who early on
recognized in the child a marked sensitivity towards the poor and unfortunate.
When her brother was widowed, Emilie, who was 18 years old at the time, went
to help him out without any thought of remuneration, but with one condition,
that they set a table that would always be available for the hungry people who
came to the door. A table that she lovingly called: "The Table of the
In 1823, Emilie Tavernier married Jean-Baptiste Gamelin, in whom she found a
friend of the poor who equaled her own aspirations. Their home was blessed with
three children, but their happiness was soon overshadowed by the deaths of these
children who had been welcomed with such love and devotion. During this same
period, her husband, with whom she had lived so happily in faithfulness to the
marriage vows that they had promised, died as well.
Her personal prayer and the contemplation of the Blessed Mother at the foot
of the cross awakened within her a sense of profound compassionate charity
towards all those who were caught up in sorrow of any kind. These were the
individuals who now became as it were her husband and children.
Following the death of her husband in 1827, the young widow, then 27 years
old, dedicated herself entirely to the relief of human misery in all its forms:
the aged, beggars, orphans, sick and infirm priests, young people in difficulty,
physically and mentally handicapped persons, etc. All were given the same care
and attention. On 4 March 1830, she opened her first refuge for elderly and
destitute women. In 1841 Emilie had her work civilly incorporated. On 2 February
1842 she made a private vow to serve the poor.
Her confidence in Providence was continually shown towards the poor, so much
so that the people spontaneously called her "a true Providence".
At home or at the prison, with the sick or the healthy, Emilie was welcomed
because she brought comfort and help. She truly was the Gospel in action:
"Whatsoever you do for the least of these little ones, so you do unto
Family and friends joined in to support and help her. Others though, did not
understand the work she was doing and in seeing her open yet another home they
said: "Mrs Gamelin does not have enough crazy people, she is gathering up
During a period of 15 years, these "heroic acts of dedication"
grew, first under the watchful and grateful eyes of Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue,
and later under those of the second Bishop of Montreal, Bishop Ignace Bourget.
During a trip to Paris in 1841, Bishop Bourget asked the Daughters of St
Vincent de Paul if they would send sisters for Mrs Gamelin's work, thus
establishing the foundation of a religious community. After agreeing, Montreal
saw the construction of a new building in order to receive the sisters. But this
was not to be, and at the last minute, the awaited sisters did not come and
Providence unfolded other plans. In spite of everything, the work of Mrs Gamelin
Bishop Bourget called upon the faithful of his Diocese and soon Canadian
recruits were sent to Mrs Gamelin. Emilie formed them in the work of
compassionate charity, which she carried out with such dedication, and in the
mission of Providence that she proclaimed through her work. In 25 March 1843
with Bishop Bourget she founded the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor.
The people called them the Sisters of Providence. Later, on 29 March 1844 she
made her vows and was appointed first superior of the Congregation.
So it was that in the House of Providence, the Sisters of Providence were
born in Montreal. With the addition of new religious recruits and the assistance
of the Ladies of Charity, her mission of compassionate charity became that of
the new Congregation of which she was considered the foundress and first
superior, in 1844.
On 23 September 1851, only eight years after the beginning of the Providence
Community, the foundress herself became ill and died in the cholera epidemic;
the new community had expanded in order to respond to the needs of the time and,
at Mother Gamelin's death, The Sisters of Providence had grown to 50 members.
The sisters received from her the words, "humility, simplicity, charity but
above all charity", which was the last testament of Mother Gamelin.
From these modest beginnings, 6,147 women now follow Emilie Tavernier Gamelin
in the community of the Sisters of Providence, which today can be found in
Canada, the United States, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Cameroon, Egypt, the
Philippines and El Salvador.
Inspired by the motto: "The Charity of Christ urges us" the Sisters
of Providence want to continually manifest Providence and the Compassion of Our
Blessed Mother toward all those who suffer.
On 23 December 1993, Pope John Paul II, recognized the heroic virtues of the
Servant of God Emilie Tavernier Gamelin and on 18 December 2000 gave official
recognition to a miracle attributed to her intercession. The Holy Father will
proclaim her among the Blessed on 7 October 2001. Pope John Paul II presents
Emilie Tavernier Gamelin to the people of God as a model of holiness, through a
life completely dedicated to the service of the most needy persons in society.
Her liturgical feast is set for 23 September, which is the anniversary of her
death in 1851.
Eugenia Picco. "As Jesus has chosen bread, which is very common, so must my life be,
common ... approachable by all and, at the same time, humble and hidden, like
These words of Eugenia Picco flow from long contemplation of Jesus,
Bread of life, broken for all. Eugenia arrived at this synthesis after a long
and painful journey.
Anna Eugenia Picco was born in the little town of Crescenzago, in the
district of Milan, on 8 November 1867, the daughter of the famous musician,
Giuseppe Picco, and of Adelaide Del Corno. Eugenia was raised mainly by her
grandparents and saw her parents only for brief intervals between tours, until
one day when her mother returned alone, without her husband, giving Eugenia to
believe him to be dead.
After the mysterious disappearance of her father, she remained with her
mother and grew up in an irreligious and morally corrupt environment.
"Dangers and occasions at home and outside", Eugenia said when
recalling those troubled years and that "instinctive" strength to
pray, to raise her gaze on high, in the silence of the austere Basilica of St
Ambrose where each day she would go to pray to God, almost without knowing him.
One evening in May 1886, Eugenia felt a call to sanctity and from that moment on
she aimed at perfection with a faithful readiness without turning back. Thus at
the age of 20, Eugenia decided to seek Jesus and to be holy.
Providentially, the founder of the Congregation of the Little Daughters of
the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was already in Milan. He was tied by a long
time friendship to the Ursuline Sisters in Milan, to whom Eugenia had confided
her desire to become a religious sister. One of these sisters asked Don Chieppi
to receive Eugenia into his congregation. In 1887, Eugenia ran away from home
and was immediately accepted, understood and loved by the founder of the
congregation, the Venerable Servant of God Agostino Chieppi. On 26 August 1888
she began her novitiate in Parma, Italy; on 10 June 1891 she made her first
profession in the hands of the founder and, in 1894, she made her solemn
After her profession, she accepted some important offices, such as novice
mistress, archivist, general secretary and member of the council. As Superior
General, from 1911 until her death, she showed excellent governing skills and
joyfully undertook to fulfil her duties as well as tasks in the social field,
mainly during the First World War. She was a courageous woman and greatly
enriched the spiritual and cultural formation of the sisters, always faithful to
her life programme which was "Suffer, be silent, love". She joyfully
accomplished her duties as Superior General with serene and tranquil perfection,
in order to carry out God's will.
She was a mother to all especially to the poorest, the little ones, the lowly
ones whom she served with generous and tireless charity. The needs and tragedies
of her brothers created by World War I, 1915-1918, opened her heart even more to
receive every cry, pain and social or individual concern.
The Eucharist was Eugenia's main support, the vital fulcrum of her interior
life and of all her work and apostolic activity; it was her great love, the
center of her piety, the food, comfort and joy of her days filled with prayer
and fatigue. Christ instilled in her his zeal for the salvation of souls, his
burning desire to lead all to the House of the Father. It was her constant love
for Christ, burning within her, that explains her constant charitable activity.
Of weak health, due to a degenerative bone condition, which in 1919 led to
the amputation of her right lower limb, she offered herself, willingly, for the
accomplishment of God's plan, ready for every immolation, remaining always a
smiling friend of Christ, her brethren and the world.
This dynamism which concentrated all of her desires, all of her will on God,
this firm resolution to tend to perfection expressed by a life of mortification,
purity, obedience, heroism of virtuous works, living the most humble ordinary
things in an extraordinary way, was the climate of Sr Eugenia Picco's life.
On 7 September 1921, she died in the odour of sanctity. Sr Eugenia was seen
by all as an example of extraordinary virtue and as a model of piety, prudence,
zeal and spirit of sacrifice, as well as a wise teacher.
Ignatius Maloyan (born Shoukr Allah), son of Malkoun and Farida
was born in Mardin, Turkey, in April 1869. He was the fourth son of eight
children (one girl and seven boys). At the age of 14, he was sent to the convent
of Bzommar-Lebanon after his parish priest had noticed in him signs of a
After five years in Bzommar seminary, Ignatius left Bzommar and returned to
Mardin to be among his family due to his frail health and the life of abstinence
he was leading. He stayed there for three years, recovered his health and then
went back to Bzommar. Shoukr Allah pursued his higher studies and set for minor
orders. In 1896, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he was ordained
priest in the church of Bzommar convent and became a member of the Bzommar
congregation of priests, taking the name Ignatius after the famous martyr of
During the years 1897-1910, Father Ignatius was appointed as parish priest in
Alexandria and Cairo, where his good reputation was wide spread.
His Beatitude Patriarch Boghos Bedros XII made him his assistant in Istanbul,
in 1904, but due to an eye ailment and difficulty in breathing, he returned to
Egypt and stayed there till 1910.
The Diocese of Mardin was in a state of anarchy, so Patriarch Sabbaghian sent
Fr Ignatius Maloyan to restore order.
