Penso spesso a don Mimì, a quanto ha significato nella mia vita fin da quando ben 33 anni fa varcavo le soglie dell’amata Provincia. La sua fede, la sua semplicità, i discorsi importanti che facevamo nei ritagli di tempo nel suo ufficio, le andate e i ritorni dall’aereoporto quando sempre entusiasta come un bambino mi raccontava del suo ultimo viaggio. All’ospedale Santo Spirito ha chiuso gli occhi a mio padre morto giovane e mia madre ancora ricorda la profondità di quell’attimo così importante perché intriso di fede profonda. Quando ci scrivevamo via mail dalle Filippine mi raccontava del dono che il Signore gli aveva fatto e che malgrado l’età si era ancora fidato di lui. Gli aneddoti che puntualmente mi raccontava su Padre Pio che aveva conosciuto personalmente e che gli aveva profetizzato la sua storia sacerdotale, ancora risuonano nella mia mente e nel mio cuore.
La Congregazione che è opera di Dio poggia saldamente la sua storia e la sua profezia sui santi sacerdoti che l’hanno accompagnata e che l’accompagnano ogni giorno.
Sentivo il bisogno di condividere questo semplice pensiero.
Da Manila e dalle comunita' Delegazione Stella Maris, un particolare ricordo di Don Mimì, carico di affetto e riconscenza.
Let us remember with deep gratitude this joyful confrere and treasure his legacy.
Ten years ago, exactly on July 11, 2011, our dear Fr. Mimì went back home to the Father from our Quezon City community in the Philippines , the mother house of our guanellian mission in the Far East Asia. It was a sudden departure that caught us all by surprise, and left us dismayed and certainly unprepared to say good bye to a confrere who ,in spite of his white hair and his no longer young age, was not giving any signs of particular fatigue or illness . He truly died in ‘the trench’, quietly , peacefully , going home to his and our God whom he had loved passionately and served faithfully in a variety of roles and tasks assigned to him and always embraced with deep faith and admirable availability.
Sister death visited him late that afternoon, while he was preparing to give a talk to a group of young seminarians and praying with the community in our Tandang Sora Formation House. It was the feast of St. Benedict , whose well know motto ‘ora et labora’ has certainly inspired Fr. Mimi’, constantly focused on giving himself with youthful enthusiasm for the growth of the Kingdom and the development of the congregation.
Personally, I will never forget the moment the sad news reached us right after the morning Eucharistic celebration in our East Providence parish in Rhode Island where I was visiting our USA communities. Rushing back with a heavy heart to Manila was the longest and most painful trip that brought me home after more than 48 hours to celebrate, in the middle of the night, the Holy Mass alone in our small seminary chapel, looking at him , a father , a teacher , an older brother and zealous missionary, whose beautiful soul was resting in the Lord’s hands and whose lifeless body was there, lying at the side of the altar and the tabernacle… as a flower unexpectedly picked from the earth only to be transplanted in the garden of paradise.
An unforgettable encounter, a long silent dialogue, a night loaded with emotions, memories, inspirations, lots of open questions but also of grateful prayers…
On this tenth Anniversary of Fr. Mimì departure for heaven, allow me to share what I recall of the second ‘wake’ held in the Good Shepherd Church within our International seminary in Rome. A prayer vigil before his funeral and the burial of his body in the same grave where his other two brothers and guanellian priests were already resting. More recently even the last one in the family, his dear guanellian sister Giulietta was also placed to rest in God’s peace, in the same site.
Let me first quote the words expressed by the then Superior General Fr. Alfonso Crippa in receiving the sad news of Fr. Mimì death:
“Don Mimì carries to the Lord, besides the merits of his virtuous life, a considerable period of the history of our Congregation that has entrusted to him important responsibilities of animation and governance.
We can say that a large number of confreres have received much from him: his love for the Founder and for the Congregation; his enthusiasm in dreaming and aiming high at more challenging endeavours in favour of the poor; his missionary zeal ,kept alive till the last day of his life…”
A simple way of painting, with a few brush strokes, the portrait of this exemplary confrere who volunteered to come to our shores as missionary at the age of 78 but still young at heart and constantly open to new calls and adventures.
During his wake, after the proclamation of scriptural passages, we all paused to listen to Don Mimì himself speaking to us through some of his recent communications and fraternal letters.
Here what he was writing from his new home, the community of Tandang Sora, Quezon City, Philippines, a few months after his arrival:
“Here I am feeling like a grandfather among the little ones. I follow a catechesis group, I visit the sick, I listen a lot. My main task is in the formation field as novice master and by offering my contribution to the seminary community, through short conferences, liturgical celebrations, personal dialogue and gospel sharing sessions. Frequently I enjoy playing with our “special children”, a dozen of them living at the side of the seminary. Every evening we pray the rosary together. One thing that I particularly like is the initiative of spreading ourselves in small groups every Friday of the month of October to pray the Virgin Mary with the poor families who surround our compound. These are precious opportunities to weave friendship and share faith, to come in touch with the real struggles of our people and offer in simplicity some guidance and assistance. A wide pastoral ministry is open to us. I am a priest with white hair, from Europe, coming from the birth place of Padre Pio. All these details seem to attract our people sympathy. They come for confessions. I make myself available also to help some communities of sisters who live nearby and who are also involved in mission work. It is a wonderful resource of joy this fraternal cooperation that overflows in a variety of services toward our people. At times, some families come to invite me simply to pray with them or bless their home. I am living perhaps the most joyful season of my priestly life. I am happy and thank the Lord for this grace of spending a portion of my years in mission, as friend and priest a mong poor, humble and often marginalized people… The Gospel must be proclaimed, made accessible to more and more people in this huge continent where sixty per cent of humanity lives, but where only a tiny portion has received the Good News. I feel this as prophetic urgency that opens up huge horizons to the mission of evangelization. On my part, considering my limitations, I have already answered: Let us go!
