PIME – A brief history

1.1 The Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions

The “Prelude” to the birth of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions”

The erection of the missionary institute of Milan is one of the most beautiful signs and fruits of the missionary re-awakening which distinguished the life of the Church in the 19th Century, especially in Europe. In the 18th Century, the Enlightenment movement, the rationalist philosophies, the misunderstandings and tensions between the different central governments and the Holy See, the suppression of the Jesuits and even the French Revolution weakened the missionary spirit of the Catholics towards the non-Christians. What were the favorable conditions, which brought about the “re-awakening” of the missionary activity of the Church in the 19th Century? We list some of them: the new geographic discoveries which opened up a “virgin field” of apostolate to the non-Christian, the re-birth of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits) and of the missionaries of Paris (M.E.P.) and other missionary institutes, the restoration of goods to Propaganda Fide (today the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples), and the missionary spirit of the Popes…seem to have contributed more than others to the “new surge of missionary zeal.” To confirm the countertendency of the 19th century vis a vis the 18th century, we can look at the number of new congregations which originated: more than 90 congregations were established in the 19th Century.
In spite of the blossoming of new congregations and missionary enterprises in various regions of Italy in the first half of the 19th century, still there was not a missionary institute of secular clergy devoted to the non-Christians, like the one founded in France almost two centuries earlier, in 1659 (Missionaires Extrangers de Paris, MEP).
For those who nurtured the desire to dedicate themselves forever to a the foreign missions, it was necessary to join a regular order or a religious congregation. Where to accommodate the increasing number of young priests and diocesan seminarians who started dreaming of far-off places for their apostolate?

The birth of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions”

POPE GREGORY XVI (1831-1846) first perceived the need of an Italian missionary institute, but it did not find concrete realization during his tenure.
However, the idea continued to grow and it was finally achieved in Milan in 1850. It is not the work of only one founder but rather, the fruit of a combined effort of different people who had at heart the mission of the Church: the Roman Pontiff, Mons. Angelo Ramazzotti (oblate of Rho and then Bishop of Pavia and Patriarch of Venice), the Bishops of the dioceses of Lombardy (Northern Italy), the young seminarians from Milan inspired by reading the beautiful accounts from the missions circulating in the seminaries through some missionary newsletters (especially from France).
If today we consider Mons. Ramazzotti as the actual “founder” of PIME, it is only to point to the man who concretely carried out a project which was not only his. It was rather the wish and dream of many ecclesial realities who had seen an Italian Missionary Institute as a sign of the times and a work of the Spirit.
In 1847 Pope Pius IX, following up the “dream” of his predecessor, sent Mons. Luquet (missionary of MEP in India and then Apostolic Legate) to Milan to inform the new Archbishop of Milan, Mons. Romilli, of the desire of the Pope to open a Seminary for Foreign Missions, confident in the cooperation of the Lombard Bishops.
At the meeting held at the house of the Oblates of Rho, Fr. Angelo Ramazzotti (Superior of the Oblates) was present and upon hearing of the Pope’s plan to begin a missionary institute he rejoiced. He was not the only one dreaming of an Italian missionary Institute! The Pope Himself harbored the same thoughts and projects. What he thought was only in his heart and mind, now seemed to find the approval of many others. In this he saw an inspiration from “above”, a sign of God’s favor that dispelled all doubts and perplexities concerning the legitimacy of such dreams!
By visiting many parishes of the Diocese of Milan, Ramazzotti discovered with delight that there were many young priests and seminarians who nurtured the aspiration for mission. Some of them were in touch with Fr. Supries, a monk of the Certosa of Pavia, who had been a French missionary in India as a member of the M.E.P. He enflamed their hearts with his accounts about his experience in India and he widened the horizons of their future ministry beyond the national boundaries of Italy and specifically to the non-Christians.
Ramazzotti shared his thoughts and plans with Fr. Angelo Taglioretti, his close friend and confrere. Taglioretti supported the initiative and assured him of his cooperation for the erection of the Seminary. His presence and assistance in the first troubled years of the Seminary would turn out to be very precious and appreciated by everybody.
The concrete realization of the project would be postponed for three years because of the political turmoil and the wars for Independence which dominated the social life in Italy in those years (1847-1849). At the beginning of the year 1850, Fr. Ramazzotti sent to Pope Pius IX a detailed plan regarding the future Institute, donating a house of his property in Saronno as its first headquarters. A few months later the approval from Rome arrived, together with the consent of Archbishop Romilli of Milan, and of the Bishops of Lombardy.
On July 30,1850 Mons. Ramazzotti (ordained Bishop of Pavia on June 30,1850) accompanied the first aspirants (Fr. John Mazzucconi and Fr. Carlo Salerio) of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions” from the house of the Oblates in Rho to the new settlement in Saronno. Waiting there was Mons. Giuseppe Marinoni (the first Director of the Institute up to 1891) together with other missionary aspirants: Fr. Alessandro Ripamonti, Fr. Paolo Reina, two seminarians Francesco Pozzi and Antonio Marietti. The official opening of the Seminary was the following day (July 31, 1850) with the Eucharistic celebration presided by the youngest priest of the community, Fr. John Mazzucconi.
A few months later two new priests joined the Seminary (Fr. Timoleone Raimondi and Fr. Angelo Ambrosoli) followed by Giuseppe Corti (lay catechist) and in 1851 by Luigi Tacchini (lay catechist). All of them were members of the first expedition to Oceania.

The Canonical Establishment of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions”

The act of establishment of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions” was signed on December 1, 1850 by all the Bishops of Lombardy, including Mons. Ramazzotti, Bishop of Pavia. They confirmed their support and assistance for the newly-born institution by providing aspirants and help. Together with the Act of Erection, the Lombard Bishops signed the first official document of the Seminary, fruit of the combined work of the first pioneers of the Institute: “Proposta di alcune massime e norme per l’istituto delle missioni estere.” This “Proposal” was then countersigned by Card. Fransoni, prefect of Propaganda Fide on Jan. 30, 1851 in Rome.
According to some experts and theologians that document anticipated already many of the conclusions that were officially taken by the Church during the Second Vatican Council, more than one hundred years later! Mission is a task entrusted to each local church and there should be a special contribution of each community to the work of mission and to the needs of other local churches.

The “Pillars” of the Seminary’s structure

The Institute must be subordinated to the Holy Father and totally dependent on the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide concerning the approval of rules and regulations governing the life of the community. Propaganda Fide will designate the missions entrusted to the Institute.
These relationships with the Holy Father and Propaganda Fide will be kept through the Archbishop of Milan and his Auxiliaries.
No aspirant will be admitted to the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions without the written consent of his Bishop and his apostolic blessing.
The Director of the seminary will be appointed by the Archbishop of Milan after consultation with the other Bishops of Lombardy.
A yearly report concerning the management of the house, the studies and the life of the aspirants will be accurately presented to the Archbishop and the other Bishops.