On 22 October 1911, the Bishops' Synod assembled in Rome elected Fr Ignatius
Archbishop of Mardin. He took over his new assignment and planned on renewing
the declining diocese, encouraging, especially, devotion to the Sacred Heart.
All this didn't stop him from enriching his personal spiritual life, with the
celebration of daily Mass, meditations and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He
had a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and worked diligently to
spread it among his congregation in every parish. The Lord blessed this devotion
of Bishop Ignatius and his benevolence arranged for his martyrdom in June on the
Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The month of May, dedicated to Mary,
also held a great place in the heart of Bishop Ignatius, who always took every
opportunity to talk about the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, encouraging
his people to love their Heavenly Mother.
During the First World War, the Turkish government decided to massacre the
Armenian nation. On 30 April 1915, Turkish soldiers surrounded the residence of
the Armenian Catholic Bishop and the church in Mardin with the charge that they
were concealing arms.
At the beginning of May, the Bishop gathered his priests and informed them of
the dangerous situation. On 3 June 1915, Turkish soldiers dragged Bishop Maloyan
in chains to court with 27 other Armenian Catholic figures. The next day, 25
priests and 862 believers were taken prisoner. During the trial, the chief of
police, Mamdooh Bek, asked the Bishop to convert to Islam. The Bishop answered
that he would never betray Christ and His Church. The Good Shepherd told him
that he was ready to suffer all kinds of ill-treatment and even death and that
in this will be his happiness.
Mamdooh Bek hit him on the head with the butt of his pistol and ordered him
to be put in jail. The soldiers chained his feet and hands, threw him on the
ground and hit him mercilessly. With each blow, the Bishop was heard saying
"Oh Lord, have mercy on me, oh Lord, give me strength", and asked the
priests present for absolution. With that, the soldiers went back to hitting him
and they tore out his nails.
On 9 June, his mother visited him and wept at his condition. But the valiant
Bishop encouraged her. The next day, the soldiers gathered 440 Armenians and
formed three convoys of Armenians and some other Christians.
The soldiers, along with the convoys, took the desert route: a short time
later, they arrived at a deserted place, they separated the elderly and killed
them. Six hours later, they arrived at a place called "Chikhan".
Mamdooh Bek gave the order to stop, and took out a decree and read it to all
present: "The government has granted you many blessings: Freedom, equality,
brotherhood, highranking jobs ... in return you betrayed the nation.
Consequently you have been condemned to death, but he who wishes to convert to
Islam will be released and will return safely to Mardin, if not, after one hour,
the death penalty will be executed. Get ready and say your last prayers".
Bishop Maloyan answered on behalf of all the believers "not for a day,
did we betray the Turkish Government, not in the past nor at the present. But if
you want us to betray our loyalty to the Christian faith, this will never
be" and all cried: "Never, never". Maloyan went on to say
"we will die, yes, we will all die for Christ".
The Bishop encouraged his parishioners to remain firm in their faith. Then
all knelt with him. He prayed to God that they accept martyrdom with patience
and courage. The priests granted general absolution. The Bishop took out a piece
of bread, blessed it, recited the words of the Eucharist and gave it to his
priests to distribute among the people.
One of the soldiers, an eye witness, recounted this scene; "at that
hour, I saw a cloud covering the prisoners and from all came a perfumed scent.
There was a look of joy and serenity on their faces", since they were all
going to die out of love for Jesus. After a two-hour walk, hungry, naked and in
chains, the soldiers attacked the prisoners and killed them before the Bishop's
eyes. After the massacre of the two convoys, it was Bishop Maloyan's turn.
Mamdooh Bek then asked Maloyan again to convert to Islam. The soldier of
Christ answered: "I've told you I shall live and die for the sake of my
faith and religion. I take pride in the Cross of my God and Lord". Mamdooh
got very angry, he drew his pistol and shot Maloyan. Before he released his last
breath he cried aloud: "My God, have mercy on me; Into your hands I commend
my spirit". Mamdooh Bek then sent soldiers to Diyarbakir asking specialists
to sign a death certificate stating that Bishop Maloyan had died of a heart
attack en route!
The Kurds who witnessed and executed the killing said: "we have never
witnessed such strong faith".
It was 11 June, Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1915.
Sr Maria Euthymia (in the world: Emma Üffing) was born on 8 April
1914 in Halverde, Germany. She was the daughter of August Üffing and Maria
Schmidt, and grew up with 10 brothers and sisters in a small town environment.
Her large and religious family and the life of the parish were the environment
of her childhood. She was afflicted at 18 months with a form of rickets that
left her with poor health for the rest of her life; it also slowed her physical
development. In spite of this, she never complained but dedicated herself to
helping on the farm; she did not become indignant when she was wronged and,
whenever she could, she spared her brothers and sisters any unpleasant work.
On 27 April 1924 Emma made her First Communion and on 3 September 1924 the
Sacrament of Confirmation. At the age of 14, Emma expressed the desire to become
a religious sister. On 1 November 1931, she began her formation as an apprentice
of household management at the nearby hospital of St Ann in Hopsten, which she
completed in May 1933. Here she got to know the Sisters of Charity of Münster,
the Clemens Schwestern or Barmherzige Schwestern. The Mother
Superior of the house, Sr Euthymia Linnenkämper, appreciated Emma's attitude of
constant service and availability. Shortly before her father's death in 1932,
she returned home to take care of him. With her mother's permission, in March
1934, Emma sent a letter to the Mother House in Münster asking to be admitted
to the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity. After an initial hesitation by
the Superiors of the Order, due to her delicate constitution, the Superiors
accepted Emma's request. On 23 July, Emma Üffing entered the Congregation of
the Sisters of Charity in Münster as one of 47 postulants. She took the name
"Euthymia", as she had strongly desired in memory of the Mother
Superior in Hopsten, Euthymia Linnenkämper.
During her formation, she prepared intensely and conscientiously to fulfil
her great desire to be at the service of God and mankind, which was fulfilled on
11 October 1936 when she made her simple vows. In a letter to her mother she
happily wrote, "I found Him who my heart loves; I want to hold Him and
never let Him go" (cf. Song 3,4).
In October 1936 Sr M. Euthymia was appointed to St Vincent's Hospital in
Dinslaken. On 3 September 1939, after passing her exams with distinction, she
received a nursing diploma. One year later, on 15 September 1940, Sr M. Euthymia
made her final profession,.
During wartime, poverty made the work of assisting the sick more difficult.
In 1943, Sr M. Euthymia was entrusted with assisting the sick prisoners of war
and foreign workers, especially those of British, French, Russian, Polish and
Ukrainian nationality who had infectious diseases. She devoted herself to them
with untiring care and cordiality. The French priest, Fr Emile Esche, who lived
as a prisoner of war at the hospital in Dinslaken for several years, provided an
extraordinary witness: When in contact with the sick (Sr M. Euthymia) was full
of a charity and kindness which came from her heart, nothing was too much for
her. She knew that the sick prisoners did not have to contend with physical
sufferings alone. Through her warm sympathy and nearness, she instilled in them
a feeling of being safe and at home. She prayed with the sick and made sure that
they could receive the Holy Sacraments.... "Sr Euthymia's life was a
canticle of hope in the midst of the war", Fr Emile Esche said.
After the war, Sr M. Euthymia, who had previously worked with such dedication
to the sick, was entrusted with running the laundry room in Dinslaken and, three
years later, the large one of the Mother House and of St Raphael Clinic in
Münster. Although she had loved assisting the sick, she adapted to this new task
without difficulty. "Everything is for Almighty God", was her
response. Even though there was an enormous amount of work that was extremely
demanding, she always remained a kind and available religious, who had a
friendly smile and a good word and was ready to help anyone who asked her to.
She lived her daily life in an extraordinary way. All of her free time, which
was usually little, she spent praying before the tabernacle. Many who knew her,
asked her even at that time to intercede for them in her prayers. A serious form
of cancer brought Sr M. Euthymia to an untimely death after long weeks of
illness. She died on the morning of 9 September 1955.
Nikolaus Gross. On Sunday, 7 October, the Holy Father will beatify
Nikolaus Gross, layman, father of seven children, union activist, newspaper
editor, and martyr. Nikolaus Gross was born on 30 September 1898 of a colliery
blacksmith in Niederwenigern, near the city of Essen, and attended the local
Catholic school from 1905-12. He then worked initially in a plate rolling mill,
then as a grinder and later as a face-worker in a coal mine. He worked
underground for five years.
Union activist for miners and editor
In his limited spare time, he continued his higher education.
In 1917, he joined the Christian Miners' Trade Union. In 1918 he joined the
Centre Party (the Catholic political party). In 1919 he joined the St Anthony's
Miners Association (Antonius Knappenverein — KAB) in Niederwenigern. It was the
major Catholic union for the Catholic miners and a major Catholic voice.
At the age of 22 he became secretary for young people in the union. A year later
he became assistant editor of the union newspaper Bergknappe ("The
Miner"). His work with the union took him around Germany until he finally
settled in Bottrop in the Ruhr Valley, in what is now the Diocese of Essen.
In the meantime, he married Elizabeth Koch from
Niederwenigern. They had seven children in the course of their happy marriage.