Let us catch another glimpse of his beautiful soul and vibrant missionary passion by reading again a message sent to the Provincial Superior and confreres of India, just a week before his sudden death.
“Today is July 3 and it is for me a great anniversary. Twenty five years ago the Lord allowed us to start a wonderful work of Providence in your nation. As today, the first confrere was lending in India and precisely in Madras: Fr. Tito Credaro who since then has always supported and encouraged our missionary endeavours in your land. He landed in India accompanied by John Bosco, exactly on the solemn Feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle. Since then the Lord has kept blessing us with graces and gifts of vocations, of new homes and fields of apostolate.
Looking back at this past 25 years we may read more clearly God’s plans in the recent past as well as for the present and future, his projects for each one and for our religious family. You have a mission to accomplish in the world and particularly in Asia. Many poor are waiting for you to receive “bread and the Lord”….
My gratitude to you is sincere and deep. I thank you for your generous freedom that makes you available to fly out of your nest even toward faraway lands , wherever the Lord of history calls you entrusting to you new fields of work. Allow me at the closing of this message to express to you wholeheartedly a wish:
Be worthy of your vocation! Put at the center of your heart the Gospel of Jesus; do not have other ambitions than giving glory to God and save souls, beginning from the least ones, the poor of the Lord. OK? Fraternal greetings. Ciao. Yours, Fr. Dominic.”
A third and the last inspirational message flows from Fr Mimi’s heart the moment he was about to turn over his responsibilities as servant- leader of the Roman Religious Province of St Joseph to the new set of elected confreres.
“In this circumstance of transferring responsibilities I invite all of you to an act of faith and prayer. We are men of faith, marked by the evangelical experience since the beginning of our life. It is from this perspective of faith that I kindly solicit you to look at and examine everything: time, persons, the concrete context in which we are inserted, particularly the situations and events in which we are involved…. Undoubtedly we may live this transitional moment with a variety of sentiments: a sense of fraternity, trust, serenity as well as a determination and commitment not to disappoint either the Lord or his people with their expectations….
Above all we like to share a spirit of gratitude for the good that the Lord has allowed us to do and that he will continue to entrust to us.
It is for us a time for a new starting toward new goals; to engage ourselves in building new bridges and facing new apostolic challenges. We will never be sufficiently grateful to Divine Providence who continues to put her trust in us. Another sentiment that I want to share is the humble joy for what has been so far accomplished as well as for the work still layng ahead of us already indicated by the divine benevolence…
Our point of strength: Charity!
We exist in the Church and we are sent into the world because of Charity. Our name speaks clearly of that. Our official title is indeed “Congregatio servorum a Charitate”. What is the exact meaning of “a Charitate”? Usually we translate it: “Servants of Charity” but what we should stress is precisely the spring, the source. We are originated “by Charity”, we were born out of Charity: our Founder has stressed that clearly. Our springs are in “Deus Charitas
est” . We are born out of the heart of Christ; we are sons of the Sacred Heart. Fruits of the infinite Love of the Father, we exist to become servants and witnesses of his Love. This is our essential identity and the key for any planning of our formation, our prayer style, our charitable ministries, our fraternal communion. That is the essential of our vocation! There is something of absolute value in this original connection with the Love who has generated us. That is our precious stone, never to lose nor hide. If we lose Charity we lose everything; our hands remain empty, and empty becomes also our heart.
We must be fully aware of this and invest in this all our own selves in order to be true images of God-Charity, by living charity, by serving, celebrating, proclaiming it. In Omnibus Charitas! “
Dear Confreres in proposing to each community a simple but meaningful commemoration of our dear Fr. Mimì, I have chosen to give him the microphone and let him speak again, heart to heart, to us.
Many of us may cherish precious and personal memories of their encounter with this joyful and zealous confrere. Some of us, like me, may even connect the origin of his guanellian vocation with the contagious enthusiasm radiating from his child-like smile and captivating benevolence. Others, both religious and lay people, may remember Fr. Mimi’s simple paternal or fraternal advice and encouragement to persevere in their commitments and re discover the meaning of life as a gift and a mission.
We are all aware that the best way to express our affection and gratitude to him is to recall his exemplary life as a happy, dedicated, faithful and zealous missionary \disciple of Jesus who fell in love with Saint Guanella’s charism and spent his entire life not only in sharing his deep knowledge of the founder’s spirituality, but first of all in spreading the fragrance of his love for God and the poor through a daily, credible witnessing and contagious enthusiasm.
Thank you Don Mimì for passing through our islands, in humility and simplicity, sowing also here in our Far East missions, the good seeds of the Gospel. To you who have beautifully mirrored to us the Good Shepherd and Good Samaritan, we entrust in prayer our communities, our ministry and particularly the joyful perseverance in our vocation. You have closed your eyes in Manila, thinking and dreaming about new initiatives of charity and new frontiers for our guanellian mission.
With all our heart: Grazie! Salamat po! Thank you! Cảm ơn cha!
Keep knocking, on behalf of the whole guanellian family, at the heart of Jesus and Mary. And help us to keep alive in us your legacy and the Founder’s program: in Omnibus Charitas!