Born at San Remo (Italy), May 12, 1814
Taking of the habit, Notre-Dame du Laus, November 1, 1832
Oblation at Marseilles, November 1, 1833 (no. 55)
Ordination to the priesthood in Marseilles, June 24, 1838
Died at Diano Marina, September 29, 1892.
Jean Joseph De Veronico was born May 12, 1814 at San Remo, diocese of Vintimiglia, in Italy. After his classical studies at the college of the Jesuits in that city, he began his novitiate at Notre-Dame du Laus on November 1, 1832. After his oblation in Marseilles, November 1, 1833, he studied philosophy and theology at the major seminary of Marseilles until his ordination to the priesthood by Bishop Eugene de Mazenod on June 24, 1838.
He received his first obedience for Aix where he remained for about two years. Like a number of other young priests, his first years of religious life and ministry went by without any problems. Initially, it seems he took part in only one parish mission, that of Istres, given by the priests in Aix in September of 1838. In an April 6, 1840 letter, the Founder wrote to Father Courtès: “I cannot understand Father De Veronico’s timidity; he should do a little more violence to himself.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1837-1842, Oblate Writings I, vol. 9, no. 710, p. 145) The fact of the matter was that Father De Veronico was afflicted with a stuttering problem which even prevented him from leading evening prayer in the church of the Mission. (Mazenod Diary, December 24, 1839)
In December of 1838, during the last weeks of the life of Brother Louis Morandini (died December 27), Father De Veronico “was like a mother to him.” (Mazenod Diary, December 29) But Father Courtès seemed rather unhappy with Father De Veronico’s lack of regular observance. At the beginning of 1840, the Founder sent him to Vico with Father Semeria in the hope that in Vico “he be more steady, that he become more regular and acquire a more correct conscience…” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1837-1842, Oblate Writings I, vol. 9, no. 713, p. 148) He was not disappointed in his hopes. On November 19, 1840, he wrote to Father Semeria: “In particular, you have been very satisfied with Father De Veronico’s disposition, what pleasure you give me! So it is true that the evil was not without remedy and it sufficed for this dear Father to get out of the atmosphere of Aix and then get back on his feet and to walk in step with the most fervent of his brothers. Tell him how happy I am.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1837-1842, Oblate Writings I, vol. 9, no. 718, p. 156) The same observation on January 8, 1841: “Let De Veronico not mention any more the grief he caused me. His good behaviour and sentiments make me forget past sorrows which, moreover, have better proved my attachment to him.”(Letters to the Oblates of France, 1837-1842, Oblate Writings I, vol. 9, no. 723, p. 164)
Father De Veronico was to spend the greater part of his life at Vico. He took part in parish missions in 1840-1841, more specifically, in the missions of Vico, Sari and of San Bonifacio, but without preaching because of his speech impediment. He heard confessions and conducted the singing. The author of his obituary wrote: “He had a sweet and powerful voice and it was easy for him to organize mixed male and female choirs which made no small contribution to enlivening the various exercises during the mission. In addition to this, he had a knack of gaining popular acceptance by his congenial manners. For, although he could not prevent himself from stuttering when he preached, stuttering was rarely a problem for him in conversation or in the confessional. In conversation, he even had the kind of repartee that made him pass as a wit. Parish missions, however, were not his main work. Early on, he was put in charge of the little parish of Nesa and it was there that he lavished all his zeal. In spite of his speech impediment, his preaching was appreciated by his parishioners. By the services he rendered and his congenial ways, he made up so well for this imperfection that people never tired of listening to him with a willing ear. He also made up for it by the various talents with which nature had endowed him.”
Indeed, Father De Veronico would almost always remain parish priest of Nesa, not far from Vico. He maintained good relations with the priests of neighbouring parishes. He had considerable talent in the areas of sculpture, painting and drawing. He was the one who drew up the plans for the churches of Nesa, Balogna and Nurzo.
Father De Veronico left Vico and the parish of Nesa in 1853 to take over pastoral ministry to the Italians in Marseilles and from 1858 to 1863 to help out Father Courtès in Aix. When he returned to Vico, he reassumed his position as parish priest of Nesa and had a new church built. In addition to this, he was superior of the monastery at Vico from 1867 to 1875. It was also at that time that he took an ardent interest in homoeopathy. His competence in this area was so well recognized that people came from Vico, Nesa and the surrounding villages to benefit from his knowledge.
In 1886, the Oblates were looking for an Italian speaking priest to take charge of the minor seminary of Diano Marina, which was established when the Oblates were expelled from France in 1880. Father De Veronico was the one who was named superior. He stayed there for less than a year, that is, until the destruction of the house by an earthquake on February 23, 1887. It was then he fell ill. His brother and his sister asked to take over caring for him at their home in San Remo. The provincial acceded to their wishes. The illness became progressively worse. Father De Veronico died at the age of 78 on September 29, 1892 after having received the Sacrament of the Sick.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.