Anbagam Celebrates Independence

Sivagangai – August 15th was a memorable day not only for India but also for Anbagam. A solemn Mass was celebrated for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Independence Day of our nation. The house superior Fr. Kulandai and director Fr. Paul Francis were the celebrants. After Mass the good children celebrated Independence Day. Sr. Jotika, principal of Idhaya Women’s Arts and Science College from Sarugani, was the honorable Chief Guest and was given a warm welcome by the community. A parade of good children showing their patriotism by holding our national flag in their hands led Sr. Jothika to hoist the flag. She delivered a thought provoking speech by quoting Gandhi and telling them they are all gifted children with many abilities. She reminded them to be grateful for the care given by the Guanellian fathers who offer their whole life for their welfare alone. She also implored them to listen to the teachers who are guiding and teaching them values. And lastly she told them to always be happy that God is with them to protect and guide them. And she distributed sweets to all our good children. The oath was recited by the children and the national anthem was sung to close the program. Sr. Jothika spent time visiting with the children.

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Freedom and Self-Discipline

For the first time in my life, I did not carry any books to read on my journey. There were works to be completed as I was going to visit different communities. On the way back home, I was stuck! So many hours of travel…and no company to talk to, no book to read, no Ipod to listen to! How long to do the self-talk! My mind was driving me crazy…with an uncontrolled flood of unnecessary and wasteful thoughts. I was strongly regretting my decision of not carrying any books to pass the time.
In the meantime, a voice from within whispered, “You are fed up with hearing the sounds…why don’t you listen to the SILENCE for a change? Enough watching the sights and focusing on the invisible SPACE between!” And behold…a new world began to emerge altogether! The deeper I dived, the stronger it pulled me in. My mind had gone blank! And here in this space, I was merging into the heart of the cosmos…no more me-thou, but one! The experience of being complete…being fulfilled…being peaceful…and being filled with bliss! Indeed it was causeless happiness at an experiential level! Here I found ‘the missing rib’…the single solution to all the problems, whatsoever! And then, the rest of the journey was in complete grace!
In the global village which we live in today all distance is set at zero. But at the same time freedom is the main concept we have to understand well. It is the absence of undue restriction and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers. It may refer to freedom of conscience, religion, education, speech and political freedom.
The Emmy Award-winning Hispanic actor, Ricardo Montalban of the last century, affirms the natural affinity between freedom and discipline. He says, “Only through self-discipline can we achieve true freedom”. And he uses the analogy of water and a cup: “pour water into a cup, and you can drink. Without the cup, the water would splash all over. The cup is discipline.” Freedom is not the right to do as a person pleases, but the liberty to do as he ought. Freedom is best when it is reasonably restrained and rationally made use of.
As we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption, she gives us the message of total liberation through her “Magnificat” both on a personal as well social level. As St. Ambrose once said in referring to this wonderful prayer, “Let Mary’s soul be in us to glorify the Lord; let her spirit be in us that we may rejoice in God our Savior.”
Fr. Soosai Rathinam

