By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
I was ordained on December 21, 1967. The preparations, the emotions and the reality of the priesthood lifted me to another planet. I felt like a jumping robot moving from one event to another, one celebration to another. The Christmas holidays made the days even more crowded.
The New Year brought me back to the reality and the consciousness of having been ordained a priest and all the duties and responsibilities connected to it. I was so happy. I felt so blessed and tried to imagine my future life, duties and assignments. My parents and relatives treated me like an extraterrestrial. The celebrations were over and I was prepared to report to my superior. I was still preparing when I got a letter from my superior. Thirty five words told me to report to the Mother House and prepare myself to move to the United States as soon as possible. I could not believe it! What happened to my dreams, my teaching certificates? My degrees, my languages! I did not know a word of English as opposed to Italian, French and Spanish. These are not my fathers, they are my torturers! Why are they punishing me? What happened to charity, compassion, human understanding? These were my feelings: anger, discouragement and a sense of emptiness.
And so, incapable of understanding my emptiness, I arrived in the United States. I knew no one. I felt lonely and isolated. And where was God in my suffering? In Philadelphia I had the grace to meet Bishop Sheen. I remember his words: “I am glad you are not spiritually comatose. It is normal to question and to doubt when you are hurting and feeling vulnerable. You have to look deeper inside, seek out the place of faith in your heart and re-examine the promises of your ordination and the vows of your religious life. God does not promise you will never suffer; life is joy and sorrow. However God does promise to remain with you in your suffering. Bishop Sheen asked me to reconnect that invisible cord that bonded me to God. I soon found my connection with God. My job was to take care of forty children with intellectual and physical disabilities. They quickly understood that I needed more help than they did. They kindly and gently told me where everything was located. They taught me the English words of items and things. They showed how things were done and what my job was. They became the greatest gift God gave me. I loved them like they were my children. They stopped calling me ‘Father’ but Joe, and I loved it. I learned in this way that God stays with us even when the road gets rocky. When you reach those dark and rough places, doubt can still creep in. God doesn’t abandon us. If we remain open and allow God to enter our pain, we can experience God’s compassionate presence. God touches us through other people.
As I sat with Bishop Sheen, crying and distraught, he suddenly got up from his chair, dropped to one knee in front of me, and just put his arms around me. I held on tightly. That comfort, that healing touch of love, was just what I needed.
I am so grateful to Bishop Sheen and the special children who continued to show me their love. In time I also learned that their love was God’s love. Fifty years later I am so grateful and happy for giving all my life caring for special children. They were God’s messengers who taught me to love and how to love by understanding that God is love and wants us to exchange this love with Him.
Fr. Furaha Ntasamaye, a young diocesan priest in Tanzania, through his own initiative scoured Europe to obtain substantial contributions to help care for almost 250disabled girls and boys in a very vast region of West Tanzania.
This is the first Guanellian settlement in this beautiful country.
Gero Lombardo, German Guanellian Procure
Chennai – Extending charity is the realization of the kingdom of God. Therefore in view of realizing the presence of the kingdom of God, Don Guanella Special School laid the foundation stone for the Residential Home for the Special Children on February 12th in the presence of Most Rev. Anthony Samy, Bishop of Kumbakonam; Fr. Gustavo DeBonis, General Secretary; and Fr. Soosai Rathinam, Provincial Superior. Fr. Soosai made a special request for the spiritual and material support of the project to all present. The celebration closed with Marian sentiments.
Chennai – “Charity is the best weapon by which we can take actions similar to God”. Don Guanella Special School held ‘Food Fest’ on Feb 5th to raise funds and awareness for the special children. The event, which was held at Don Guanella Major Seminary, started with a prayer dance followed by an introduction of the project for the special children. Approximately 2000 people attended. The arrangements and organization by fathers and brothers was meticulous, creating a significant means to find Souls of Mercy for the Works of Charity.
Manila – On December 8th a group of persons with disabilities received the Sacraments of Baptism and First Holy Communion. Presided by Fr. Charlton Viray and concelebrated by Fr. Battista Omodei and Fr. Loyola Diraviam, it was a joyful event not only for the families of these children but also for the Guanella Center community. Our Founder, St. Louis Guanella always insisted the importance of giving not only bread but first and foremost giving our Lord. As they received the Lord and the graces because of the reception of the Sacraments, let us pray that more and more special children may be privileged to receive the Sacraments. Unfortunately, very few parishes or dioceses have programs on how to catechize children with intellectual disabilities so that they can eventually receive the sacraments like ordinary Catholics do.
Chennai – A candle-making training which is a Central Government Project for Persons with Disabilities was held at Don Guanella Special School. It was organized by the MINISTRY OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT (National Career Service Center for the Differently-Abled.) Twenty children from DGSS were selected for the training. Two of the special educators from school with cooperation from the government officials and the school program director trained the students. The main aim of this program is to equip the children in one of the arts so that they can earn a livelihood and stand on their own. After the training program, the children were taken to MGM (Dizzee World) for a picnic. Children were assisted by the staff and parents throughout this well-organized program.
Chelsea – Begun as an outing to teach their sons the meaning of charity, the Dad & Lad Golf Outing celebrated its 19th year at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Rochester Hills on August 3rd. Along with the 144 golfers who filled the course, another 106 patrons came for dinner to support the residents of […]
via Families Support St. Louis Center — stlouiscenter
Thalavadi – August 15th is an important and unforgettable day for all Indians and was very special this year at Nazareth Illam with three reasons to celebrate. The first salutation was for India and the freedom fighters as we celebrated the 70th Independence Day with various colorful cultural events. A parade was conducted and the chief guest was Mr. Shiva Shankar, the vice-principal of Don Bosco School. He was awestruck by and congratulated our patients for their talents and discipline. In the afternoon, the community saluted Fr. Gabriel on the first anniversary of his ordination and Bro. Deva on his birthday. Our patients enthusiastically participated in the cultural events, making the day joyful and colorful. The celebrations ended with cake and vadai. The events of the day helped everyone ponder the sacrifice of noble dignitaries of our nation, our church and our congregation.
Chennai – At the end of July, Don Guanella Special School visited St. Thomas Mount, a planetarium and a children’s park for an experiential program called “Look and Learn” conducted each month for the betterment of the DGSS students. Fr. Lourdu Raj, Program Director of DGSS, took the children first to St. Thomas mount after spending some time in prayer and meditation, children had the view of takeoff and landing of flights. The next stop was the the planetarium, Periyar Science and Technology Centre, to learn about space and what is beyond earth. Some of the seminarians and school teachers accompanied the kids to these important places. Fathers, brothers, teachers and parents had lunch together and headed to the children’s park to play before returning home that evening.