He loved his family above everything and was an exemplary father in his
responsibility for their education and upbringing in the faith. Gross did not
withdraw into the shell of family life. He remained attuned to the great social
problems, precisely in his responsibility for his family. Work and social
obligations were the place in which he realized his Christian mission. In his
doctrine of faith written in 1943 he wrote: "The majority of great
achievements come into being through the daily performance of one's duties in
the little things of everyday routine. Our special love here is always for the
poor and the sick".
At the beginning of 1927, he became assistant editor of the Westdeutsche
Arbeiterzeitung (West German Workers' Newspaper), the organ of the St
Anthony's Miners' Association (KAB) and soon became its editor-in-chief. Here he
was able to give Catholic workers guidance on social and labour questions. In
the course of time, it became clear to him that the political challenges
contained a moral claim and that the social problems cannot be solved without
Early criticism of Nazism
The editor became a messenger who bore witness to his faith
here too. When he moved in this capacity to the Ketteler House in Cologne, in
1929, he already had a clear opinion about approaching Nazism. Starting out from
Bishop Ketteler's main idea that a reform of the conditions in society can only
be achieved by a reform in attitude, he saw in the Nazis' success in society:
"political immaturity" and "a lack of discernment".
Already at that time he called the Nazis "mortal enemies of the present
state". As editor of the organ of the KAB, on 14 September 1930, he
wrote: "As Catholic workers we reject Nazism not only for political and
economic reasons, but decisively also, resolutely and clearly, on account of our
religious and cultural attitude".
Already a few months after Hitler's seizure of power, the
leader of the German Labour Front, Robert Ley, called the KAB's Westdeutsche
Arbeiterzeitung "hostile to the state". In the following period,
Gross attempted to save the newspaper from destruction without making
concessions on its content. From then on he knew how to write between the lines.
In November 1938 came the final ban on the workers' newspaper which, in the
meantime, had been renamed Kettelerwacht (Ketteler's Watch).
Gross, who had to work very hard for his education was no
great orator. But he spoke convincingly, warm-heartedly and with power of
persuasion. The fact that Nikolaus Gross joined the resistance in Germany
resulted from his Catholic religious conviction. For him the key was "that
one must obey God more than men". "If something is demanded of us that
goes against God or the Faith, then not only may we, but we must, refuse
obedience (towards men)" — Thus wrote Nikolaus Gross in 1943 in
his doctrine of faith. It was becoming ever clearer to him that Germany had
reached this state under the Hitler regime.
Gross set down his joint thoughts in two writings which later
fell into the hands of the Gestapo: The Great Tasks and Is Germany
Lost? They were to contribute towards his execution.
Final resistance to Nazi regime
In 1940, Gross had to endure interrogations and house
searches. After the ban on the association's newspaper, he published a series of
small pamphlets which were intended to help strengthen the critical force of
faith and Gospel values among workers. We find an answer for the reasons which
motivated someone like Nikolaus Gross in the memoirs of the well-known, workers'
chaplain, Msgr Caspar Schulte of Paderborn. There we read: "In my many
conversations, especially with Nikolaus Gross and the association's head, Otto
Müller, I got to know and admire these men's moral greatness. They did not
stumble into death. They went their way also prepared to bear a painful death
for the sake of freedom. I said to Nikolaus Gross on the day before the
assassination attempt on Hitler of 20 July 1944: 'Mr Gross, remember that
you have seven children. I have no family for which I am responsible. It's a
matter of your life'. To which Gross made a really great statement to me: 'If
we do not risk our life today, how do we then want one day to justify ourselves
before God and our people?'". In 1943, Gross wrote in a booklet, what
was almost a prophecy: "Sometimes, my heart becomes heavy and the task
appears insoluble if I measure my own human imperfection and inadequacy against
the greatness of the obligation and the weight of the responsibility. If a
generation must pay the highest price, death, for its short life, we look for
the answer in ourselves in vain. We find it only in Him in whose hand we are
safe in life and in death. We never know what problems are waiting to test the
power and strength of our souls.... Man's ways lie in obscurity. But even
darkness is not without light. Hope and faith, which always hasten ahead of us,
already have a presentiment of the breaking of a new dawn. If we know that the
best thing in us, the soul, is immortal, then we also know that we shall meet
each other again". What a testimony to a sense of responsibility,
feeling for reality and assurance of faith! For Gross, trust in God was the
foundation on which he did not falter. During the years of the war he formed a
network of resistance to the Nazi's and he was often the currier between the
centres of resistance. He was well informed of the plot to assassinate Hitler
even though he took no part in its preparation and execution.
After the abortive assassination attempt on 20 July 1944,
events came thick and fast. Gross, who was not himself involved in the
preparation and execution of the plot, was arrested towards noon at his home on
12 August 1944 and taken first to the prison in Ravensbrück and then to the
penitentiary in Berlin-Tegel. His wife, Elisabeth, came to Berlin twice to visit
him. She reported clear signs of torture on his hand and arms. His letters from
the prison and the witness of the chaplain, Fr Peter Buchholz, give impressive
evidence that constant prayer was the source of strength in his difficult and,
in the end, hopeless position. In every letter he never failed to request
constant prayer from his wife and his children, just as he himself also prayed
for his family each day.
Condemnation to being hanged
On 15 January 1945, the death sentence was pronounced by the
chairman of People's Court, Roland Freisler. His final remark in the court
record and the real reason for the sentence: "He swam along in treason and
consequently had to drown in it!". He was hanged in Berlin-Plotzensee on 23
January 1945. The Nazis did not make any martyrs. They did not allow the hanged
man to have a grave. For the followers of falsehood and hatred there was only
But the testimony to truth and faith is not to be
obliterated! It lives on in those who have gone before us as a shining example.
The prison chaplain, Fr Peter Buchholz, who blessed the condemned man on his
final walk, reported afterwards: "Gross bowed his head silently during the
blessing. His face already seemed illuminated by the glory into which he was
getting ready to enter".
The rulers of that time refused to give him a Christian
burial. His corpse was cremated and his ashes scattered across a sewage farm.
26 & 27 June 2001
The Servant of God Sr Laurentia Herasymiv was born on 31 September
1911 in the village of Rudnyky, Lviv District. In 1931 she entered the
Sisters of St Joseph, and in 1933 she made her first vows. In 1951, she was
arrested by the agents of the NKVD (KGB) and sent to Borislav. Thereafter,
she was exiled to Tomsk, Siberia. She was in very poor health and therefore
on 30 June 1950, she was relocated to the village of Harsk, Tomsk, and made
to share a room with and attend to a paralysed man because nobody else would
share a room with a tuberculosis-infected tenant. She continued to pray much
and did much demanding manual labour. She patiently endured sub-human
conditions. She finally died on 28 August 1952 in the village of Kharsk in
the Tomsk Region of Siberia.
The Servant of God Sr Tarsykia Matskiv was born on 23 March 1919
in the village of Khodoriv, Lviv District. On 3 May 1938 she entered the
Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate. After professing her first vows on 5
November 1940, she worked in her convent. Even prior to the Bolshevik
arrival in Lviv, Sr Tarsykia made a private oath to her spiritual director,
Fr Volodymyr Kovalyk O.S.B.M., that she would sacrifice her life for the
conversion of Russia and for the good of the Catholic Church. The
Bolsheviks were determined to destroy the monastery. On the morning of 17
July 1944 at 8 a.m., a Russian soldier rang the convent door. When Sr
Taryskia answered the door she was shot without warning and died.
The Servant of God Sr Olympia Bida was born in 1903 in the village
of Tsebliv, Lviv District. She entered the Sisters of St Joseph and served
in various towns and villages as a teacher of catechism, director of
novices, attendant to the aged and infirm. She had a special charism for
youth and personally attended to the education of a number of young women.
She was appointed superior of the convent in the town of Kheriv, and did her
best to see to the spiritual and social needs of the people in spite of the
Communist pressure surrounding their work. In 1951, she was arrested with
two other sisters, imprisoned for a while, then exiled to the Tomsk region
Under conditions of heavy forced labour, Sr Olympia tried to perform her
duties as superior and organized her sisters and other sisters in other
camps to come together and to pray and support each other. Succumbing to a
serious illness, she died on 28 January 1952.