The Far-Reaching Dreams of Fr. Guanella

Fr. Guanella first dreamed of beginning his charity march northward into German speaking Grison (the easternmost canton in Switzerland), but for him, the Alpine barrier was too narrow. He dreamed of other ways for his daughters and sons to expand, and in 1903, went on a pilgrimage to Damas, Palestine, showing us the way to Asia. Then in 1912 he came to Germany, and shortly after that blessed visit, he journeyed to the United States in 1913 to visit the Italian immigrants who were there asking for help. In a certain way, he had drawn a master itinerary for where his missionaries needed to move and establish new shelters of charity!
According to his letters published in the Divine Providence Newsletter of Sept. 1912,  he was invited to participate in the International Marian Congress, held in the former capital of the Western Roman Empire. At the end of his intervention he addressed the assembly of Marianists, and implored his Patroness, Holy Mary of Providence, to channel a generous flow of funds to his numerous institutions, celebrating them during the days the Silver Jubilée. This was a clear revelation of his German Dream, dreamed since the first years of his priesthood, and looking northward from his native Alps. During that stay he visited the Cathedral where the Empress Helena brought the Tunic of Jesus in 312 C.E., which also contains splinters from the Holy Cross. He then visited the birth place of St. Ambrose, the Porta Nigra (city gate), and many first Christian churches.
His dream started to become reality, exactly five years after his physical presence on German soil, on January 20, 1917. His brilliant inspiration of the Prayer Chain for a Good Death arrived in the former German region of Alsace. The present German Pious Union of St. Joseph Confraternity moved in January 1920 to the Black Forest, and from there it expanded into neighboring countries. Because of its continuous growth, the St. Joseph Daughters became the hidden hand of Holy Providence during the slow march of the former Guanellian alumni into Germany.
From the St. Trudpert Abbey, our Procure is still receiving generous donations for the new Good Samaritan Pharmacy at our disability center in Manila. Sister Bernita has also entirely financed the printing of our first German biography of Fr. Guanella. Since the arrival of our confreres at Pforzheim in 2014, we began searching for aspirants among both ethnicities in order to stick with our expansion efforts elsewhere in Germany. The selection of collaborators to become friends of the Guanellian family always takes place at Guanellian House, the Lombardos home. This photograph shows the promising members of our newly founded German Guanellian Lay Movement, (GLM), under a German flag and the laughing eyes of our Founder. On July 16th a group of eleven aspirants of the GLM received the devotional scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel in the small Italian community of Friolzheim.
Our daily work here has concentrated on reactivating old contacts. We have received no further projects from our DPP Missions in India/Philippines, but we can only help others if we receive projects for submission. When that happens, attentive follow-up will occur through our generous Catholic solidarity agencies like Missio/Munich and Kindermision/Aachen.
As we approach the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, I am reminded that Nov. 1, 1950 was an unforgettable day for me as an altarboy taking part in a unique procession behind the gestatorial chair of Pope Pius XII in front of a half million believers in St. Peter‘s Square. The celebration was an appeal for peace following the destruction of WWII.
May God’s Protection, implored by our Patroness and our Saints, Louis and Clara, accompany all of us, and reinforce our spirit and hearts for a new loving charity season! Remain blessed, and remember that we are here, waiting with confidence for any future requests.
Gero Lombardo Guanellian German Procure

Religious…Lovers of True Freedom

In India, our former “people’s” President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, died on July 27th when he was addressing the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong. Collapsing on the stage in the middle of his speech due to cardiac arrest, he died and left us his heart and vision. He was an ‘Inspirational Leader’ known for his warmth and humility as well as his simple, special love for children and youth. He spoke on leadership and said “let me define a leader. He must have vision and passion and not be afraid to defeat any problem. Most importantly, he must work with integrity.” The entire nation mourned and paid their last respects to him because of the loss of a great man who worked constantly for peace, harmony, religious freedom and the dignity of all human beings.
What lies behind every religious person? We all have our religious vows but do we have an ardent love for the person of Jesus Christ and His kingdom? Today, in our living context, surrendering oneself and dedicating oneself wholeheartedly is becoming very difficult. Jesus says, “leave everything and follow me,” and only this burning love for Him can sustain our religious vocation, but we are with many driving forces like possessions, attachments, attitudes, and lifestyles; clearly in contradiction with our public commitment.
What is the source of Jesus’ freedom? None other than ‘evangelical values;’ His genuine freedom from responsibility, who fought against the routine of ritualism, and his strong belief in the unconditional love of the Father.
The principle of freedom, as St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Henceforth, through our religious commitment, we experience freedom, values and priorities because freedom is for service.
As we rejoice with the celebration of the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who had a freedom to love God and liberate people with a pure heart, may she be our model of true freedom and protect and promote inter-religious harmony and universal brotherhood!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam

