Fr. Guanella’s Dream Fulfilled

church of St. Charles Borromeo in Genoa, WI

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Fulfilling a desire that Fr. Guanella was unable to during his visit to United States in 1912-1913, Fr. Joseph Rinaldo and I travelled  to the diocese of La Crosse, WI on May 24th. We were warmly welcomed by a good number of descendants of immigrants from the birth place of our Founder and his Alpine valley. We had the privilege of celebrating with about 80 people the Eucharist in the church of St. Charles Borromeo in Genoa, a town located on the banks of the Missisipi river where Fr. Guanella wanted to pray with his relatives and friends during his visit to America. He wrote, “At the Chicago rail station I read the train destinations located in Wisconsin and Illinois. Vivid memories of my family and home land rushed into my mind. I recalled my aunt who lived in Genoa and died there at the age of 97 still perfectly healthy. I remembered  my cousin Anthony who was the first benefactor of our institution in Pianello. I remembered my cousins and priests Francis and Augustine Zaboglio. I also recalled Fr. Gabriel Momo who, when in his thirties, I was able to send Genoa as its first pastor through the help of St. John Bosco. Because of lack of time I was unable to visit my relatives there and pray at their tombs…”

How blessed we felt when after 100 years, we were able to fulfill the dream of the founder. After mass in Genoa that this year recalls the 150th anniversary of the first Eucharist celebrated in their mission post, we enjoyed a short play prepared by the school children of the local parish and a simple lunch offered by the local people. It was particularly touching to walk through the nearby  cemetry and pray over the tombs of migrants from the mountains of our Saint. Our visit to Wisconsin also gave us the opportunity to meet the family of a distant relative of St. Guanella who will be ordained deacon this year in Rome. A bridge of friendship has been built between the Guanellian communities in US and the families in the La Crosse Diocese. Divine Providence will certainly suggest how to strengthen this network of frienship and solidarity in the spirit and memory of St. Louis Guanella.

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