The Servant of God Volodymyr Pryjma was born on 17 July 1906 in
the village of Stradch, Yavoriv District. After graduating from a school for
cantors, which was under the care of Metropolitan Sheptytsky, he became the
cantor and choir director in the village church of Stradch. On 26 June 1941
agents of the NKVD mercilessly tortured and murdered him along with Fr
Nicholas Conrad, in the forest near their village as they were returning
from the home of a sick woman, who had requested the sacrament of
BISHOP AND PRIESTS
The Servant of God Archbishop Jozef Bilczewski (Latin-rite) was
born into a peasant family in Wilamowice on 26 April 1860. He was eldest of
nine. In August 1880 he entered the Seminary of Kraków and was ordained a
priest on 6 July 1884. He then moved to Vienna to continue his studies and
earned a doctorate in theology. In Rome and Paris he specialized in dogmatic
theology and in Christian archaeology. In 1891 he became a professor at the
University of Lviv. He was appointed Archbishop of Lviv for Latins on 18
December 1900. In his episcopal mission he had to face difficulties due to
internal problems and the conflicts of the First World War. He often
intervened with the civil authorities on behalf of Poles, Ukrainians and
Jews. The Polish-Ukrainian War (1918-19) brought a new wave of violence to
the people and many priests were killed or put in prison. Then the Bolshevik
invasion (1919-20) was unleashed with all its fury against the Catholic
Church. He stood firm to protect one and all without distinctions of race or
religion. From 1918-21 his Archdiocese lost about 120 priests. Seriously
ill, he accepted sickness calmly and courageously. He died on 20 March 1923
The Servant of God Bishop Mykola Charnetsky was born on 14
December 1884 in the village of Semakivtsi, Horodenka District. Upon his
graduation from the seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood on 2 October
1909. He obtained his doctorate in dogmatic theology from Rome and became a
spiritual director and professor at the seminary in Stanislaviv (now called
Ivano-Frankivsk). In 1919, he entered the noviciate of the Redemptorist
Fathers in Zboiska, near Lviv. In 1926, Pope Pius XI, upon the request of
Metropolitan Andriy, appointed Fr Mykola as the Apostolic Visitor to Greek
Catholics in Volyn and Polissia. The ceremony of his ordination to the
episcopacy took place on 2 February 1931, in Rome. During the first
Bolshevik occupation, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky appointed him as the
Apostolic Exarch of Volyn and Pidlassia. On 11 April 1945 he was arrested by
the NKVD and sentenced to six years of forced labour in Siberia. On 2 April
1959 he died in Lviv.
The Servant of God Bishop Nicetas Budka was born on 7 June 1877 in
the village of Dobromirka, Zbarazh District. In 1905, after graduating from
theology in Vienna and Innsbruck, he was ordained to the priesthood by
Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky. He was consecrated Bishop in Lviv on 14
October 1912. That same year he was appointed by the Holy See as the
Apostolic Exarch in Canada. In 1928, he became Vicar General of the
Metropolitan Chapter of Lviv.
On 11 April 1945 the Soviet government imprisoned him with a sentence of
eight years. He died a martyr on 1 October 1949 in a concentration camp in
The Servant of God Bishop Hryhory Lakota was born on 31 January
1883 in the village of Holodivka, in Lemko Region. He studied theology in
Lviv and was ordained to the priesthood in 1908 in the city of Przemysl. In
Vienna, in 1911, he received his Ph.D. in theology. In 1913, he became a
professor at the Greek Catholic seminary in Przemysl, later becoming its
rector. On 16 May 1926, he was ordained to the episcopacy and was appointed
Auxiliary Bishop of Przemysl. On 9 June 1946, he was arrested and imprisoned
for 10 years in Vorkuta, Russia. He died as a martyr for the faith on 12
November 1950, in the village of Abez, near Vorkuta.
The Servant of God Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn was born on 25 March
1867 in the village of Hadynkivtsi, Ternopil District. After graduating from
the seminary he was ordained to the priesthood on 18 November 1893. His
theological education was enriched during further studies in Vienna from
1894-1899. In 1902, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky appointed Fr Gregory as
Rector of the seminary in Lviv. Fr Gregory was ordained bishop for
Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk) in St George Cathedral in 1904. In 1939,
he was arrested for the first time by the NKVD (KGB). His second arrest was
in April 1945, after which he was deported to Kyiv. He died in Kyiv's NKVD
prison on 17 January 1947.
The Servant of God Bishop Josaphat Kotsylovsky was born on 3 March
1876 in the village of Pakoshivka, Lemko Region. He graduated with a degree
in theology in Rome in 1907, and later in that same year on October 9 he was
ordained to the priesthood. Not long after that he was appointed to be
vice-rector and professor of theology at the Greek-Catholic seminary in
Stanislaviv ( now Ivano-Frankivsk). On 2 October 1911 he entered the
noviciate of the Basilian order. He was ordained to the episcopacy on 23
September 1917 in Przemysl. In September 1945 the Communist regime in Poland
arrested him for the 1st time, then released him and in 1946 for the second
time, handing him over again to the Soviet Union. He died a martyr for the
faith on 17 November 1947 in the Kyiv prison.
The Servant of God Bishop Simeon Lukach was born on 7 July 1893 in
the village of Starunia, Stanislaviv Region. His parents were simple
villagers who worked the land. In 1913, he entered the seminary. His studies
were interrupted for two years during World War I but he was able to
complete his studies in 1919. That same year he was ordained a priest by
Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn. He taught moral theology at the seminary in
Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk) until April 1945, when it is suspected that
Bishop Hryhory secretly ordained him a bishop. On 26 October 1949 he was
arrested by the NKVD and was released on 11 February 1955. He functioned as
an underground member of the clergy, but in July 1962 he was arrested for a
second time and appeared in court with Bishop Ivan Sleziuk, who too was an
underground bishop. While in prison, he was stricken with tuberculosis,
which hastened his death on 22 August 1964.
The Servant of God Bishop Ivan Sleziuk was born on 14 January 1896
in the village of Zhyvachiv, Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk) Region. After
graduating from the seminary in 1923, he was ordained to the priesthood. In
April 1945 Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn ordained him as his Co-adjutor with the
right of succession as a precaution in case Bishop Khomyshyn should be
arrested. However, shortly thereafter on 2 June 1945, Bishop Ivan was
arrested and deported for ten years to the labour camps in Vorkuta, Russia.
In 1950 he was transferred to the labour camps in Mordovia, Russia. After
his release on 15 November 1954, he returned to Ivano-Frankivsk. In 1962, he
was arrested for the second time and imprisoned for five years in a camp of
strict regiment. After his release on 30 November 1968, he had to often go
to the KGB for regular "talks." The last visit was two weeks
before his death, which was on 2 December 1973 in Ivano-Frankivsk.
The Servant of God Fr Leonid Feodorov was born to a Russian
Orthodox family on 4 November 1879 in St Petersburg, Russia. In 1902, he
left his Orthodox seminary and traveled to Rome, where he became Catholic.
He studied in Anonia, Rome and Friburg. On 25 March 1911, he was ordained to
the priesthood in the Eastern-rite in Bosnia. Also in Bosnia in 1913, he
became a monk of the Studite monastery. Afterwards, he returned to St
Petersburg and was subsequently arrested and sent to Siberia. In 1917, he
was released and appointed to be the head of the Russian Catholic Church of
the Eastern-rite, with the title of Exarch. His second arrest came in 1923;
he was sent to Solovky Islands on the White Sea and to Vladka for ten years.
He died a martyr for the faith on 7 March 1935. In 1937, with the help of
the Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky, the process for his beatification was
The Servant of God Fr Petro Verhun was born on 18 November 1890 in
Horodok, Lviv Region. On 30 October 1927 he was ordained to the priesthood
by Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky at St George's Cathedral in Liviv, and was
appointed pastor of the Greek Catholics in Berlin, Germany. Sometime later,
he became the Apostolic Visitor to Germany. In June 1945, he was arrested
and sent to Siberia. He died a martyr of the faith on 7 February 1957 in the
village of Angarskiy, in the territory of Krasnoiarsk, Russia.
The Servant of God Archimandrite Clement Sheptytsky, the younger
brother of the Servant of God Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky, was born on 17
November 1869 in the village of Prylbychi, Lviv Region. In 1911, at the age
of 40, he entered the monastery of St Theodore the Studite; by so doing he
renounced a promising secular career. He received his theological education
in Innsbruck. On 28 August 1915 he was ordained to the priesthood.
For a long time he was the Hegumenos (Prior) of the Studite monastery at
Univ, and in 1944 he became the Archimandrite (Abbot). During World War II,
he gave refuge to persecuted Jews. On 5 June 1947, he was arrested by the
NKVD (KGB) agents and sentenced to eight years of hard labour. He died a
martyr for the faith on 1 May 1951 in the Vladimir prison.
The Servant of God Bishop Theodore Romzha was born on 14 April
1911, in the village of Veliky Bychkiv, Transcarpathia. From 1930-1933, he
studied philosophy in Rome and completed his theological education also in
Rome from 1933-1937, culminating in a Licentiate. Shortly thereafter, he
became an administrator of the parish in Berezovo. Beginning in 1939, he was
a professor of philosophy at the seminary in Uzhorod. On 24 September 1944,
he was ordained to the episcopacy for the Mukachevo eparchy. During the Red
Army presence in the Carpathian region of Ukraine, he was tireless in his
defence of the rights of the Catholic Church there. On 27 October 1947, the
Soviets attempted to kill Bishop Romzha. Heavily wounded, he was taken to
the hospital in Mukachiv, where he was subsequently poisoned and died on 1
The Servant of God Fr Emilian Kovch was born on 20 August 1884,
near Kosiv. In 1911, after graduating from the College of Sts Sergius and
Bacchus in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood. In the spring of 1943,
he was arrested by the Gestapo for aiding Jews. On 25 March 1944 he was
burned to death in the ovens of the Majdanek Nazi death camp. On 9 September
1999 he was honoured with the title "Righteous Ukrainian" by the
Jewish Council of Ukraine.
The Servant of God Fr Severian Baranyk was born on 18 July 1889.