The “Proposta”, then, sets clearly the dependence of the Institute on both the Holy Father/Propaganda Fide and the Bishops of Lombardy.

“Waiting to leave for Oceania”

Before leaving for Oceania the young aspirants spent one and a half years (August 1850-March 1852) of formation under the gentle and loving guidance of Mons. Marinoni. From Saronno where they started their “journey”, they transferred to the small shrine of St. Calocero in Milan close to the Basilica of St. Ambrose (patron saint of the city of Milan).

Mons. Marinoni strove to create a familial environment within the community and opted for a sharing of responsibilities. He wanted “to put things together”…studies, discussions, difficulties, problems, and friendships…as it happens in a true family: this was the style of the community life. In all important matters everybody was asked to express his opinion and suggestion. This fostered a strong sense of belonging to a community of missionaries helping the first expedition to Oceania to overcome hardship and discomforts. Marinoni’s concern was to help the students to make a radical choice for God, orienting all their efforts, desires, and dreams toward God’s will. Indeed, their missionary zeal did not originate from a search for adventure or new explorations, but rather it was rooted in their profound and passionate love for the person of Jesus Christ and his mission of love.

The daily schedule of the community was quite full and would include: daily Mass, Rosary, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, morning praise, midday and evening prayers, Office of the Readings, two meditations (one in the morning and one in the evening). They studied sacred sciences, English and French and after dinner they held a discussion of a case of morals (once a week). They would help also the nearby parishes in celebrating Masses and teaching catechism to the children.

The choice of the Mission

What follows are the criteria set by the first group of missionaries in selecting the mission-assignment. Of course the priority was given to the Pope’s wishes and the needs of the Church:

they wished to have a mission-station of their own in order to remain united
they opted for “the most neglected and abandoned people”
the goal was to “plant the local church” (“Plantatio Ecclesiae”) and not the Institute.
 

1.2 The Life of BL. JOHN MAZZUCCONI 

1826-1855 (Martyr-Priest)

A) His Infancy

John Mazzucconi was born on March 1, 1826 in Rancio di Lecco, a small village high on the slope of the mountain overlooking the Eastern branch of Lake Como, a quiet and peaceful suburb of the city of Lecco, about 30 miles Northwest of Milan in Northern Italy. He was the ninth of twelve children.
At the time, the Mazzucconi family was one of the most affluent in that area and highly respected. Their wealth came from a very successful textile mill which the father organized and directed according to Christian business principles, treating the workers as part of the family. Giacomo (the father) was considered not only an excellent businessman but also an exemplary Catholic and a very charitable man who attended church daily. John’s mother, Anna Maria, was a woman with very high spiritual values, even though very human and very much down-to-earth in raising her large family.
“Whatever is unnecessary, give to the poor,” Giacomo used to repeat to his large brood of children. This was the rule and nobody dared to contradict or question it. As a result, there was a constant procession of poor beggars from nearby areas who came practically daily to beg for help at the door of the Mazzucconi home.
The desire to become a priest was felt very early by John but he never let it be known when and how the thought of entering the priesthood came to him nor how it grew to maturity. One episode was probably the Ordination to the priesthood and the First Mass of his brother, Joseph. Another occasion was his First Communion which, in those days, children did not receive until they were 13 or 14 years old. His first encounter with Jesus in Holy Communion was one of the most memorable events of the young boy’s life. In the fall of 1841, when John was 15, he entered the minor seminary of St. Peter the Martyr. After graduation he entered the College Seminary at Monza, near Milan.

His spirituality may be summed up in a letter which he wrote during those years: “My dear friend, try constantly to love and like those who are our companions in our journey through life. To develop the habit of caring for others ennobles the heart and the mind and makes us worthy children of that God Who is Charity. (…) I would like to write to everyone and tell them that it is a marvelous thing to be united in this one desire, the desire to be good, to love the Lord and to help one another by word and example to follow Christ.”

B) The Dawn of a Missionary Vocation

During the summer vacation of 1845 John, and a little group of seminarians from the Monza Seminary, decided to visit a Trappist monastery 40 miles from Milan, which was called the Chartreuse (“Certosa”) of Pavia. The Superior of the monastery was Fr. Lawrence Supries from France, who had joined the Paris Foreign Missions Society in 1829. He had been assigned to work among the natives in Pondichery, India, but his mission was a “failure” in his own mind. He felt frustrated in his attempt “to win souls” through his personal efforts and decided he could better pursue his goals through mortification and prayer within a monastic environment. That is why he went to the “Certosa” in Pavia to spend his days in prayer and silence among the monks of the monastery. He did not give up his missionary vocation: he was constantly planning how to do more for the salvation of these non-Christians.

When Fr. Supries met with John and little group of seminarians from Monza, he immediately realized that he had before him a group of privileged and exceptional souls. As he talked to them he felt that his words were falling on very fertile soil. They nourished a genuine aspiration for the mission and the desire to bring the message of the Gospel to non-Christian nations.
They kept up an active correspondence with Fr. Supries who always inspired them.

While John was dreaming of far away horizons, and even MARTYRDOM, he began to ask himself again the old question which seemed to have been answered already, “What does God want me to do with my life?” He had thought that by entering the seminary the question had been answered, but now it came back to his mind more insistently than ever.

As time passed, John was no longer able to contain his desire to become missionary and started to talk about it openly in order to share his enthusiasm with the other students. One of the seminarians who began to follow John more closely was Carlo Salerio, who later became one of the first missionaries of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions” and went to Oceania with John.

In the meantime concrete steps were being taken to organize the first missionary society of diocesan priests in Milan. John heard of the desire of Pope Pius IX and of the positive response of Fr. Ramazzotti, Bishop Romilli of Milan, and the Bishops of Lombardy. He was serenely waiting for the realization of this plan.

The long awaited day of his ordination arrived on May 25, 1850. His happiness was really complete when he learned that the new mission society would open its first house in Saronno a few weeks later, on July 30th, in the residence of its founder, the newly elected Bishop of Pavia, Mons. Ramazzotti.

C) Member of the First Expedition to Oceania (1852)

The islands of the South Pacific, which in those days were truly some of the wildest and most primitive parts of the world and a most difficult missionary field, were the main attractions to the first aspirants of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions. They discussed other possibilities but Oceania was their first choice. It was necessary to convey their desire to the Holy Father and to get the official assignment from the competent authorities with the approval of the Roman Pontiff.
They sent to Rome two ambassadors, Reina and Salerio, with the specific task of discussing with Propaganda Fide and with the Holy Father, the selection of a mission field for the new Society.
By the middle of September 1851 the two returned to Milan and with great joy they announced: “Mission accomplished!” Oceania was to be the first mission field of the new society. Their departure was set for March of the following year, 1852.

