By Fr. Aldo –
On the second day of our General Chapter in Italy we all traveled to Parma in order visit our Mother House and make our public profession of faith in the Shrine dedicated St. Conforti. It was a symbolic and yet very profound gesture. By calling that house “mother” we were somehow reminding ourselves that we are a family, that we are brothers and that we were in our mother’s house. As a matter of fact, familial metaphors have always being present in the Xaverian lingo, as we try to express who we are and what we want the world to be, by making reference to a family. So this visit to our “mother house” was above all a sign. There we celebrated the Eucharist as a family, with a deep sense of belongingness and communion. The assembly was composed of the Chapter delegates from all around the world, the “mother house” community – which included our elderly and sick confreres – the Theologate of Parma community with their young confreres, lay Xaverians, lay people in general, friends and relatives.
Firstly I felt profoundly touched by the site of so many confreres whose bodies and minds carry the signs of lives spent and even broken in mission. As Jesus got broken for the world, as the Eucharistic bread is broken to be given, so these brothers of ours have been broken too because of their selfless dedication to the work of evangelization.
Secondly, I had the privilege to spend some time Fr. Peter Venturini, the first Xaverian sent to the Philippines. He is suffering now with Parkinson’s decease and has lost his voice as well as most of his body movements. Even though he had been my “formator” for two years in the late 1990’s and I met him after that a couple of times in Italy I introduced myself to him without being sure that he would recognize me. As I told him that I was coming from the Philippines and mentioned the names of several people whom I am sure he knows well, he just kept on looking intently at me and few drops of tear formed at corner of his eyes and rolled through his face. As I stood there in silence it flashed through my mind some images of him when he was strong and energetic, eloquent in English and fluent in Tagalog: an excellent communicator. Now, all that he could use as a tool for communication were some tears. And in fact those tears said a lot. They spoke more than books of his love for the people and places where he served as missionary.
Given a second chance, these old confreres would go back to the mission field and minister to the people to the best of their abilities. But they cannot; we are the ones who can! Their example of love encourages me to embrace, also on their behalf, the missionary work with joy and enthusiasm, aware that the people I journey with now are the people whom my elder confreres hold so dear in their hearts.