FREEDOM OF HEART

Fr. Soosai Rathinam, SdC

As India prepares to solemnly celebrate its 67th Independence Day in a grand manner, filling each and every citizen of the country with pride; let us take a moment to consider the current state of the world. We continue to advance in technology, scientific research, space exploration, reproductive technology, the accumulation of weapons, nuclear arms race, missile race and launching satellites into space for various reasons. There is excessive use of mass media communications via the internet and cloud technology. People die every day as a result of natural calamities such as floods, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes and so on. There is a degradation of the moral identity of human beings, their image and likeness to God is thrown into the dust bin because many treat others as sub-human beings. Equality, fraternity and justice has lost its flavor; sadism, cruelty, assassination, murder, rape, terrorism, hijacking and other malpractices have the “ball in their own court” and people are flocking towards it.

At this juncture, our beloved pope, in his first encyclical letter Lumen Fidei, says, “Only love can strengthen our faith. Our hearts are imprisoned, our human minds are corrupted, our emotions are massacred and humaneness is broken, so it is the appropriate time to have a freedom of heart as St. Paul said beautifully, “let us bear one another’s burden because we have come to fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6,2).

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin MaryHoly Mother Church rejoices with the celebration of the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who conquered the world by her love, simplicity and total surrender to the will of God. That’s why she was taken up to heaven with her body and soul. Therefore, our beloved mother teaches us to choose freedom of heart in order to orient ourselves fully and absolutely to broken humanity and our founder would say to “Those who cry, ‘I have no one,’” let us turn our hearts as a beacon to radiate the light of faith and to show love in fullness to broken humanity. This is the gift we offer to the whole world which is in an arms race rather than the race of love. “Let us have one heart and one mind” (Acts 4,32) to resolve the annihilating methods of mind and to have the heart of love which led the freedom fighters of India to shed their blood for India’s independence and the love of Mary who watched her son shed his blood on the cross to redeem us from the slavery of sin. Let us come out of our “locked-up” mentality and become universal lovers.

My heartfelt wishes go to the 12 New Evangelizers from the Divine Providence Province who will be ordained on August 6th! What a blessing while, at the same time, a great responsibility! “It is good for us to be here”- the awesome experience of the disciples! There is hope for all of us as God has promised his abiding presence. Thus, we have the assurance in Jesus Christ that the twelve will become Holy and Humble Priests in the vineyard of the Lord!

A Lifelong Walk Under the Shadow of the Papacy

Seminarian Gero Lombardo 1958

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Germany – I believe that the unexpected change in our papacy has magnetized not only Christians worldwide, but also Hindus, Buddists and even Muslims. I have experienced this spiritual suspense and magic spirituality through the many wishes I’ve received from my former business partners in all of those countries. During the endless media reports, I could have fallen into a trance, because the steps of my unique Guanellian period were projected on the white screen of time. I was aware of the process for having undertaken this journey with many holy confreres under the guidance of eight popes.

Baptized in 1936 under Pius XI, I undertook my seminarian journey under Pius XII, and for a Holy Year, I was an altar boy at St. Peter’s Basilica. On Nov.1st, I assisted the pope very closely during the proclamation of the Dogma for Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. I was a novice then, and in 1955 I made my first profession. During my philosophy studies, I met the former Cardinal Montini several times. Before the death of Pius XII, I was selected as an assistant in 1958 at our minor seminary in Anzano/Como. Montini became Pope Paul VI in 1963.

During one of his pastoral visits to the parish of Angera, Italy between 1954-57, I was introduced to him as Our first flower from Sicily. He looked at me with paternal and scrutinizing eyes, and told me You could become a good priest! Was he really wrong? But God had other plans for me. I remembered his words on December 9,1960 when I left Barza in civilian clothes and my dream remained hanging on the gate of Guanella House; the cradle and anchor for many of us during that period.

