“Charity, vision, unity: a portrait of a founder”
Bishop of Piacenza – Italy, founder of the Congregations of the Missionaries of San Carlo and of the Missionary Sisters of San Carlo Borromeo – Scalabriniane, was born on 8 July 1839 in Fino Mornasco di Como, Italy.
At the age of 18 he entered the seminary, being ordained priest in 1863 and ordained bishop in 1876. During his life, he worked incisively in different realities and pastoral contexts, but it was his involvement in favor of migrants that made his work and his holiness known throughout the world. Yet his sensitivity to the drama experienced by migrant families cannot be separated from his attention to all the poor he encountered in the diocese of his time: prisoners, the sick and the deaf and dumb.
For Scalabrini it was the task of the Church to intervene with governments and political groups whenever the interests of the poor were at stake. In the pastoral letter he wrote to the diocese of Piacenza in 1882, he said that it was “necessary to participate in public life, using all lawful means, for the triumph of truth and justice”. This willingness and openness to new social issues led him to approach the drama of migrants and, at the same time, to set out to serve those in need on his way. In a pastoral letter of 1891 that still today spurs us on to missionary activity, he said: “We must leave the temple if we want to exercise a healthy action in the temple!”.
The sensitivity for the migrants was stimulated, in 1880, in the Milan Railway Station, by the dramatic conditions of the poor emigrants who were waiting for the train to Genoa, from where they would embark for the Americas. This is what the bishop of Piacenza describes them: “Not without tears, they had said goodbye to the native village, to whom they bound so many sweet memories; but without regret they disposed themselves to abandon their country, since they did not know it except under two hateful forms, the lever and the tax collector, and because the poor land is the land that gives him bread, and far away there they hoped to find it. bread, less scarce if not less sweaty“.
In the search for adequate responses to the suffering of migrants, there are countless activities carried out by Scalabrini: studies and publications, sensitization of the Church in Italy on the phenomenon of emigration, proposals for the law on Italian emigration, foundation of the Congregation of Missionaries (1887) , of the San Raffaele Society (1887) – a lay movement at the service of migrants – and Missionary Sisters (1895) of San Carlo Borromeo, involvement of the Sisters Apostles of the Sacred Heart, which sends for service among Italian migrants in Brazil (1990 ). To know the situation in which the Italian emigrants lived, Scalabrini himself, despite illness and with 62 years, went, between 1901 and 1904, in the United States, Argentina and Brazil.
On these trips he wanted to visit the Italian emigrant communities in person, despite the many difficulties of transportation and transportation of the time. His commitment proved to be of great support to the emigrants, but also to the work begun by the Fathers and the Missionary Sisters of San Carlo. In a letter to Pope Leo XIII, in 1901, we find a sort of report of the completed work with evaluation, motivations and hopes:
“If I look at the works accomplished in the midst of many difficulties, I have great reason to rejoice in the Lord; but if I descend with my thought into the secret of my spirit, I find nothing but a matter of regret for so well that I have not done or have not done well. Of one thing I can assure you, Most Holy Father, and it is that in all things I have never had any other aim than the glory of God and the health of souls entrusted to me”.
His prophecy, his charity, his love for migrants and his teachings give us the example of a holy bishop and a model also for our days. He died on June 1, 1905. He was beatified with the title of Father of the Migrants by Pope John Paul II, on November 9, 1997.