The first group leaving Italy was composed of: Fr. Mazzucconi, Fr. Paolo Reina (the superior of the expedition), Fr. Carlo Salerio, Fr. Timoleone Raimondi, Fr. Angelo Ambrosoli and the two Brothers, Corti and Tacchini. They passed by France where they met the Marist Missionaries already working in Melanesia, before reaching London where they boarded on the ship called “Tartar” on Holy Saturday, the 10th of April, 1852.

It is only on July 25th that the “Tartar” came close to the entrance of the Sydney harbor and tied up at the pier in the late afternoon of July 26th. By reading the letters of the missionaries telling about their journey, one can realize the precarious conditions and the adventures they had to go through.
Australia was then the base for the Catholic missionary operations in the South Sea Islands.

D) From Sydney to Woodlark and Rook…then again Sydney.

It was decided that the Superior Reina, with Fr. Mazzucconi. Fr. Ambrosoli and Bro. Corti would continue on to Rook while Fr. Raimondi, Fr. Salerio and Bro. Tacchini would remain at Woodlark.
John got sick with the type of malaria prevalent in the islands of the South Pacific, which is one of the worst types in the Orient. John contracted it the very first day he landed at Rook. On October 23,1852 when the young priests arrived in Rook, nobody could have foreseen that within only a few months their robust bodies would be completely ravaged by the violent blows of that dreadful disease.
The extreme poverty of the place, the struggles in understanding the culture and beliefs of the population, the precarious conditions of health did not weaken the courage and the good spirit of the missionaries. John called this period of his missionary life a “period of trial and at the same time of particular blessings.”
After one full year of their presence on Rook there was not one native who, even out of curiosity, had shown any interest in the missionaries, much less in the religion. Of course, in their minds they started thinking: “Should we move to new areas while waiting for the hour established by God to bring the Gospel to these islands?”
“Let’s hold on, the Grace of God can help us.” And so they renewed their commitment.
We have no information about what happened at Rook from October 1853 to the beginning of 1855. It seems that silence fell like a shroud on that poor mission and its missionaries lost in the depths of the South Pacific. At the beginning of January 1855 the situation was catastrophic. Fr. Mazzucconi’s body was swelling more often and some parts of his skin were breaking out causing very painful sores.
Relationships with the native were becoming increasingly difficult and there seemed to be no hope whatever of their accepting the Gospel.
They were also upset when they received news from Woodlark at the end of December, 1854 that Fr. Salerio was now reduced to a walking skeleton because of the continuous attacks of fever.
Then the decision of the Superior Reina came to send Fr. Mazzucconi back to Sydney where he was to remain until he was completely recovered.

E) His Martyrdom

Following a successful convalesence in Sydney, Fr. Mazzucconi set sail in September of 1855 on the “Gazelle” in order to join the rest of the missionaries in Woodlark. Unfortunately, exactly in those days his companions had left the island since they received from Rome the suggestion to stay in Sydney before waiting for new orders regarding the future of the mission. The situation in Woodlark was getting worse and an attitude of burning hatred among the natives towards the foreigners was growing. When they saw the “Gazelle” approaching the island they gathered on the beach. The captain, having little practical knowledge of those treacherous seas could not avoid the submerged coral reefs and the ship struck against them. A stream of canoes from the island moved toward the “Gazelle”. The leader was a man by the name of Avicoar, well known by the missionaries for his antagonistic attitude. Upon reaching the boat he went straight toward Fr. Mazzucconi and extracted the hatchet from his left side and hit Fr. John on the head. The priest stumbled for a moment looking for support, then collapsed on the deck with a split skull.
His soul had already flown to Heaven for which he had longed since his childhood.
Fr. John offered the supreme sacrifice of himself to the Lord, thus accomplishing his lifelong desire to shed his blood for “the conversion of the non-Christians.”

1.3 MONS. ANGELO RAMAZZOTTI 

“The father of the poor and a holy priest.” (1800-1861)

“Life” and “Spirit” of the Founder

of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions

A) Introduction

The main source from which we can draw important information on the life of Mons. Ramazzotti comes from the biography written by Fr. Pietro Caglaroli only a few months after the Bishop’s death. Fr. Pietro was the personal secretary of Mons. Ramazzotti, and accompanied him throughout his entire ministry as Oblate of Rho, Bishop of Pavia and Patriarch of Venice. He was Mons. Ramazzotti’s closest friend, to whom he would confide his innermost thoughts, reflections, and insights. He assisted Mons. Ramazzotti during his sickness and remained by his side up to his death.
Inspired by the example and charism of Mons. Ramazzotti, Fr. Pietro decided to collect documents, letters, and written works he had left. He conducted interviews with Ramazzotti’s relatives, close friends and collaborators and finally wrote the biography of the bishop. In compiling all the material gathered, Fr. Pietro was assisted by Fr. Angelo Taglioretti, Oblate of Rho and a key-figure in the establishment of the Seminary for Foreign Missions of Milan.

B) His decision to enter the seminary

Bishop Ramazzoti was born in Milan on August 3, 1800. He was the second of two children. The elder brother, Filippo, was born only the previous year. His father, Giuseppe, and mother, Giulia Maderna, were both from Saronno. They got married at a rather mature age: his father was 41 years old and his mother 39.
They were fervent Christians: his father used to attend Mass daily and every evening he would lead the Prayer of the Rosary in the house. HIs mother was very pious as well, faithful to devotional practices and committed to initiate her children to the faith.
Angelo completed his elementary school in Saronno and continued with his High School in Milan. He enrolled at the Royal University of Pavia where he graduated in Civil Law in 1823. Angelo Ramazzotti was a brilliant student, very well disciplined and educated. He exhibited excellent manners and moderation in his way of speaking, and he fostered sincere and profound friendships with his companions. He nurtured a deep spirituality, attentive to the observance of the religious practices, including fasting and self-restraint.
After his graduation in Civil Law, he completed his set of courses by working for three years in two legal offices in order to be licensed as a lawyer. In 1825, like a bolt from the blue, he announced to his mother his decision to become priest. He then joined the theological Seminary of Milan up to his ordination on June 13, 1829.