Later one my classmates and best friends, Fr. Dominic Frantellizzi, brought me back to my Guanellian roots. This conversion was for me a little Damascus path. After all of those experiences I had the chance to visit Latin America many times between 1972-2003, from Mexico to Patagonia. And each time searching for my mentors, who one after the other, demanded to be sent to South America. Frs. Fontana, Frontini, Bordoni, Della Morte, Zanella, Ostinelli, Chinaglia, Pizzuto, Terzaghi, Maffioli and many others, were always on my travel schedule every time I visited customers there. This gave me the opportunity to witness terrible poverty existing alongside incredible wealth. The impact was so massive that I made up my mind to invest the rest of my life contributing to programs in the Americas, Africa, the Arabic World and Asia for reducing poverty, abandonment and illness.

Argentina was my favorite country not only because more then 20 million people have Italian roots there, but also because I found my ideal habitat there. From 1976 on, I was frequently in Buenos Aires and visited our confreres often in the principle community of St. Joseph Church.

Now you ask, what has all this to do with Pope Francis? Very much I would say, because our structure in Avenida Castro was under the jurisdiction of the bishop’s office. Flores is one of the three ecclesial districts of Buenos Aires, and Bishop Jorge had been the auxiliary bishop there since 1992. Therefore he visited our parish, boarding school and disabled center on many occasions. I never met him personally, but after his election as Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, I immediately questioned some of my contacts in Argentina, Rome and Northen Italy where my former pupils and philosophy classmates still provide the continuity of the Guanellian charism among our assisted patrons. So in a short time I gathered both witnesses and pictures. I’ll try to create a small mosaic using the short stories I learned from many long time friends of Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was a very closed friend of the Guanellians in Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

My former pupil, Fr. Angelo Gottardi, spent many decades in South America, mostly in Argentina, where he had been a National Delegate for some time. He and Fr. Silvio Sperotto, a long time former vicar priest at St. Joseph Church, served under the rule of H.E Bergoglio. Bishop Jorge used to arrive on the colectivo bus at the parish where he often consumed very frugal meals with our disabled or elderly residents. Often he also helped to feed them. He always refused ostentatious or ornamental clothes, and he never carried a golden cross. Even since his election to the papacy he wears only a simple iron Cross as his pectoral. Fr Silvio was often surprised at how tender Bishop Bergoglio was in dealing with the poor of his parish and with our disabled. I also believe that most of the contents of his homily during his official introduction on March 19, 2013 had clearly shown many aspects of the Guanellian charism that he would have absorbed during his long guidance of the Diocese of Flores/Buenos Aires, and his frequent contacts with many of our confreres at St Joseph Parish, Tapiales Seminary and our elderly home. These were some of his main points:

  • Charity, love and respect each single neighbor
  • Respect the poor, with the sensibility and responsibility to help
  • Use social engagement and personal support to resolve political conflicts
  • Have compassionate patience for those who are feeble
  • Develop a constant personal aptitude to forgive every day, every time, and everybody
  • Create a deep devotion to God, Mother Mary and her true husband St. Joseph

It was not purely that he wished to start his mission as Pope on St. Joseph’s feast day because he firmly believed in St. Louis Guanella as the Patron of our congregations.  It was because he, like John Paul II desired to draw our attention to the figure of the Holy Patriarch of the whole Church and silent cooperator of the divine plan of the redemption of Humanity.

I am firmly convinced that Pope Francis is a great gift for the Catholic Church and for our Congregation. We pray that God, through the intercession of Holy Mary and Saint Joseph, finds the force and perseverance to reform our Church and bring her to believers. Opening the moldy rooms, the encrusted windows, and demolishing useless gates and prohibitions! What we need is a Church where fresh air can circulate and permit everyone to breathe the presence of God.

