“The Word was made flesh
and dwelt among us!” (Jn 1,14)
“We thank You for counting us worthy to stand in Your presence and serve You!”
(from the II Euch. Prayer)
My dear Brothers,
Today I’m celebrating my priesthood. It is 40 years ago since the Bishop laid his hands on me.
In fact on the 23rd December 1965, Mons. Luigi Mostalilini, surrounded by 36 priests, laid their hands on
me. We were at the high mountain village of Lodrino in the north of Italy.
My ordination was the first to be performed at the parish church, dedicated to St. Vigilius, the martyr. The church was full of guests who were there to witness this historical event. That moment made a very deep impression on me that has lasted to this day.
My dear brothers, I would like to share my own philosophy of what is priesthood or what is a priest?
I believe that today we have to proclaim our faith in the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ, and the one simple offering he made of himself as priest for our redemption. All I can say about myself is that for 40 years I have tried to offer my humanity in the service of the church, as a priest. I sincerely believe that the sacrament of ordination “priesthood” is simply this: the priesthood of Christ is made visible and touchable in the humanity of an ordinary individual. The priesthood of Christ is the invisible grace, and the humanity of an ordained priest is the visible sign of Christ’s priesthood. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!” ( Jn 1, 14 )
I would like to give you my description of my own humanity. All I can say is that the priesthood of Christ is my humanity, and the humanity is made up of the influences, the inspirations, and the communion of countless people who have come into my life. This includes you too, my brothers, with your prayers, community life and support.
Physically, of course, my humanity is the product of a man and the woman “my parents” Maffeo and Maria. The physical side you can see before you. But the mental, emotional and spiritual gifts that my parents gave me are really what count.
It was my mother who thought me to love prayer and adoration; to be an altar server and to have a high respect for the Superiors. She used to say to me “ They have the light of the Holy Spirit”.
It was my mother, on the evening of my ordination, on the way to the local parish, who asked me “Are you happy to be ordained?” I replied, ‘’Yes, mother, I am happy to be ordained.”
My father was something else. He had a great sense of reality. During my short holidays my father called me to work with him. He said to me “You will learn where food comes from!"
The unconditional love of my parents, the support of my 4 brothers and 4 sisters, their integrity as human being and their dynamic faith as Catholics are to a big extent responsible for moulding me into the person I am today. We have always been and we remain close.
There are countless other people who with their humanity have helped to shape mine. There are some whose names I would like to mention. My parish priest who brought me to the seminary on the 24th Oct.1950, It was the same priest who prepared the altar for my ordination. Fr. Luigi Baronio, a mature vocation, always said to me:’’ while you are in the seminary you must study and ,but I’m going to teach you a very practical side of the life of the priest”. While he was saying this he handed me a broom to clean the church.
After my ordination I was appointed as the vocational animator at Gambettola ,a region of Italy. The region was under the communist party regime. I must say that during that time in my life there were many people who taught me the meaning of justice and work. As a result, the message of Pope Paul VI has always been in my mind and in my life : “ If you want to be good, be ‘just first.”. As a vocational animator each year I had to find about 20 boys of 11 years of age for the seminary. This seven years experience explains why I have such deep love for the young children. The creches I have opened in Osizweni show my love for children so that they can be protected and cared for.
On 1st February 1976 I came to South Africa. My philosophy and theology studies gave me the foundation and knowledge of my Catholic faith, but the practical way of thinking as the missionary and as a builder of the Kingdom of God had its foundation in my last year of theology.
One of my professors Fr. Francis Pavese, the Rector of our theology Seminary in Turin, put me thinking as to what should be the main project in my life as a priest; that is as a religious and as a missionary priest. In simple words everything we choose to do we must have a plan or a vision of where we would like to go.
Here in S. A. also I would like to acknowledge the benefit derived from the courses offered by Lumko. These courses clarified my vision and the goal I should always have in order to focus on my pastoral plan..
I have tried to touch on and to point out some people and events which helped me to devote my life to the service of the people of God.
There is another vital aspect that affected my humanity and that is the social and political context in which I lived. Sixteen years of my life were lived in apartheid South Africa and the social and political conditions in which I lived made me realise that I should live my life in ministry to the poor and oppressed African people. This missionary vision was shattered completely when two men in Piet Retief stapped and robbed me. It was only my commitment for the poor and the oppressed that helped me to overcome the suffering and to rebuild my life.
At that time, you, my brothers, were there for me to help on rebuilding my confidence when I thought that it was too much for me to handle. You helped me to renew my zeal to spend all my life as a missionary to the people that were and are still entrusted to me.
What I have shared with you are a few names of people and a few events that have enhanced my humanity during the forty years that I have offered to the priesthood of Christ. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!” (Jn 1,14)
As St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Hebrews we are “WITH THIS GREAT CROWD OF WITNESSES AROUND US, THEREFORE, …WE MUST RUN THE RACE WHICH LIES AHEAD OF US WITH OUR EYES FIXED ON JESUS”
And my dear brothers, in conclusion I would like to say let us keep our eyes fixed on: “ Jesus who will bring all things to completion” (Hb. 12:1 -2) in a thangiving spirit: “We thank You for counting us worthy to stand in Your presence!” (Eu II) Amen!
(Personal reflection given to his Brothers: Consolata Missionaries in Damesfontein Mission)