Father Alberto Pierobon
(Dec. 14, 1927 – July 31, 1976)
Fr. Alberto Pierobon was found dead at Almirante Tamadarè on September 8, 1976. His decomposed body had been found in a forest more than a month after his disappearance (July 31, 1976). To this day no one knows who killed him, or why. Some believe he was murdered by a gang of gypsies, others say he may have been killed by a hit and run truck driver. Everyone who knew him is convinced that he was the victim of his love for the poor people of Brazil where he had spent fifteen years as a missionary.
He was 48 years old, born at Cittadella (Padua) on December, 14, 1927. He Joined the Xaverians at 19 years old at St. Pietro in Vincoli where he did his Novitiate. In his letter he wrote: “I ask to be admitted to the novitiate. My parents have given me their consent, at least partially, for the moment. Even yesterday, while I was preparing the necessary documents, they repeatedly warned me as on previous occasions. They think I should postpone this decision until I am more certain. But I am now convinced that this is what God wants of me. I trust in the Lord and I know that, together with his Blessed Mother, will assist me.” At the end of Novitiate, on September 11, 1946, he professed religious vows. He was ordained a priest on June 4, 1955, and was assigned to the house of St. Pietro in Vincoli as treasurer and mission animator.
He was assigned to Brazil in 1961, where he worked at Jaguapità in the pastoral ministry, in building and the running of the Farm (1961-64). In June 1961, he wrote his first letter to the Superior General: “My biggest suffering at the moment is due to the fact that I cannot respond to the people’s needs by giving them a suitable spiritual assistance. Everyone tells me to be patient and, while this helps me to participate in the people’s suffering, it is also incentive for me to finish my preparation as soon as possible.”
When the Prelacy of Abaetè was opened, he went to the Northern Brazil to serve there, building a parish center at Abaetè (1964-67). Bishop Giovanni Gazza, who had been appointed to Abaetè, Pará, in North Brazil, said of him: “So much needed to be done and Father Pierobon committed himself wholeheartedly to getting it all organized. Though he was a quiet man, he was also impetuous and bursting with initiative.” In 1967 he moved to Acarà to help in the parish, and guide the Christian community that had been present there. He was a hard worker, but that took a toll on his health; he also fell, and the climate of the Amazon was not conducive to him.
He has to return to Southern Brazil, where he worked at Londrina and at Moreira Salles as parish priest. There, he was an untiring, generous and zealous missionary, sensitive to the needs of the people who suffered much, ever ready to carry the burdens of others, able to give of himself in order to do a favor to others.On top of this, there was the sudden loss of Sandra Pierobon, his sister, who had been sending her brother help from Italy for some time. She had finally decided to go to Brazil herself and spend four months working with the poor. She paid for her generosity with her life. As she prepared to return home, she took the bus, which went into the river. She died instantly. Fr. Albert wrote of that event: “As result of this, and my illness, I collapsed and needed about 20 days to recover some serenity and peace. I felt completely lost and emotionally drained by the violent death of Sandra because of one man’s carelessness, my illness, the almost certain separation from Acarà and my people. These are all part of God’s mysterious plan.” He told his family that he had visited his sister’s grave: “I wanted to see what it was like. I sat in front of the small cross and I almost heard her scold me, asking what I was doing sitting there. In my heart I heard her tell me to move, get on with life and set my sights high. She is at peace.”
In July 1976 he was in Curitiba for a Xaverian meeting, and took advantage of that break to do some medical exams. He was rather agitated and tormented by nightmares. On July 31 1976, at about 2 pm, he was seen leaving his room, heading for a country road, in his shirtsleeves and without his glasses. I seemed he was just going out for some fresh air. He was never seen again.
On September 9, 1976, a hunter informed the police of Almirante Tamandarè, a locality 10 miles from Curitiba, that there was a decomposed body on the hill known as Morro dos Maristas. The following day, at 7:30 am, a parishioner of Vista Alegre informed the Xaverians that Father Albert had been found. Because the location was very close to a heavy traffic road, it was thought at the beginning that it was a hit and run. But, after further examination of the clothes and the body, everything pointed to murder as the most accurate explanation of what had happened.
“I am certain, however, that Father Albert deeply loved that community and held it in the same esteem as he did his own family and congregation; he knew that his people understood him and supported him in difficult times. May the Lord grant him the peace of the just and the crown of the martyrs. Many here believe that his sacrificed has earned him this much. Father General (Fr. Giovanni Gazza), our Xaverian family can count another martyr among its ranks.”After mass at Vista Alegre, the body of Father Albert then lets on its last journey to his parish in Moreira Salles, where a huge crowd attended the funeral service, and laid him to rest at the Cemetery. Fr. Carlo Coruzzi, Regional Superior, wrote of the funeral Procession on September 12, 1976: “It was a very moving scene: the children, young people, adults and the elderly all agreed so good to everyone and had been the main reason of the unity among them. They had become a family thanks to his untiring efforts. In my own opinion, these words of the sobbing mourners contain a lot of truth. Perhaps his mission had been accomplished, and the Lord sealed his life with the gift of martyrdom so that no one would ever doubt the authenticity of his zeal.”
At the commemorative Mass on September 17, 1976, Bishop Giovanni Gazza, the Superior General of the Xaverians, went to Cittadella and delivered a long and impassioned to the family, friends and townsfolk of the martyr:“I wish to confirm that for fifteen years he gave himself entirely to his work among the poor of Brazil; for some yearsI personally witnessed this. He was never belied: he was always the first to shoulder any burden. We were just beginning the mission in the Amazons and we had to endure long, difficult journeys along the rivers, lasting days and nights, to get the first activities started.Father Albert was a most precious help to us, he gave birth to the fist consistent work of the mission such as school, hospital, churches, residences for the missionaries, chapels in the interior. His untiring pastoral activity went hand in hand with this material work. His health forced him to occasionally interrupt his work: since his student days he had been tormented by stomach problems, which later worsened, probably exasperated by the local diet which was not always suitable for someone with his problems. His physical suffering and the psychological distress that accompanied it lend greater weight to his zeal and self-giving. This is the most profound and moving truth of his life: his missionary vocation was born from, and consumed in, pain and suffering.”