C) Oblate of Rho

Strictly connected to his priestly vocation was the deep desire to be a missionary. During his third year of theology Ramazzotti manifested the longing to “to consume the whole of his life for the sanctification of souls.” He dreamed of devoting himself to preaching, which he considered the most relevant task of the priest.
It is then that he decided to join the Oblate Missionaries of Rho, a religious society with the specific mission of preaching. His admission would be postponed until after his priestly ordination, because the Institute accepted only diocesan priests already ordained. (The same characteristic will then be adopted by the “Seminary for Foreign Missions.”)
He was elected Superior of the Oblates for three terms in which he guided the Institute with wisdom and a good sense of leadership. He respected the norms and objectives laid down by the Founder, the Servant of God Giorgio Maria Martinelli: popular preaching, spiritual exercises to the clergy and the religious. They distinguished two different forms of “popular mission”: a shorter version of only a couple of days in preparation for the Pastoral Visit of the Archbishop; and a longer version, which would last for a couple of weeks and included catechesis for adults and children, homilies, confessions, and so on.
Fr. Ramazzotti was also the spiritual Adviser of many priests of the nearby parishes who would often approach him for counseling, help, and assistance.
Fr. Angelo traveled all over the territory of the diocese preaching untiringly with great fervor and evangelical zeal. It is probably through this apostolate that he discerned the call to a more complete mission: “ad gentes.” For him “the true missionary must be a saint…he must be humble, devout, patient, obedient to the will of God, a man of prayer and capable of mortification.” His life-style was very simple and moderate: he lived true poverty and he shared with the needy whatever surplus he would receive from some benefactors. Toward the end of the year 1848, the Austrian government forwarded the name of Fr. Ramazzotti as a possible candidate for one of the Episcopal vacancies of the Diocese of Milan. (The appointment of the Bishop in those years was done by the local government.)

D) Bishop of Pavia

On November 11, 1849 Fr. Angelo received the office as Bishop of Pavia from the Emperor of Austria, Francesco Giuseppe. One year passed from the appointment to his official installation in the diocese. During that year (1849-1850) Fr. Ramazzotti continued his work for the upcoming canonical erection of the Seminary for Foreign Missions.
The choice of the Bishop made by the Austrian Emperor was to be accepted by the Pope. He had to ascertain that the candidate was a trustworthy priest, of “proven virtues” (“provate virtu’”), faithful to the Pope and not aligned with the neo-liberal movements blossoming in Europe during those years.
Finally, in the “secret” Consistory on May 20, 1850 Pius IX appointed him as Bishop of Pavia, and he was consecrated Bishop on June 30, 1850 by Card. Franzoni (Prefect of Propaganda Fide) in the church of S. Carlo al Corso in Rome. Ramazzotti had accepted his promotion as Bishop only because of obedience to the Pope.
Mons. Ramazzotti took possession of the Diocese on September 29, 1850. He devoted himself to works of charity and to looking after the many needs of the diocese: visiting the sick at the hospitals, creating communities to shelter orphans and abandoned children. In 1857 a violent flood hit Lombardy and the river Po spilled over the banks. Mons. Angelo organized programs and first-aid operations to rescue the wounded and to fight against the spreading of contagious diseases, like cholera.
Special care was given to the formation of seminarians and to the promotion of young vocations. He was convinced that “priests are made to be sent to the frontiers of mission and to be pioneers in their apostolate.”

E) Patriarch of Venice

In 1858, Mons Ramazzotti received from the Austrian Government the news of his elevation to the Patriarchate of Venice. They chose him because he was “one of the wisest and most talented Bishop of Lombardy”; exemplar of integrity and outstanding in general knowledge, especially theology. He was considered a “man of moderation”, known for his untiring charity toward the poor.
Mons. Ramazzotti could not hide his surprise for such an unthinkable proposal. He felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of leading an illustrious See like Venice and he considered the possibility of declining the appointment. He wrote twice to Pius IX trying to convince him of his unfitness for the enormous task. However, the “placet” (“approval”) from the Roman Pontiff of his appointment as Patriarch of Venice was issued on March 12,1858, and with it Mons. Angelo was definitively transferred from Pavia to Venice.
The official installment in the Patriarchate took place on May 15, 1858. In a manner typical of his humility and service, that very evening, Mons. Ramazzotti traveled in a simple “gondola” (the traditional boat in Venice) to visit two sick priests of the area.
It is surprising to see how Mons. Ramazzotti was able to leave a significant mark in the hearts of the people in only three years of ministry. He reorganized schools of “Christian Doctrine” and established new ones with the specific task of preparing catechists for pastoral work in the parishes. He convoked the first Provincial Council of Bishops (Oct. 18- Nov.4, 1859) in Venice. For the first time also, he was able to complete the pastoral visit of all the parishes of the Patriarchate.
Mons. Angelo played a determinant role in opening up the religious congregations present in the territory to the missionary world. He sent the first group of Canossian sisters to Hong Kong to join the priests of the Lombard Seminary just settled there (Feb. 24, 1860). For that he had to modify part of their constitutions which did not provide for work in mission areas. The Holy See approved Ramazzotti’s move and now the Canossian Sisters are spread all over the world! The “Sisters of Charity” also left for Bengala to help the missionaries of the Seminary of Milan.

F) His death

On Aug. 10, 1861 Mons. Ramazzotti was informed of the decision of the Pius IX to honor him with the title of “Cardinal.” The Consistory was already scheduled for the middle of September but by that time he had already transferred to a place in the countryside far from Venice in order to recover from serious cardiac problems. He would never recover from that illness and he died on Sept. 24, 1861.
He is remembered by the people as “the father of the poor and a holy priest.”
He was buried in St. Mark Basilica in Venice and then transferred to St. Francis Xavier Church in Milan on March 3, 1958, upon specific request of the PIME Superior General Fr. Augusto Lombardi.
Card. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (later to be Pope John XXIII) who was the Patriarch of Venice at that time spoke of him as a “true Saint.”

1.4 Mons. Giuseppe Marinoni 

First Director of the “Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions”

Mons. Giuseppe Marinoni directed the newly born Seminary for 41 years (1850-1891). Under his guidance the Institute grew and prospered in spite of the difficulty and complexity of the times. He left a significant mark on the missionary spirituality of the students and he shaped the community life of the Seminary.

Some of the challenges he had to face during those years:

A sense of uncertainty concerning the future: after the apparent “failure” of the first expedition to Oceania, the missionaries in Milan were waiting for a final decision of the Roman Pontiff concerning a second expedition or new assignments to mission fields. No clear signs and instruction were coming from Rome. This created confusion and protests from the aspirants who nevertheless expressed their firm commitment to respect any decision of the Pope. Mons. Marinoni had to mitigate the tension.

The dispersion of the members as a consequence of the opening of new mission territories. In two years (1855-56) the Holy See sent the missionaries to Colombia, Borneo, Agra (North India), Hyderabad (south India) and Bengala (East side of India). Fr. Ambrosoli remained in Sydney (Australia) at the disposal of the Archbishop until his death in 1891. In 1858 some were sent to Hong Kong among them Fr. Timoleone Raimondi from Australia; in 1867 some left for Burma and two years later a group reached the inland territories of China (Honan Region). Though still a tiny “troop” they were scattered all over the world.