My firm desire now is to organize a pilgrimage from Germany to the Vatican and apply for a general audience with Pope Francis for our cosmopolitan community in the MCI of Pforzheim where Germans share faith, love of God, and fraternity with Italians, Romanians and….many Argentinians who almost three decades ago, came to our Region to find work and friends. This would finally conclude the circle of my life in the shadow of the Papacy. If I ever have the chance to meet Pope Francis, I will still have just one regret. That I could not meet Pope Pius XI because I was too young, and Pope John Paul I, because his pontificate was mysteriously interrupted during one of my visits to Uruguay and Argentina in 1978.

Sometimes I think back to the unforgettable moments of my twelve months of service as an altar boy in the center of Christianity; Saint Peter’s Church, which was somehow my cradle. After my brief silence, I would like to use the media window of our Divine Providence Province to wish everyone a grace filled rest from our present Lent. Let us open our hearts and prepare our souls to sing at the Easter Saturday Resurrection! Christ our Redeemer arose from his horrifying death on the Cross because the mercy of God is infinite! Misericordia Domini infinita est!

Gero Lombardo, German Guanellian Procure

Baptism: Birth into God’s Family

Manila – On August 15th the Servants of Charity community celebrated not only the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also the birth of five special children into God’s family through the sacrament of Baptism. The Holy Mass was celebrated by the Provincial Superior himself, Fr. Luigi De Giambattista. The five newly baptized special children are: Bernie, JP (after Blessed John Paul II, as per Fr. Luigi), Ronnie, Josephand Lito. Father Luigi focused his homily on the role of godfathers and godmothers in the absence or in place of the parents. He stressed the guiding principles; that the responsibility of the godparents is not merely the “pakimkim (gifts)” that they will give to their “inaanak (godchild)”.

Truly, God shows His love and grace through the sacraments. Thank you Lord for constantly inviting us into Your family, for calling us to be Your sons and daughters. Amen.

News from Germany

Germany – It was not quite time for our vacation so we kept our staff and cooperators busy by packing and loading relief goods which, in cooperation with the Lazarus Order, are being shipped to Romania.  Some of them are designated for the Guanellian sisters in Jasi and Scheia, Romania. During the annual vacation we invited our cooperators  to our regional garden show which this year was held in the charming little city of Nagold in the Black Forest, Folk music, cold beer and blonde ladies in traditional costume were the highlights for our German and Italian friends; we ended the day with a pizza dinner.

This year we assisted with the celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With the German ladies of our parish, we collected herbs in the neighboring fields and gardens and made fresh flower bouquets. More than 100 bouquets were placed before the beautiful altar in Saint Magdalena  Basilica, the mother Church of the Guanellian Procura and of the St. Lazarus Knights. In the near future we’ll celebrate our meetings and religious festivities. Although it is not a civil holiday, for the Catholic population of our district, it is a great event. The flower bouquets were offered to those present. Small donations were collected for the Baby Hospital of Bethlehem, proof that after 2000 years no Catholic believer forgets the Holy Child, son of the Blessed Virgin on the annual feast of her Assumption into Heaven. This ceremony brought me back to November 1, 1950 when, as a young seminarian in Rome, I attended the proclamation of this important Dogma by Pope Pius XII. At that time at least fifteen Guanellian seminarians were serving Mass in Saint Peter‘s Basilica;  we stood behind the Baldachin of the Pontiff in front of more than 150,000 pilgrims from around the world. Just 5 years after the end of World War II.What an opportunity! I still thank the Lord and his  Beloved Mother for having granted me such a privilege!

Since the world  cannot be changed simply with empty words after the Assumption Mass, the cooperators gathered to discuss the so called “Don Mimi Testament.” He wrote to the German Procura just fifteen days before he died revealing his deepest wish: starting a project for children of lepers in Mindanao, Philippines. The project will be submitted on October 12th to Kinder Mission at Aachen, who made many donations to Guanellian projects in Legapzi and Mexico City in 2011.

May Mary of Nazareth cover all our benefactors, cooperators  and  supporters  under her protective mantle during this blessed and relaxing time.

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