On 24 September 1904 he entered the Krekhiv Monastery of the Order of St
Basil the Great in Krekhiv, and made his final vows on 21 September 1910. He
was ordained to the priesthood on 14 February 1915. In 1932 he became the
Hegumenos (Prior) of the Basilian monastery in Drohobych. On 26 June 1941,
the NKVD (KGB) took him to prison, after which he was never seen alive
again. After the Bolsheviks withdrew, the people searching the prison found
his body, mutilated by tortures.
The Servant of God Fr Zenobius Kovalyk was born on 18 August 1903
in the village of Ivachev, not far from Ternopil. He entered the
Congregation of the Redemptorists, where on 28 August 1926, he made his
religious vows. His philosophical and theological education was completed in
Belgium. After returning to Ukraine he was ordained to the priesthood on 4
September 1932. He was assigned to serve in Volyn. On 20 December 1940, he
was arrested in a church while preaching a sermon in honour of the
Immaculate Conception of the Holy Theotokos (Mother of God). In 1941, he was
martyred by the Communists in a mock crucifixion against a wall in the
Bryhidky prison (formerly a convent of the Sisters of St Bridgette), Lviv.
The Servant of God Fr Roman Lysko was born on 14 August 1914 in
Horodok, Lviv Region. He graduated from the Lviv Theological Academy. He and
his wife worked very gladly with the youth. On 28 August 1941 he was
ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky. On 9 September
1949, he was arrested by the NKVD (KGB) and put into a prison on Lontskoho
St in Lviv. The people of Liviv reported to one another that after being
tortured, the young Fr Roman sang Psalms at the top of his voice, It was
then reported that they had immured him alive in the prison walls. His death
is officially dated on 14 October 1949.
The Servant of God Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky was born 1 June 1903
in Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk). In 1920, he entered the Greek Catholic
seminary in Lviv. In 1925 he took his first religious vows in Holosko, near
Lviv, and was ordained to the priesthood on 9 October 1925. Fr Basil became
a teacher and missionary in Volyn. In 1942, he became the Hegumenos (prior)
of the monastery in Ternopil, where he was later arrested in 1945 and taken
away to Kyiv. While there, his death sentence was commuted to ten years of
forced labour. He returned to Lviv in 1955 and in 1963, he was consecrated
bishop in Moscow. His second imprisonment occurred in 1969 when he was given
a three-year sentence. This confessor of the faith, already near death, was
released to travel to Rome and then to Winnipeg, Canada, where he died
within a year on 30 June 1973.
The Servant of God Fr Mykola Tsehelskyi was born on 17 December
1896 in the village of Strusiv, Ternopil District. In 1923, he completed the
course in the theological faculty at Lviv University. On 5 April 1925,
Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky ordained him to the priesthood. He was a
zealous priest who took care of the spirituality, education and welfare of
his parishioners. He was the parish priest in the village of Soroko, where
he built a new church. After World War II the era of total repressions
began. Fr Mykola personally experienced intimidation, threats and
beatings. On 28 October 1946, he was arrested. On 27 January 1947, he was
sentenced to ten years in prison. Although he had a wife, two sons and two
daughters, he was deported to labour camps in Mordovia. He lived in
extremely horrid conditions, in a camp that was notoriously strict and
cruel. He suffered from severe pain and died on 25 May 1951 as a martyr for
the faith. He is buried in the camp cemetery.
The Servant of God Fr Oleksiy Zarytskyi was born in 1913 in the
village of Biche, in the Lviv Region. In 1931, he entered the seminary in
Lviv. He received his ordination to the priesthood from Metropolitan Andriy
Sheptytsky in 1936. In 1948, he was imprisoned for ten years and deported to
Karaganda. After his early release in 1957, he was named Apostlic
Administrator of Kazakhstan and Siberia, but was shortly thereafter
imprisoned again for a three-year term. He died as a martyr for the faith on
30 October 1963 in the Dolynka concentration camp near Karaganda.
The Servant of God Fr Andriy Ishchak was born on 23 September 1887
in Mykolayiv, in the Lviv Region. He completed his theological education at
the universities in Lviv and Innsbruck. In 1914, he received his doctorate
in theology from the University of Innsbruck and was ordained to the
priesthood. Beginning in 1928, he taught at the Lviv Theological Academy. He
was able to combine his professorial duties with his pastoral work in the
village of Sykhiv, near Lviv where he died on 26 June 1941, thus becoming a
martyr for the faith at the hands of soldiers of the retreating Soviet Army.
The Servant of God Fr Ivan Ziatyk was born on 26 December 1899 in
the village of Odrekhova, near Sanok (in present day Poland). After
graduating in theology in 1923, he was ordained to the priesthood. In 1935
he entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).
During the Nazis occupation, he was appointed to be Hegumenos (Prior) of the
monastery in Ternopil. On 5 January 1950 he was arrested. At first he was
staying in Zolochiv prison, but afterwards was sent away to Ozerlag, Irkutsk,
On Good Friday in 1952 he was severely tortured and he died shortly after
on 17 May.
The Servant of God Fr Vitaliy Bairak was born on 24 February 1907
in the village of Shvaikivtsi, Ternopil Region. On 4 September 1924, he
entered the Basilian monastery and was ordained a priest on 13 August 1933.
In 1941 he was appointed Hegumenos of the Drohobych Monastery. On 17
September 1945, the NKVD (KGB) arrested Fr Vitaliy and on 13 November his
property was confiscated and he was sentenced to eight years in a labour
camp. Just prior to Easter of 1946, Fr Vitaliy died after having been
severely beaten in the Drohobych prison near Liviv.
The Servant of God Fr Joachim Senkivskyi was born on 2 May 1896 in
the village of Hayi Velykyi, Ternopil District. After graduating from
theology in Lviv, he was ordained a priest on 4 December 1921. He earned a
doctorate in theology from Innsbruck. In 1923 he became a novice in the
Basilian order in Krekhiv. After professing his first vows he was
transferred to the village of Krasnopushcha, and later to the village of
Lavriv. From 1931 to 1938 he held various posts in the St Onuphrius
Monastery in Lviv. Later, in 1939, he was appointed to be Proto-hegumenos of
the monastery in Drohobych. On 26 June 1941 he was arrested by the Communist
authorities and on June 29 he was martyred by being boiled to death in a
cauldron in the Drohobych prison.
The Servant of God Fr Mykola Conrad was born on 16 May 1876 in the
village of Strusiv, Ternopil District. He did his philosophical and
theological studies in Rome, where he received his doctorate. In 1899, he
was ordained to the priesthood. He initially taught in a high school in
Berezhany and Terebovlia. In 1930, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky invited
him to teach at the Lviv Theological Academy and later appointed him to be a
parish priest in the village of Stradch, near Yakiv, where he was martyred,
murdered by the Bolsheviks, on 26 June 1941.
The Servant of God Sr Josaphata Michaelina Hordashevska was the
first member of the Sisters Servant of Mary Immaculate. In 1869, Michaelina
Hordashevska was born in Lviv. At the age of 18, she decided to consecrate
her life to God in a contemplative monastery of the Order of St Basil the
Great, then the only Eastern-rite woman's congregation. Then the Basilians
decided to establish a woman's congregation that focused on the active life,
Michaelina was elected to be the first leader. When she agreed, she was sent
to the Felician sisters to give her the experience of active paramonastic
life. Michaelina took the name "Josaphata", in honour of the
Ukrainian martyr St Josaphat Kuntsevych. She was the first superior of the
young sisters there, training them in the spirit and charisma of the Sisters
Servants: "serve your people where the need is greatest". At the
age of 49, she died amidst terrible suffering from bone cancer. She is
buried in the generalate of the Sisters Servants in Rome. The process of her
beatification started in Rome in 1983,
The Servant of God Fr Zygmunt Horazdowsky (Latin-rite) was born in
1845. At the end of his second year of law studies he decided to enter the
Latin Catholic seminary in Lviv. He finished his studies there and was
ordained to the priesthood in 1871. From childhood he was afflicted with a
lung ailment, however, that did not prevent him from helping others. He
founded two houses which were places for the poor, hungry and homeless. He
founded a dormitory for poor students of the local teachers' college. He
also founded the "House of the Child Jesus", which gave refuge to
single mothers with children and to abandoned children. In 1884, he founded
a convent for the Sisters of Mercy of St Joseph, in order that there might
be a community of sisters to assist in the benevolent works he had begun. Fr
Zygmunt also wrote a catechism and many other books for parents, teachers
and young people. He died in 1920.
9 May 2001
Bl. George Preca
Bl. Ignatius Falzon
Bl. Maria Adeodata Pisani
Bl. George Preca was born on 12 February 1880 in Valletta, Malta, to
Vincenzo and Natalina Ceravolo, He was baptized on 17 February.