The extreme poverty of the Institute: the missionaries relied only on the yearly stipend coming from Propaganda Fide and on occasional donations from relatives and benefactors. Appeals and requests for financial support were coming from the missions but it was impossible to respond to the needs of all. Mons. Marinoni would experience that even in the Seminary itself it was nearly impossible to cope with all the ordinary expenses for food and maintenance.

Mons. Marinoni was successful in keeping the missionaries united through an intense correspondence, which fostered personal friendship and a continual assessment of the situation and work in the missions. “The thought of mission dominated everything”, wrote Fr. Tragella (PIME historian), commenting on the atmosphere reigning in the community during those troubled years. Mons. Marinoni put into practice the motto of his missionary policy: “everyone to the missions,” leaving in Italy only a small community.
Mons. Marinoni devoted his time and energy to promoting vocations to the missionary life. He wrote to the Bishops in their respective Dioceses, he often visited the diocesan seminaries of Lombardy and other Italian Regions. He was dismayed and disappointed at the provincial attitude of some Bishops who would discourage their clergy from joining the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions. They were too concerned about the needs of their own districts and limited their apostolate only to the boundaries of their dioceses.
A few years after the establishment of the Seminary, Mons. Marinoni complained to Propaganda Fide about the lack of cooperation from the Lombard Bishops in allowing priests to join the Institute. Up to then, the Seminary had accepted only diocesan priests already incardinated in their respective Dioceses. He pondered the idea of accepting not only priests but also seminarians (as had been done originally) and wrote to Rome with this proposal. On December 3, 1882 he received a positive response from the Pope who granted him the possibility of “stealing” (“rubare”) two seminarians from each diocese and to train them for mission even without the dimissorial letters from their Bishops. The Pope spoke of this as a: “privilegio straordinario” (“extraordinary privilege”) granted to Mons. Marinoni. Once again it underlines the particular concern of the Holy Father for the survival of the missionary institution.
On their part, the Bishops did not give in to the possibility of incardinating students already accepted by the Lombard Seminary. That is why Mons. Marinoni asked Propaganda Fide for the faculty to ordain seminarians “Titulo Missionis;” that is, priests incardinated in the missionary Seminary itself. Propaganda Fide gave the assent.
Just a curiosity: in 1882, the theological seminary of San Calocero had only one student, Pietro Adamo Brioschi. He accompanied Mons. Eugenio Biffi to Cartagena in Colombia and there he helped in the work of mission.
April 1872. The Seminary of Milan published the Italian translation of “Les Missions Catholiques” (started by Propaganda Fide in 1868): “Le missioni Cattoliche”. The periodical was directed by Mons. Marinoni together with Mons. Scurati (the successor of Mons. Marinoni as director of the Seminary) The journal published articles and letters coming from Italian missionaries abroad. It had the specific purpose of promoting missionary awareness among the clergy, the seminarians and the local churches in Italy. It was, then, an instrument for evangelization.

1.5 The birth of the “PONTIFICAL SEMINARY FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS”

(1871-1874)

The idea to erect the “Pontifical Seminary of Sts. Peter and Paul for Foreign Missions” originated in Rome in 1867 by Mons. Pietro Avanzini, a diocesan priest who was an expert in canon law. Mons. Avanzini had founded the “Acta Sanctae Sedis” (which would be renamed “Acta apostolicae sedis” in 1909).
He shared the same missionary spirit and openness of Pope Pius IX who dreamed of a “renewed Church.” The idea found fertile soil among the clergy of Rome and other areas of Italy. Among those who supported the proposal were Don John Bosco (The Founder of the Salesians), and Fr. Daniele Comboni (Founder of the Comboni Fathers).
Pope Pius IX is considered the official Founder of the newly born Institute. He entrusted to Mons. Avanzini the supervision and organization of the seminary, which accepted the first four students from Turin on December 23, 1871.
The official recognition of the Seminary came only 3 years later with the Papal Brief (Breve Papale) of Pope Pius IX on June 21, 1874 in which he delegated all the powers to Propoganda Fide. Mons. Avanzini had already died on April 7, 1874 before the formal erection of the Pontifical Seminary.

In general, the two Seminaries of Milan and Rome shared the same missionary charism but also had some significant differences:

The Milan Seminary was born with the specific mission to the non-Christian while that of Rome added the possibility of serving even those local churches that were in need of clergy.

Milan had missions of its own while the missionaries from the Seminary of Rome were scattered all over (notice the list below).

From the beginning, Milan had “catechists”, lay brothers consecrated for life to mission. Rome was only a clerical institution.

Milan began by accepting only diocesan priests while from its beginning Rome accepted candidates not yet ordained. They were incardinated “Titulo Missionis” and they were bound to the Roman Seminary by the “Giuramento” (“Oath”) which included “life in common”.

Throughout the whole life of the Roman Seminary (1874-1926 when it merged with the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions and became P.I.M.E.) roughly 80 missionaries left for different destinations in mission: Australia, India, Egypt, Sudan, China (Hanchung), Mexico, United States, Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Albania, Syria…Of these missionaries, a signifcant number came from Piemonte in northern Italy.
The most beautiful “pearl” of the Roman Seminary is Saint Alberico Crescitelli from Altavilla Irpina, close to Avellino in southern Italy. He was martyred in China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1951, and canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000 during the Jubilee Year.

1.6 Blessed PAOLO MANNA 

(1872-1952)

Founder of the “Pontifical Missionary Union” and First Superior General of P.I.M.E.

“THE WHOLE CHURCH FOR THE WHOLE WORLD”

A) Introduction

Among the missiologists and missionaries of the last century which saw a blossoming of missionary activities, Blessed Paolo Manna stands out as a towering personality. Calling himself “a failed missionary” because of the forced return to Italy, due to precarious health after 12 years of work in the difficult terrains among the Karen tribes of East Burma, Father Manna used all his talents, spirit of initiative, indomitable will and capacity for organization to stir up the missionary consciousness of the Church in general and the Italian Church in particular. His often repeated motto, “the whole Church for the whole world” became the clarion call of Vatican II when it declared “the whole Church is missionary by her very nature.”
Pope John XXIII attributed to him the title of “the Christopher Columbus” of missionary cooperation and Pope Paul VI described him as “one of the most effective promoters of missionary universality in the 20th century.” He is also acknowledged for his “prophetic role” in promoting Ecumenism.

