Mediterranean Province

The oblate bishop Alessandro STACCIOLI, together with his oblate brethren, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his episcopate in San Giorgio Canavese, 7 and 8 December 2018.  For some years now, the bishop has been a member of the Oblate Community there, once the seat of the Italian Scholasticate, now a retirement home and a place of prayer, service and fruitful memory. The Oblates have been living in San Giorgio Canavese since 1913. From 1926 to 1974, about 400 young people prepared themselves here for priestly and missionary life.

Fr. Angelo PELIS, a missionary in Laos from 1964 to 1975, invites us to relive the event.

Fr. Alessandro Staccioli, at the age of 37, was consecrated Bishop on December 8, 1968. He succeeded in the leadership of the Apostolic Vicariate of Luang Prabang (Laos), after Mons. Leonello Berti OMI, who tragically died in an airplane accident on February 24, 1968. Bishop Berti was just over 42 years old and only 5 years of episcopal service.

The Oblate Community in San Giorgio Canavese has given a thoughtful welcome to confreres and friends. We thank in particular the Constant Fathers BARON, Superior, and Mario AMADEO, Bursar, who together with the Missionary Group of AMMI (Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate) prepared the beautiful feast.

From Rome, I set out with Fr. Luigi SION and Bro. Donato CIANCIULLO, the close companions of Bishop Staccioli. Another former missionary to Laos, Fr. Palmiro DELALIO, joined us from Aosta. Fr. Umberto NESPOLO, now a guest of this Residence for the Elderly, was for some years responsible for the Mission entrusted to Blessed Martyr Mario Borzaga, and to Fr. Natalino SARTOR and Antonio ZANONI, who died in Laos in 1966 and 1972 respectively.

In the afternoon of December 7, there was a round-table discussion. Paolo Damosso, director and writer, author of the book and video “Romanzo d’Amore” on Bl. Mario Borzaga, was the coordinator. He first gave the floor to Fr. Gennaro ROSATO, the provincial of the Mediterranean Province, who expressed his greetings and best wishes to Msgr. Staccioli and all those present. He invited all “to continue to look at the past with gratitude…to live the present with passion…to embrace the future with hope”.

Speaking of those present, a special guest made us a pleasant surprise in the hall of the Oratory: Msgr. Luigi Bettazzi, 95 years old, Bishop Emeritus of Ivrea and former International President of Pax Christi. He is the only Italian bishop present at the Second Vatican Council, living today. Bishop Bettazzi, known throughout the world for his pastoral and social initiatives, wanted to confirm the friendship that binds him to Bishop Staccioli. Between exchanges of jokes and memories, particularly interesting was the mention of Bettazzi’s two visits to the Oblates of Laos, in the ’70s, and later to those of Uruguay. Lucia Borzaga, the sister of Blessed Borzaga also participated in the feast. She had not seen San Giorgio Canavese since February 24, 1957, the day of his brother Mario’s priestly ordination!

The occasion allowed us to retrace the life of our bishop, in Italy, in Laos, and in the long missionary service, after the expulsion of all the missionaries in 1975.  Fr. Sion recalled with his usual humor moments of their journey to Laos on board the ship “Victoria”, which sailed from Naples on October 31, 1957. Brother Donato recalled the drama of the destruction of the NamTha School in 1961.

On December 8, the solemn Eucharistic celebration, enlivened by the parish choir, took place in the Church of the Mary Immaculate. About twenty priests, both Oblates and diocesan concelebrated at the Mass. Many people who had been friends of the jubilarian and the Oblates, were happy to meet and recognize each other. “Do you remember me?” was the refrain of the song of friendship and of a bond that was never interrupted!

Even the official lunch allowed us to live a nice family moment, enlivened by the guitar and “alpine” songs, a tribute by the members of the Association “Friends of Father Mario”.

1968 – 2018… 50 years of grace, blessed by Mary Immaculate, that Bishop Alessandro lived, faithful to his motto, Luke 22.27: “I am among you as one who serves”.