As a young man, he was inspired by the example of Bl. Ignatius Falzon,
who also launched a catechetical movement. Intent on becoming a priest, he
studied theology at the University of Malta. Between 1905 and 1906, before
he was ordained, George Preca began a series of formation meetings for
several young men in Hamrun. He trained one of them, Eugene Borg, in the
interpretation of the sacred texts; Eugene later became the first Superior
General of the Societas Doctrinae Christianae and died revered by the
George was ordained a priest on 22 December 1906; for some weeks he spent
his time absorbed in prayer and contemplation and only went out to celebrate
Mass. On 2 February 1907, the group of young men met for a lesson by Fr
George in Ta' Nuzzu Church in Hamrun. On 7 March, they gathered in a
small rented room. These two dates (2 Feb. and 7 Mar.) mark the beginning of
the Societas Doctrinae Christianae: a group of young lay people
formed in the spiritual life and in the Catholic faith to teach the faith.
At first, eager to give prominence to their filial fidelity to the Pope,
Fr George called his society "Societas Papiduum et Papidissarum",
but then a new name was chosen for the new group, almost as a joke:
"MUSEUM"! It was so popular that Fr George made an acrostic from
it: "Magister utinam sequatur Evangelium universus mundus!"
(Master, would that the whole world might follow the Gospel).
In 1910, with the help of Giannina Cutajar, he founded the women's
branch. Little by little, the Society's characteristics were defined:
members were to be celibate, lay workers, dedicated without reserve to the
apostolate of catechesis.
In 1909, Fr George was ordered to close all his centres. The Servant of
God obeyed without complaint. The parishes then protested to the Bishops and
the order was revoked. From 1914 to 1915 several libellous articles about
MUSEUM appeared in certain Maltese newspapers, but Fr George imposed a vow
of non-reaction upon his members and taught them to refuse to be upset by
the world's unjust criticism.
In 1916 the Bishop of Malta ordered an inquiry into the society's work;
the findings were favourable to the Venerable Servant of God. Certain
changes introduced paved the way for the Society's recognition and
development. It was canonically established on 12 April 1932.
The founder of the Societas Doctrinae Christianae did his utmost
as an apostle of the Gospel in Malta. He wrote booklets on dogmatic, moral
and ascetic subjects in Maltese, but the influence of his work was felt in
his spread of God's Word, translated into Maltese. Fr Preca presented short
extracts, easy to memorize, as guides to meditation. These were always the
object of enthusiastic preaching by Fr George and his followers. He was
known for his prudent advice, and many sought him out for a word of comfort
or encouragement. He was also a great apostle of the mystery of the
Incarnation. From 1917 he spread the devotion to the words "Verbum
Dei caro factum est", which he chose as the emblem for the
When he was put to the test, Fr George put his trust in the protection of
the Blessed Virgin. On 21 July 1918, the Venerable Servant of God enrolled
in the Third Order of Carmel. At his profession in September 1919 he chose
the name of Friar Franco; he also desired all the members and youth in the
different sections of MUSEUM to wear the Carmelite scapular. He had a
special devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel and persevered in spreading
devotion to the miraculous medal.
In 1951, the St Michael Intermediate School was planned. In 1952, five
members were sent to open MUSEUM centres in Australia (today the Society
also exists in England, Albania, Kenya, Sudan and Peru). In 1954, the
building of the Society's Generalate and of the church dedicated to Our Lady
of the Miraculous Medal were begun. In 1955, Fr George blessed the
foundation stone of the Sacred Family Institute in Zabbar, Malta, which
became a residence for members (founded in 1918 in Zebbug, Malta), and the
Society of Christian Doctrine's "Veritas Press" is still located
there today. After a long life entirely dedicated to the apostolate, the
Servant of God died, revered by all, on 26 July 1962.
Bl. Ignatius Falzon was born in Valletta, the capital of Malta, on 1
July 1813, to the lawyer, Giuseppe Francesco Falzon and his wife, Maria
Teresa. His father had been a member of the Commission for drafting the new
Civil Code and was later appointed Judge of Her Britannic Majesty. Two of
his brothers, who held degrees in law, became priests: Fr Calcedonio and Fr
He received his first clerical tonsure at the age of 15, the canonical
practice then. Three years later he received the Minor Orders of Porter,
Lector, Exorcist and Acolyte. He obtained a doctorate in canon and civil law
at the Athenaeum of Malta on 7 September, when he was 20.
Despite having received the four Minor Orders and holding a doctorate in
canon and civil law, he never practised the legal profession nor did he feel
worthy to be ordained a priest.
He studied English, which was unusual in his time but essential for
relations with the British who came to Malta in preparation for the Crimean
War. In that period the 20,000 foreign soldiers and sailors accounted for
more than 10 per cent of Malta's population.
He was dedicated to prayer and to teaching the catechism. He had a deep
devotion to the Eucharist and the strength he drew from adoration and
meditation inspired admiration in all the faithful who worshiped in the
parish church of St Paul the Shipwrecked and the Franciscan church of St
Mary of Jesus.
Ignatius Falzon was constantly furthering priestly vocations and helping
the needy, but it is above all for his mission among the English soldiers
and sailors that he will live on for ever in the memory of the people. He
arranged prayer meetings and catechism courses for Catholic soldiers before
they left for the war; then, making friends with their Protestant and
non-Christian companions, he gave them sound advice: in this way he
attracted hundreds of men to the faith. Indeed, documents kept at the Jesuit
Church in Valletta show that he prepared more than 650 people for Baptism.
He combined with the charism of winning people for God an ability to
inspire trust in those who were not converts, but asked him to look after
personal or precious objects to pass on to their loved ones should they die.
A pioneer and champion of ecumenism, he was also a pioneer in setting up
a lay movement. Some later became priests and military or naval chaplains,
and one of them, who stayed on in Malta, continued this mission.
He died on 1 July 1865, his 52nd birthday. He was a member of the
Franciscan Third Order and was buried in the family tomb at the Franciscan
Church of St Mary of Jesus in Valletta, where one can venerate his relics.
His example inspired Bl. George Preca.
Bl. Maria Adeodata Pisani was born in Naples on 28 December 1806. Her
father was the Maltese Baron of Frigenuini and her mother came from the
In 1820-21 her father was arrested and condemned to death. His sentence
was commuted to exile and so he returned to Malta for good. From 1823 to
1825, Maria Teresa was cared for by her mother, who wanted her daughter to
make a good marriage rather than to have her receive a good education.
In 1825-1828 she moved to Malta with her mother who lived separated from
her father. Here she began to be devoted to a monastic style of life. She
became aware of her religious vocation after being moved by a Franciscan
preaching on the Last Judgement. While praying before Our Lady of Good
Counsel in the Church of St Augustine at Rabat, she became certain of her
On 16 July 1828, overcoming her parents' objections, she was accepted as
a postulant by the Benedictine Monastery of St Peter in Medina and then
became a novice, taking the religious name of Maria Adeodata. On 4 March
1830 she renounced her wealth and her noble title and also proposed the
setting up of a fund for the poor and for the education of seminarians. On 8
March 1830 she made her religious profession in the Benedictine community of
St Peter and intensified her exemplary life of prayer and sacrifice in
silence and humility.
Her exemplary conduct led to her appointment as novice mistress on 30
June 1847. She held this office until she was elected Abbess in June 1851.
The quality of her governance was evident; she corrected wisely and
recommended observance of the Rule with loving persuasion, strict with
herself but gentle to others. But even she encountered resistance when she
tried to restore a stronger common life in the monastery.
Ill health caused her to resign her office, but could never prevent her
from obeying the strict discipline of the monastery or from thinking of the
needs of the poor. She died of heart disease on 25 February 1855. She knew
she had received her last Communion in the chapel that morning and
afterwards was carried back to her room for her last hours.
Although she had been born into a well-off aristocratic family, Maria
Adeodata developed a deep sense of social justice and was always available
to the needy. She gave up the idea of making a wealthy marriage and made a
private vow of chastity even before she entered the monastery. She will
always be seen as a patroness of the Maltese aristocracy since she embodies
their sentiments of unswerving fidelity to the Church. However, since in her
youth her parents' separation caused her great distress, she can also be
considered patroness of families and couples in crisis.
29 April 2001
Bl. Esther Blondin
Bl. Caterina Cittadini
Bl. Manuel González García
Bl. Caterina Volpicelli
Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez
Bl. Esther Blondin, in religion "Sr Marie Anne", was
born in Terrebonne (Quebec, Canada) on 18 April 1809. From her parents
she inherited a deep faith centered on Divine Providence and the
Eucharist and strong patience in suffering. Illiterate at the age of 22,
Esther worked as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of the
Congregation of Notre Dame that had recently been opened in her own
village. A year later she registered as a boarder in order to learn to
read and write. She then became a novice in the congregation but had to
leave, due to ill health.
In 1833 Esther began to teach in the parochial school of Vaudreuil.
She found out that one of the causes of this illiteracy was a certain
Church ruling that forbade that girls be taught by men and that boys be
taught by women. Unable to finance two schools, many parish priests
chose to have none. In 1848, under an irresistible call of the Spirit,
Esther presented to her Bishop, Ignace Bourget, a plan she long
cherished: that of founding a religious congregation "for the
education of poor country children, both girls and boys in the same
schools". It seemed quite daring at the time. The Congregation of
the Sisters of St Anne was founded in Vaudreuil on 8 September 1850.