B) His life

Father PAOLO MANNA was born in Avellino on January 16, 1872. After primary and technical education in Avellino and in Naples he went to Rome for higher studies. While studying philosophy at the Gregorian University he followed the call of the Lord and entered the Theology Serninary of the Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan. On May 19, 1894 he was ordained a priest in the cathedral of Milan.
On September 27, 1895 he departed for the mission of Toungoo in Eastern Burma. He worked there for a total of ten years with two short repatriations until 1907, when his illness forced him to come back to Italy for good.
Beginning in 1909, through writing and a variety of other activities, he dedicated all his energy for the next forty years to fostering missionary zeal among the clergy and the faithful. In 1916 he founded the Missionary Union of the Clergy on which Pius XII bestowed the title of ‘Pontifical’ in 1956. He saw the Union as “a radical solution to the problem of involving Catholics in the Apostolate”. His assumption was that a mission-minded clergy would make all Catholics missionaries. Today the Union has spread throughout the world and its membership includes seminarians, religious and consecrated laity.
By 1909 he became the director of “Le Missioni Cattoliche”; and in 1914 he launched Propaganda Missionaria, a popular broadsheet with a large circulation; in 1919 he started “Italia Missionaria” for young people.
In an effort to foster missionary vocations in Southern Italy, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith asked Manna to establish a seminary for foreign missions. He opened Sacred Heart Seminary at Ducenta in the province of Caserta, a foundation he long encouraged and promoted.
In 1924 he was elected Superior General of the Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan. In 1926 at the instigation of Pope Pius XI the Institute united with the Missionary Seminary of Rome to form the Pontifical Institute for the Foreign Missions (P.I.M.E.).
The P.I.M.E. General Assembly of 1934 gave him a mandate to establish the Society of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate. He played a primary role in the foundation of this institute in 1936. From 1937 to 1941 Father Manna was in charge of the International Secretariat for the Missionary Union of the Clergy.
The Southern Italian Region of P.I.M.E. was established in 1943 and Father Manna became its first superior and launched the family missionary magazine “Venga il tuo Regno”.
Father Manna wrote quite a number of well-known books and booklets. Several of them had a lasting effect such as: “Operarii autem pauci”; “I Fratelli separati e noi”; “Le nostre Chiese e la propagazione del Vangelo”; “Virtu’ Apostoliche”.
He envisioned innovative methods of missionary work that foreshadowed developments at the Second Vatican Council. But Fr. Manna’s greatest legacy is the example he left behind: he was driven by an overwhelming passion for the missions that sickness, suffering and setbacks could never diminish. Tragella, his first biographer, called him “A burning soul”. Until his death his motto remained: “Tthe whole Church for the whole World!”
Father Paolo Manna died in Naples on September 15, 1952. His remains were laid to rest at Ducenta, ‘his seminary’. On December 13, 1990 Pope John Paul 11 visited his tomb.
His Beatification Cause began in Naples in 1971 and concluded in Rome on April 24, 2001 with a Papal Decree on a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Servant of God.
He was declared Blessed on November 4, 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

C) Detailed Chronology

Blessed Paolo Manna was a son of his time who was able to look forward and to look far ahead.
1872 January 16: Paolo Manna is born at Avellino, Italy, to Vincenzo and Lorenza Ruggiero, the fifth of six children.
1887: He enters the Societa Cattolica Istruttiva in Rome, the beginning of the religious congregation of the Salvatorian Fathers.
1891: He enters the Seminary of the Foreign Mission in Milan for theology.
1894 May 19: He is ordained a priest in Milan at the age of 22 years.
1895 September 27: He departs for the first time for east Burma but on Jan. 8, 1902 he has to return home after contracting tuberculosis.
1902: He publishes a study “I Ghekhu: una tribu’ cariana della Birmania orientale”, appreciated by anthropological reviews and translated into English.
1902 October 18: He sets out a second time for Burma, to return home on Dec. 4, 1905
1906 Dec. 3: He goes again to Burma and then returns home for good, on July 7, 1907
1909 February 5: He is appointed director of “Le Missioni Cattoliche.”
1909 April: He publishes “Operarii autem pauci!” (“The Workers are Few!”)which will foster hundreds of missionary vocations in Italy and beyond.
1909-1921: He diffuses in Italy the Societies for the Propagation of the Faith and Holy Childhood, future Pontifical Societies, and launches numerous other initiatives of missionary cooperation.
1914: He founds “Propaganda missionaria” a popular missionary paper which reaches a circulation of 200,000 copies (today, “Missionari del PIME”)
1916: He founds the Missionary Union of the Clergy, today a Pontifical Society, which Pius XII called “the gem of Father Manna’s life.”
1919 January 15: He founds “Italia Missionaria”, a youth magaizne with the declared aim of fostering vocations for foreign missions.
1919 May: He founds “La Rivista di Studi Missionari”, the first publication of its kind in Italy.
1919: After the Encyclical “Maximum Illud” of Benedict XV (which develops a few of Manna’s idea) he publishes “La Conversione del Mondo Infedele” a popular missionary catechism, soon translated into four languages.
1921: He starts at Trentola Ducenta (Caserta) the “Seminario meridionale per le missioni estere” approved with Breve by Benedict XV
1924 August 25: He is elected Superior General of the Lombard Seminary for foreign Missions.
1926: He is the first Superior General of PIME, founded that year on May 26 by Pius XI uniting the seminaries of Milan (1850) and Rome (1871)
1927-1929: He visits missions in Asia (India, Bengal, Burma, Hong Kong, China, Mancuria, Korea, Japan, Hawaii and then the United States).
1929: Reflecting on his travels in Asia, he writes “Osservazioni sul metodo moderno di evangelizzare” which he sends to Propaganda Fide with revolutionary proposals: this remained unpublished until 1997.
1934 March 16: Manna ends his term as Superior General. The new superior Msgr. Lorenzo M. Balconi charges him to complete the foundation of the Missionaries of Immaculate Mary prepared by him (Foundation date: Dec. 8, 1936)
1937: Appointed international secretary of the Missionary Union of the Clergy, he publishes an important text still valid today, “Il problema missionario e i sacerdoti” (“The Missionary Problem and the Clergy)
1941: He publishes “I Fratelli separati e noi”, a heartfelt call for unity of Christians based on his experience of mission and contact with many Christian Communions. This is the first major work on ecumenism written by an Italian and it gives rise to lively correspondence with the Separated Brethren.
1943: He publishe “Virtu’ Apostoliche” (“Apostolic Virtues”, four editions in Italy, versions in English and Portuguese)
1945: He founds, “Venga il tuo Regno”, a magazine for the PIME southern region.
1950: He publishes “Le nostre chiese e la propagazione del Vangelo” (two editions). Ideas expressed here are taken up by Pius XII in the “Fidei Donum” Encyclical which opens the way to direct missionary commitment on the part of dioceses and diocesan clergy.
1952 September 15: Fr. Manna dies in a hospital at Naples.
1983 November: Addressing the participants at the PIME general assembly, Pope John Paul II quotes the unforgettable words words of Fr. Manna: “We have no need of mediocre priests.”
1990, November 13: John Paul II visits the tomb of Manna at Ducenta, and delivers an address to mark the 25th anniversary of the Vatican II Ad Gentes decree: on the Church’s Missionary Activity.
1992-2001: Process regarding the presumed miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr. Manna, concludes with an unanimous positive vote.
2001, Nov. 4: Beatification of Venerable Father Paolo Manna.

