The Experience of Traona: Father Guanella’s Agony in the Garden

On September 15, 1878, Father Guanella’s three year term of vows among the Salesians, expired. Between the bond to Don Bosco and the obedience to the bishop, he chose the latter. Leaving his diocese seemed to him an act of rebellion. Leaving Don Bosco was like betraying the affection of his father. He had returned to the diocese to duplicate for his own people what Don Bosco had done in many parts of the world. In his heart he would never be able to forget what he had seen realized at Cottolengo’s Little House of Divine Providence in Turin. The bishop seemed annoyed by such insistence and offered him the chaplaincy of Traona, where the pastor Fr. Joseph Bellini, affected by progressive paralysis, needed help and care. The frail pastor told him he was getting much better and that he did not need an assistant. Father Guanella understood that the trials that awaited him were the most severe. He had to make himself understood by one who did not want to listen. Still, in humility, he put himself at the service of the pastor, who did not fail to show him that he was only tolerated.

The church in Traona
The church in Traona

At Traona he found all the difficulties that would have discouraged many hearts of good will, but he never despaired. The pastor was openly hostile to him and was regaining some strength. He employed the little energy he had to travel to the Prefecture of Sondrio to report the problems caused by Father Guanella whom he considered his adversary and a rebellious person. He was troubled that Father Guanella would draw several children and youth, on weekdays and holidays, to the oratory for catechism and that he opened the pastor’s own house for day and evening school every day of the week. His financial condition, however, remained so critical that he had to inform the bishop. On January 5, 1879, the Bishop sent a severe call to the pastor, the mayor and the prefect of Sondrio: “If you do not think of providing Father Guanella with the means to live, I will be forced to permit him to leave.” The prefect Breganze, ignoring the plea of the bishop, wrote to the mayor in contemptuous terms. He wanted to put forth a decree that would force Father Guanella to change his position or face hunger. He ordered the township to abstain from every initiative, because Father Guanella did not have any difficulty, if he could “squander” his substance (thirteen liras a year!) “For the purpose of clerical propaganda, this notorious priest Guanella knows very well how to do what he wants without involving the township. He is not in financial need when you observe his spendthrift ways in the township.” It was an opinion that did not differ much from that of many priests, who influenced the evaluations of Bishop Carsana. Someone had defined him “as a poor maniac, not caring about legislative dispositions, advising the Superior to confine him in some remote corner of the diocese.”
During this time of particular stress, he received from Fraciscio the news that his mother was dying. She had been paralyzed since January of the previous year. Father Louis had gone several times to visit her, but now he returned in agony of soul, because he felt that this would be the last time. He stayed near her. He did not leave her for a moment. Then when on September 18, 1879, Maria Bianchi was about to pass away, he held her hands as if he wanted to draw from her that same energy she had to face life.
The odyssey reached its climax, when on November 16, 1880, he was struck by a decree of the prefect of Sondrio that refused him payment of the salaries due to him as an assistant pastor since 1878. His only meager revenue came from invitations to preach. But at what price? Sometime later, while preaching for Lent in the largest church of Morbegno, the prefecture sent two policemen and a delegate from the Prosecutor’s office to hear him every day, hoping to catch and condemn the said priest, who had come with obscure projects from the school of Don Bosco to fill the province with those abhorrent monks and nuns.
The lawyer Brasca listened to him with great care. He intervened as much as he could, and after repeated and stormy meetings, he convinced the Curia of Como to grant “Guanella a care of souls on a mountain peak where he could not exercise dangerous influences. The office of the prefect supported the plan. Olmo, above Chiavenna, was chosen. On July 2, 1881, Father Guanella reached the house of his cousin Fr. Lorenzo Buzzetti in Gravedona, where the reception and understanding of his relative contributed to dispel the sadness which had accompanied him during the trip. The olive Garden painful and humiliating experience was over.


Guanellian Family Day

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Manila – As part of our celebration and preparation for the Centennial of the Birth of our Founder in Heaven, the Servants of Charity and the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence organized a FAMILY DAY on January 31, 2015; the Feast of Saint John Bosco. The day began with a Eucharistic Celebration presided by Fr. Charlton with our Guanellian Concelebrating priests; Fr. David, Fr. Charles and Fr. Loyola at the convent and mission house of our sisters in Quezon City. It was followed by a breakfast with time to share during the meal. Then we traveled to a resort in Montalban, Rizal for other activities; including games, presentations, singing, meals, movies and story sharing.
It was the first time for an activity like this with our sisters; spending the whole day together to deepen our friendship, communion, and family spirit. Here in the Philippines, we are proud to have a good relationship with our Guanellian sisters, and we pray that this communion may grow even deeper in the future. St. Louis Guanella, pray for us!

Feast and Faith

religious procession in vietnam

Saigon – The Servants of Charity in Vietnam, celebrated the feast of St. Louis Guanella, the founder, on Sunday, October 21, 2012. It was very meaningful to celebrate the feast on that particular day because the local church of Vietnam officially inaugurated the Year of Faith. The celebration was at Ben Hai parish; which also remembered five martyrs of Vietnam who sacrificed their life for their faith. People carried the pictures of those martyrs along with the relic of St. Louis Guanella in a small car. As they marched towards the altar, the history of each martyr and of St. Louis Guanella was read aloud. The parish priest, Fr. Truong, celebrated the Holy Eucharist. Fr. Antony Dau, SDB, preached the homily in which he mentioned the relationship between St. Guanella and St. John Bosco. He also mentioned the importance of the mission of love with faith. He quoted St. Louis Guanella as a model and apostle of charity. A short video clip was played that contained a short history of St. Guanella and the congregation. The Servants of Charity also invited some of the other local religious congregations to join them to receive the blessing of St. Louis Guanella. This was really a great blessing as the congregation takes root in Vietnam.

Gesture of Gratitude

Fr. Luigi De Giambattista celebrates mass with the Salesians in Vietnam.

Fr. Luigi De Giambattista celebrates mass with the Salesians in Vietnam.“Gratitude is the best Attitude.” We are always grateful to our Salesian cousins. The Salesians are the main reason for the presence of the Servants of Charity in Vietnam and have been a great help since their arrival. During Fr. Luigi’s visit, a presentation about St. Louis Guanella was given to the Salesian parish. He highlighted the life of Fr. Guanella and his personal relationship with Fr. Bosco. Holy Mass was celebrated with the Salesian Priests. Fr. Luigi gave a homily in which he expressed gratitude to all Salesians. He invoked the blessings of St. Guanella and St. John Bosco upon everyone present.