Esther, now named "Mother Marie Anne", became its first
superior. The rapid growth of the community soon required larger
quarters. During the summer of 1853 Bishop Bourget transferred the
motherhouse to St Jacques de l'Achigan. The new chaplain, Fr Louis
Marechal, interfered in the internal life of the community. If he were
away for a long time, he forbade the sisters to go to confession until
he returned. The conflict reached such a point that Bishop Bourget asked
Mother Marie Anne, on 18 August 1854, "to resign". He called
for elections and warned Mother Marie Anne "not to accept the
superiorship, even if her sisters wanted to re-elect her". Even
though she could be re-elected, according to the Rule of the Community,
Mother Marie Anne obeyed her Bishop whom she considered God's
instrument. She blessed Divine Providence 1,000 times for making her
walk in the way of tribulations and crosses.
Under the pretext of poor administration, Mother Marie Anne was
recalled to the motherhouse in 1858 with the order that she be kept from
doing harm to anyone. Until her death on 2 January 1890, Mother Marie
Anne was kept away from administrative responsibilities. She was kept
away from the General Council deliberations even when the 1872 and 1878
elections re-elected her. Assigned to hidden work in the laundry, she
led a life of total self-denial and so ensured the growth of the
congregation. In the laundry room in Lachine, where she spent her days,
many generations of novices received from her a true example of
obedience and humility and true fraternal charity.
We can learn a great deal from Mother Marie Anne's attitude. She was
a victim of injustices, yet she viewed such events with a vision of
faith. Deprived of legitimate rights, she offered no resistance and it
was from the infinite goodness of God that she awaited the solution. She
was convinced that "he will know well, in his wisdom, how to
discern the false from the true and to reward each one according to his
deeds". Just like Jesus Christ, who worked for the glory of His
Father, so Mother Marie Anne sought only God's glory in all she did.
"To make God known to the young who have not had the happiness of
knowing him" was for her a privileged way of working for the glory
Prevented from being called "Mother" by those in authority,
Mother Marie Anne chose annihilation, just like Jesus, "her
crucified Love", so that her community might live. However, she did
not renounce her mission as spiritual mother of her community.
She offered herself to God in order "to expiate all the sins which
were committed in the community"; and she daily prayed St Anne
"to bestow on her spiritual daughters the virtues so necessary for
Christian educators". Like a prophet invested with a mission of
salvation, Mother Marie Anne lived persecution by forgiving without
limit, convinced that "there is more happiness in forgiving than in
revenge". Her evangelical forgiveness, guarantee of "the peace
of soul which she held most precious", was proven on her death bed
when she asked her superior to call for Fr Marechal "for the
edification of the sisters". Mother Marie Anne left to her
daughters her spiritual testament: "May the Holy Eucharist and
perfect abandonment to God's will be your heaven on earth". She
peacefully passed away at the motherhouse on 2 January 1890 "happy
to go to the good God".
Bl. Caterina Cittadini was born in Bergamo on 28 September 1801
of Giovanni Battista and Margherita Lanzani and was baptized on 30
September in the parish church of St Alessandro in Colonna. In 1808,
Caterina, motherless and abandoned by her father, together with her
sister, Giuditta, was accepted in the orphanage of the Conventino di
Bergamo. Here, under the guidance of the prior, Fr Giuseppe Brena,
she lived an intense Christian life that contributed to forming in her a
strong faith, a profound confidence in the Lord, an active charity and a
tender devotion to the Blessed Mother. In 1823, after having obtained a
diploma in elementary teaching, she and her sister left the Conventino
to live with her cousins, Fr Giovanni and Fr Antonio Cittadini, at
Calolzio, a parish in the Diocese of Bergamo.
The sisters stayed at Calolzio for about two years, and having
received sound spiritual guidance from their priest cousins and a very
active pastoral environment, they grew in their desire to enter a
religious congregation. Therefore, they asked the guidance of Fr
Giuseppe Brena indicated to them that the will of God was to stay in
Somasca: they would be the cornerstones of a new religious family in
that small town where St Jerome Emiliani's holiness is kept alive.
So, in 1826, together with her sister she moved to a rented house in
Somasca. In October of the same year she bought a building, which became
the centre for a girls' boarding school and, later on, for the religious
Institute of the Ursuline Sisters.
At Somasca, Caterina found guidance for her spiritual life in the Chierici
Regolari di Somasca (Order of Clerics Regular of Somasca), founded
by St Jerome Emiliani, whom she considered her spiritual father
even from her infancy as an orphan and whose example of charity and
poverty she admired and imitated.
The task of being a teacher placed her in the midst of life in the
small town of Somasca, where Caterina actively participated in the life
of the parish: she was a teacher of Christian Doctrine, was enrolled in
the different confraternities, participated with her companions and
students at sacred services and opened her house to receive young girls
to encourage and form them in the Oratorian manner.
Caterina fulfilled her task of being a teacher with such commitment
that she earned the praise of the authorities and the unanimous approval
of the people.
Her attention to the needy and the poorest brought her to great
sacrifices of every kind. She extended her good works to orphan girls or
girls who were unable to attend public school and those who came from
faraway towns. So, in 1832, the private school Cittadini was born
and in 1836, a boarding school for girls, directed by Giuditta.
The positive reputation of the private school and boarding school
grew: in fact, the Christian formation of the boarders prepared the
girls to make wise choices in their Christian lives, so that an
exceptional contemporary witness wrote: "The pious teachers ... not
only enrich those in Somasca, by every religious, moral and civil virtue
and those arts that the girls should learn, but also benefit the towns
that the girls came from, where many founded new schools or improved
schools in decline with such great morality that the parish priests
considered the Ursuline teachers in Somasca to be the principal
benefactors of the people".
Caterina's life was always accompanied by great trials. In 1840, at
the age of only 37, Giuditta, with whom she shared everything from
family sufferings, formation, ideals and plans, suddenly died. In 1841,
with the deaths of Fr Giuseppe Brena and her cousin, Fr Antonio
Cittadini, her other strong support was taken away.
In 1842, Caterina was struck by a grave illness from which she was
miraculously cured through the intercession of Our Lady of Caravaggio
and St Jerome Emiliani.
In 1844 Caterina, in order to give legal stability to her work, wrote
a "Strumento di Societa e di Sorte e anche di donazione reciproca o
Vitalizio", a mission statement with many characteristics of a
religious institute. In 1850 she obtained from Pius IX, the Decree for
the establishment of a private oratory where the Blessed Sacrament was
kept. In 1850-51 she sent various petitions to the Bishop of Bergamo,
Mons. Carlo Gritti Morlacchi, to obtain the approval of her "small
religious family" and rule. In 1854, Caterina was encouraged to
write the rule by the Bishop Mons. Pietro Luigi Sperariza. Caterina
wrote the rules based on the Constitutions of the Ursulines of Milan,
but when presented to the Bishop it was not accepted. A new text was
sent to the Bishop on 17 September 1855, accompanied by a request for
the approval of the institute with the title, Orsoline di S. Girolamo
(Ursuline Sisters of Somasca). Mons. Speranza approved the rules, ad
experimentum, promising the definitive approval of the new
institute. Caterina awaited the day with great trust, but the
difficulties and sufferings took a heavy toll on her health, which
continued to worsen until the end of her life.
Lucid to the end and in continuous prayer, she exhorted her
companions to accept the Lord's will serenely, because everything would
still be continued. She died, a serene and holy death on 5 May 1857,
after a day of agony, surrounded by an odour of sanctity and deeply
mourned by her daughters, by the boarders and by the people, leaving to
all her shining example of profound spiritual maturity.
Shortly after her death on 14 December 1857, the decree of the
canonical establishment of the Institute arrived and the Institute had
received pontifical recognition on 8 July 1927.
In the first 10 years, the educational mission of the Institute of
Caterina Cittadini was concentrated in Somasca and Ponte San Pietro, a
village in the Diocese of Bergamo.
From 1902 it gradually spread to many parts of Italy and abroad;
today her spiritual daughters fulfill their educative mission among the
Italian immigrants in Switzerland and Belgium, among the poor of Latin
America (Brazil, Bolivia) and of Asia (India, Philippines).
On 3 December 1996, the ordinary Congregation of the Cardinals and
Bishops was held, and, on 17 December 1996, the Decree on the heroic
virtues of the Servant of God, Caterina Cittadini, foundress of the
Ursuline Sisters of Somasca was promulgated by His Holiness Pope John
Bl. Manuel González García, Bishop of Malaga and
Palencia, was born
in Seville on 25 February 1877.
On 21 September 1901, he was ordained a priest by Bl. Cardinal Marcello
Spinola. In 1902 he was sent to preach a mission at Palomares del Rio, where
God gave him a grace that would define the whole of his priestly life. After
hearing the discouraging prospects for his mission from the sacristan, he
went directly to the tabernacle even though it was neglected and poorly kept
and made an act of courageous faith in the Real Presence. In faith he saw
Jesus, so quiet, so patient and so good, looking at him, telling him many
things and asking him even more. There and then he received his special
In 1905 he was sent to Huelva. As a parish priest of St Peter's parish
and archpriest of Huelva, he set about catechizing the young and taking care
of needy children, for whom he opened schools. He also published the first
of his many books: Lo que puede un cura hoy (What a Parish Priest
Can Do Today).