D) His missionary Spirituality

Bl. Manna’s spirituality does not develop alongside of mission, rather it is born and lives within it; a response to the infinite love of Christ, it accompanies the missionary on the paths of holiness: consecrating himself to the ministry of the mission, he consecrates himself to a life of divine charity.

He was convinced that faith demands a life of its own through spirituality. Truly, Manna made mission the unifying center of his spiritual life and how he succeeded in communicating this to others! “The missionary is par excellence a man of faith: he is born of faith, he lives faith, and for this he willingly works, suffers and dies.” It is exactly because of faith that “the missionary must never be discouraged. It would be an offense against the all-powerful God who has called him and for whom he works. The true missionary is always an optimist!”

Manna was a man of fervent prayer and he would reprimand his missionaries for neglecting that. “What a mistake to disregard prayer on the pretext of too much work! We must pray always. When we do not pray we are not happy; and we do not do any good, whether in the missions or at home, neither for ourselves nor for others.” He urged the missionaries to meditate on the gospel daily; it must be their habitual book of meditation, a book which is never exhausted, because they would never finish in their study and understanding of it, nor in putting it into practice in their lives.

Interiorly Manna was very sensitive and kind, humble, never hesitating to ask pardon if he thought that he had offended anybody even unwillingly. His prudence was outstanding and was the great virtue that made him a fantastic missionary and a successful superior.

Fr. Manna’s spirituality is pre-eminently Christocentric. At the heart of his spirituality there is the person of Jesus: “it is for love of Him that we go on mission.” The authentic missionary must live the spirit of Jesus Christ and, like St. Paul, must be able to say: “For me to live is Christ.” Manna says that missionaries are “alter Christus”, they are the living representation of Christ and thus they are called to be “holy missionaries.” “If missionaries, whatever country they may come from, are not saints, it would be better if they stayed at home!!”

It is by meditating on the person of Jesus that Bl. Manna draws his particular attention for the themes of the cross and the heart.
“The crucified one made us missionaries and it is the crucified One again who must nourish in us love for souls.”
The cross refers to the heart of Jesus as his symbol, his secret personification: “only if we drink from the “immense goodness of the heart of Jesus, in us there will live that benevolence that is Love of God.” In his circular letter of Dec. 15, 1932 he wrote: “The well being of souls is only in Christ. Therefore, let the love of Jesus be our perfection and our profession: let us light our hearts from the eternal flames of love that radiate from the sacred Heart of Jesus.”

E) The ‘Portrait’ of a Missionary

From those pillars of his spirituality, Manna draws concrete conclusions on the life-style required of a good missionary. His Christological spirituality is reflected in the way he lives as missionary. “Only the missionary who faithfully imitates Christ Himself can reproduce that image in the souls of others.”

The missionary is “a man filled with the spirit of Jesus Christ, clothed in his virtues, imbued with his sentiments, animated by his zeal, afire with his love, a man of most elevated evangelical perfection, not inferior to that demanded of the most strictly cloistered monk.” He used to repeat to his missionaries: “Be hermits at home and apostles outside!”

The contemplation of the cross of Christ demands the human response of living with dedication, apostolic zeal, and spirit of sacrifice. “A spirit of sacrifice is necessary because it guarantees the holiness of the life of the missionary. In all the Saints, the love of Jesus Christ was always inseparable from the love of the cross and mortification. When we cease to mortify ourselves we cease to love.” He maintains that “without the crosses and suffering of the apostles Redemption does not continue to operate in souls. If we suffer, we redeem.”

1.7 The birth of P.I.M.E. (1926) 

After the death of Mons. Scurati (May 31, 1901) the Lombard Seminary found it difficult to elect a worthy successor. Scurati had been chosen because he was a close collaborator of Mons. Marinoni, the first Director of the Seminary, and thus the missionaries saw in him the right person to continue the wise governance of the Institute. However, no agreement was found among the missionaries in the choice of Scurati’s successor.

The Rules of the Institute, promulgated in 1886, provided that at the death of the Director all the missionaries would vote for his successor. The votes were scattered among many candidates and nobody seemed to stand out from the group. Hence, Propaganda Fide delegated Archbishop Ferrari to select the new Director. After a general survey among the elder missionaries in Milan, Card. Ferrari concluded that nobody seemed fitting to cover the role of leader of the missionary institute, and so he appointed Mons. Filippo Roncari, missionary Oblate of Rho as Director of the Lombard Seminary (from Jan. 4 1902 to Dec. 31, 1908).

Mons. Roncari was a “man of God,” endowed with great gifts and talents. By looking for benefactors and sponsors, he strengthened the economic foundation of the Institute which was in poor condition and difficult circumstances. He built the Mother House in Milan and St. Francis Xavier Church which he consecrated on Dec. 1, 1906.

After 6 years of service as Director of the Institute Mons. Roncari resigned and the Holy See with the advice of the Archbishop of Milan appointed Mons. Pietro Vigano’ as his successor. Mons. Pietro Vigano’ was a missionary in India for 29 years and Bishop of Hyderabad. He guided the Institute up to July 1913 when he was succeeded by Fr. Giuseppe Armanasco, who was elected by the General Chapter formed by the representatives from all the missions gathered in Milan toward the end of 1912.

In that Chapter, the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions changed its name and became “The Institute for the Foreign Mission of Milan”. With the approval of the Rules by Propaganda Fide, the Institute was recognized as independent from the Archbishop of Milan and the Lombard Bishops, and the missionaries were all ordained “Titulo Missionis”, that is, incardinated in the Institute itself.

Fr. G. Armanasco skillfully led the Institute through 11 difficult years (1913-1924) when Italy was facing the hardships of the First World War.

On August 1924 the Second General Chapter of the Institute was held in Milan. Fr. Paolo Manna was elected Superior General and the new Constitutions, consonant with the 1917 Code of Canon Law, were approved.

Unfortunately the Code did not acknowledge the possibility of a missionary society with diocesan priests sent to the missions, which was the original idea of the Institute. The Constitutions of 1925, therefore, became close to the rules of religious congregations. This resulted in a certain distancing from the practice of the beginning. For example, the year of Novitiate was introduced, followed the “Giuramento” (“Oath”), and the Institute was now organized into Districts, guided by a Regional Superior.

Finally, the merging of the Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan with the Pontifical Seminary of Sts. Peter and Paul of Rome took place on May 23, 1926. The two Institutes had already proposed their unification to Propaganda Fide in 1912 but the time seemed too premature. It was Pope Pius XI who facilitated the union and officially consummated it with the Moto Proprio “Cum Missionalium Opera.” The newly born Institute was named “Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions” (Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere, in Italian) with their headquarters in Milan. This new society assumed all of the personnel and the missions of the two Institutes, with a unified leadership (the first Superior General was Fr. Paolo Manna) and the Milanese Constitutions.