On 4 March 1910 he explained his great desire for reparation to Jesus in
the Blessed Sacrament to a group of women, faithful collaborators in his
apostolic activity asking them to become the Mary's of the tabernacle. For
him an abandoned tabernacle was like Calvary, where Christ died on the Cross
abandoned by all except Mary, John, Mary Magdalene and a few faithful women.
In 1910 the work "Opera para los Sagrarios Calvaries"
was born to give a response of loving reparation to the love of Christ
in the Eucharist. The great family of the Eucharistic Reparatory Union began
with the branch of laywomen Marias de los Sagrarios y Discipulos de san
Juan. Also in 1919, Fr Manuel founded the Children's Eucharistic
Reparation. Then in 1918, he founded the priests' branch, Eucharistic
Missionaries. In 1921, in collaboration with his sister Maria Antonia he
began the religious Congregation of the Misioneras Eucarísticas de
Nazareth. In 1932 he founded the institution of the Misioneras
Auxiliares Nazarenas, and in 1939 the Juventud Eucarística
Reparadora. In 1912 St Pius X blessed his initiatives.
Pope Benedict XV named him Auxiliary Bishop of Malaga. He was consecrated
Bishop on 16 January 1916. In 1920 he was appointed residential Bishop and
he celebrated by serving, with the priests and seminarians, a feast for
3,000 poor children.
As Pastor of the Diocese of Malaga, he built up schools and parish
catechetical centres, and discovered that the most urgent problem was the
need for priests. With boundless trust in the Providence of the Heart of
Jesus, he set about building a new seminary. One of his dreams and projects
was for a substantially Eucharistic seminary, in which the Eucharist would
be the center of every activity, from teaching and formation to
administration and architecture.
To his priests and to the members of his foundations, he proposed that
they "arrive at being a host in union with the consecrated Host",
which means giving oneself to God and to one's neighbour, in an irrevocable
On 11 May 1931, he was attacked directly by the revolutionaries. The
Bishop's residence was set on fire and he was forced to move to Gibraltar in
order not to endanger the lives of those who took him into their homes. From
1932 he was ordered by the Holy See to govern his Diocese from Madrid. On 5
August 1935 Pope Pius XI appointed him Bishop of Palencia.
In the last years, his health deteriorated considerably, a trial he bore
heroically, never losing his smile, ever warm and friendly and in complete
acceptance of God's will. He gave up his soul to the Lord on 4 January 1940
and was buried in the cathedral of Palencia, where we can read on his
gravestone: "I ask to be buried close to a tabernacle, so that my
bones, after death, like my tongue and my pen in my lifetime, may ever speak
to passersby saying: "Here is Jesus! He is here! Do not abandon
Bl. Caterina Volpicelli was born into an upper middle-class
Neapolitan family on 21 January 1839 from which she received a sound human
and religious formation. She was taught literature, languages and music at
the Royal Educational Institute of S. Marcellino by Margherita Salatino (the
future foundress, with Bl. Ludovico da Casoria, of the Franciscan Grey
Sisters of St Elizabeth). She belongs to that array of "apostles of the
poor and marginalized" who in 19th-century Naples were a sign of the
presence of Christ, the Good Samaritan, who comes close to all who are
injured in body and spirit.
Caterina had been trying to outshine her sister in society, frequently
going to the theatre and the ballet, but prompted by the Lord's Spirit who
revealed God's plan to her through the voice of wise and holy spiritual
directors, she soon gave up the transient pleasures of an elegant and
carefree life, to adhere with generous decision to a vocation of perfection
Her chance meeting with Bl. Ludovico da Casoria on 19 September 1854 at
La Palma, Naples, as she herself says, was "a rare stroke of prevenient
grace, charity and favour from the Sacred Heart, delighted by the poverty of
his servant". Bl. Ludovico led her to join the Third Order Franciscans
and indicated to her the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the one
goal of her life, inviting her to remain in society to be a "fisher of
souls". Guided by her confessor, the Barnabite Fr Leonardo Matera, on
28 May 1859 Caterina entered the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament,
but she soon left, for serious health reasons. Caterina's confessor showed
her the monthly leaflet of the Apostleship of Prayer in France; from him she
received detailed information about this new association with the diploma of
Messenger, the first in Naples. In July 1867, Fr Ramière visits the
palace of Largo Petrone in Naples, where Caterina was considering
establishing her apostolic activities "to revive love for Jesus Christ
in hearts, in families and in society". The Apostleship of Prayer would
be the cornerstone of Caterina's whole spiritual edifice and would permit
her to cultivate her ardent love of the Eucharist and her outreach to
With the first messengers, on 1 July 1874, Caterina founded
the new institute of "Servants of the Sacred Heart", at first
approved by the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, the Servant of God Sisto
Riario Sforza, and later, on 13 June 1890, by Pope Leo XIII who granted the
new religious family the "Decree of praise".
Concerned with the lot of the young, she then opened the orphanage of the
Margherites, founded a lending library and set up the Association of the
Daughters of Mary, with the wise guidance of Venerable Mother Rosa Carafa
Traetto (d. 1890).
She soon opened other houses: in Naples, in the Sansevero Palace and then
at the La Sapienza Church in Ponticelli, where the Servants distinguished
themselves in nursing cholera victims in 1884, in Minturno, Meta di Sorrento
and Rome. On 14 May 1884, the new Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Guglielmo
Sanfelice, O.S.B., consecrated the Shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of
Jesus which Caterina Volpicelli had had built next to the Mother House of
her institutions. She built it specifically for adoration in reparation, as
requested by the Pope, to support the Church in difficult times for
religious freedom and Gospel proclamation. Caterina's participation in the
first National Eucharistic Congress celebrated in Naples in 1891 (19-22
November), crowned the apostolate of the Foundress of the Servants of the
Sacred Heart. Caterina Volpicelli died in Naples on 28 December 1894,
offering her life for the Church and for the Holy Father.
Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, on 22
November 1918. He was baptized in the Holy Name of Jesus Church in Caguas on
4 May 1919.
"Charlie" as a six year old, experienced a terrible loss: a
fire destroyed both his father's small store and the family home. Having
lost virtually all of their earthly goods, the young family moved in with
Carlos Manuel's maternal grandparents. Carlos Manuel was thereby strongly
influenced by his grandmother, Alejandrina Esterás, a deeply devout and
holy woman. Carlos' reception of Christ for the first time in the Holy
Eucharist would mark the beginning of a love that would last a lifetime. He
became an altar boy, and began to experience the riches of the faith through
the sacred liturgy of the Church. It is likely that it was at this time that
he felt the initial call to live a life entirely dedicated to the Lord Jesus
In his first year of high school, he experienced the first symptoms of
what would later become a severe gastrointestinal disorder: ulcerative
colitis. This illness would cause him much suffering for the rest of his
life. Nevertheless it never undermined his commitment to. Christ and
He earned his high school diploma and began a job as an office clerk
until 1946, when he decided to pursue a bachelor's degree at the University
of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Río Piedras. However, despite excellent grades and
his love for studies, illness prevented him from completing his second year.
The end of formal education, however, did not mark the end of his education.
As his friends at the UPR recalled, his studies really never ended. He was a
voracious reader and his interests were wide-ranging, including the arts,
science, philosophy, religion and he learned to play the organ for the
sacred music he was busy promoting.
Carlos Manuel worked as an office clerk in Caguas, Gurabo and at the
Agriculture Experiment Station, which was part of the UPR. He spent his
salary to promote an understanding of the Sacred Liturgy. Using articles on
liturgical subjects, which he translated and edited, Carlos Manuel began
publishing Liturgy and Christian Culture, a publication to
which he dedicated innumerable hours. He organized along with Father
McWilliams in Caguas a Liturgy Circle. In 1948, along with Father
McGlone he organized the Te Deum Laudamus choir. In Río Piedras, Carios was
able to achieve his desire to make Christ known among the professors and
students. As his 'disciples' grew in number, he moved with them into the
Catholic University Center and set up another Liturgy Circle (later
called the Círculo de Cultura Cristiana).
He continued his publications and also organized Christian Life Days
for the students. He insisted on the need to live the liturgy and the Easter
mystery of Christ's death and rising. He promoted the active participation
of the laity, the use of the vernacular and, most especially, the observance
of his much loved Easter Vigil, which to Charlie's delight was restored to
its midnight hour by Pope Pius XII in 1952. Carlos Manuel anticipated many
teachings of the Council, above all, of the Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum
To approach Carlos was to approach a light that deeply touched one's
life. Though Carlos' physical strength declined, his spirit never failed. He
lived each moment quietly overcoming his pain with the profound joy of one
who knows he is risen with Christ. He reminded Christians to be joyful
because they are called to live the joy and hope that Christ brought with
his resurrection. He would say, Vivimos para esa noche (W live for
the night of the Resurrection).
Following an aggressive 'life saving' surgery in March 1963 he was
diagnosed with advanced terminal rectal cancer. Near the end, he experienced
the "dark night of faith", thinking himself abandoned by God. Yet,
before dying, he rediscovered the Word he had lost and which had given sense
to his entire life. His passage to eternal life took place on 13 July 1963.
He was 44 years old.