PART II

Consolidating the Roots and Rediscovering
the New “Wind of the Spirit”

2.1 PIME during the Second World War and its aftermath

2.2 On the “WAVE” of the VATICAN II

2.3 The “UPDATING” post-conciliar chapter (1971-1972)

2.4 The last five P.I.M.E. General Assemblies (1977-2001)

 

2.1 PIME during the Second World War and its aftermath 

From Mons. Balconi to Fr. Risso (1934-1957)

a) Mons. Lorenzo Maria Balconi

The first General Chapter outside Italy took place in Hong Kong from February 15 to March 7 1934 and elected Mons. Lorenzo Maria Balconi as the new Superior General. He was born in Milan (Italy) in 1878, ordained a priest at the age of 23 and left for China in 1901 where he spent 33 years. In 1928 he was appointed as Apostolic Vicar of Hanchung (China), a position that he held up to his election as Superior General.

Mons. Balconi led the Institute through the most difficult period of its history due to frequent emergencies such as: the interminable world conflict (1939-1945), the extreme poverty of the institute following the war, the closing of some missions in the East and the consequent homecoming of many missionaries. It was during these years also that the Institute expanded its service to Brasil and Africa, a choice that was contested by some missionaries because they felt it was against the traditional priority of the institute for Asian countries.

Under his leadership, PIME grew in number, vocations flourished and the formation houses were crowded with seminarians (91 in the theological Seminary of Milan, and 69 students at the Lyceum in Monza). In 1939 the Superior would send 23 priests and brothers to mission destinations, still the largest number in the 153 year existence of PIME!!

However, inspite of the many requests filed by many young applicants to be admitted to the institute, Mons. Balconi was very strict in respecting the requirements of good discipline and also good health. Many were the cases recorded of students who were dismissed and sent back to their dioceses.

Some “priorities” of Mons. Balconi:

The annual “report” from each missionary concerning his work in the mission to be sent to the Superior General. It served the purpose of informing the Superior regarding the situation in the missions. Some of these annual reports were published in “il Vincolo,” a periodical of internal use among the members of the institute.

Maintaining very good relations with the Bishops of Lombardy and the diocesan seminaries. He frequently visited them and kept on informing them about the “state of affairs” of the institute.
“The Institute exists only for the missions”, Mons. Balconi used to borrow this expression often repeated by Fr. Manna to clarify to the aspirants the reason and the motivations behind their choice of joining the institute. Many missionaries who were no longer willing to leave for the missions were dismissed and sent back to their respective dioceses or they had to find “hospitality” in other Italian dioceses.

b) The Upheaval of the Second World War (1940-1945)

The war, so tragic in itself, became a tragedy for PIME as well. In Milan every night at 9 p.m. at the sound of the “siren” (sign of warning for the population) all the students of the Theological Seminary used to run to the underground shelter to protect themselves against the Nazis’ and Fascists’ bombings. This made it impossible for the students to sleep. On Christmas 1942 the seminarians asked the Superiors to be sent home because they felt “worn out” and defenseless due to hunger and sicknesses caused by the harsh weather and the poor nutrition.

It was a terrible period in the history of PIME; however, Mons. Balconi was able to keep the institute together in spite all of these difficulties. Moreover, communications with the missions all over the world were practically suspended: not even the Holy See could keep in touch with the different Apostolic Legates in the mission lands. Mons. Balconi stands out as eminent figure of that period of PIME history: he nurtured in the members a genuine spirit of sacrifice giving himself as a heroic example of discipline and zeal.

In 1941, five PIME missionaries were killed in China: Fr. Cesare Mencattini on July 11 and four on Nov. 19: Mons. Antonio Barosi (Apostolic Administrator in Kaifeng), Fr. Mario Zanardi, Fr. Bruno Zanella and Gerolamo Lazzaroni. The following year other two missionaries were added to the list of the martyrs: Fr. Carlo Osnaghi in China on Feb. 2, 1942, and Fr. Emilio Teruzzi in Hong Kong on Nov. 26, 1942.

On July 15, 1943, Mons. Balconi received the official approval from the Holy See to erect a new and distinct District of the Institute for the southern regions of Italy with the main purpose of promoting vocations and missionary animation. Fr. Manna was appointed as the first Regional Superior.

c) The Opening to Africa and America

In the years following WWII, Mons. Balconi broke with the tradition of the Institute by opening missions in Africa and America:

A mission in Neghelli (Ethiopia) in 1937, given by the Holy See.

A mission in Brasil in 1946 to give an new opportunity to the many priests who had been displaced from their missions by the war and were still waiting for new assignments

Mission in the U.S. in 1947 to ask for financial support for the missions.

Mission in Guinea Bissau in 1947 given by the Holy See.

These unprecedented decisions mark an historical step of the institute, which up that point had been directing its efforts only to Asian countries.

d) Fr. Luigi Risso

In 1947 the General Chapter gathered in Milan to elect the new Superior General.
Fr. Luigi Risso was chosen as the successor of Mons. Balconi. He was ordained a priest in 1905 and joined PIME in 1910. He was missionary in Nanyang (China) up to 1924 when he was appointed as Vicar General of Fr. Paolo Manna. A man of distinguished kindness, compassion, he was also well versed in theology.

In 1949 he visited the missions of the institute, a long and tiring journey which served the purpose of assessing the conditions of the missionaries and their apostolate in the mission fields.

Fr. Risso revitalized the PIME presence in Italy. He opened new “apostolic houses” in Lecco, Vigarolo (Lodi), the formation house for the PIME brothers in Busto Arsizio, in Naples, Sassari, and Catania. He urged the missionaries to contribute with their efforts to the missionary animation, a primary duty of all the members!

From 1948 to 1954 many missionaries and Bishops were expelled from China due to the restrictions imposed by the Communist Regime. Some went back to Italy after enduring the hardship of imprisonment, persecution, and ended up often times sick and morally depressed. Some others, however, left for other destinations like Japan, Brasil, Hong Kong, and United States.

In 1951 the General Directorate transfered the headquarters from Milan to Rome. The transfer brought about the opening of the northern Region of PIME in Italy whose headquarters was the Mother House in Milan. In 1952 the Superiors consented to the opening of the first PIME Seminary in the U.S. It was the first PIME Seminary outside Italy, a prophetic sign of the future openness of PIME to internationality.

The 50’s were characterized by a great missionary revival especially of the Church in Italy. The three missionary encyclicals of Pope Pius XII (“Evangelii Praecones” 1951, “Fidei Donum” 1955, and “Princeps Pastorum” 1959) awoke in the clergy and the faithful the urgency of the mission “ad gentes.”

2.2 On the “WAVE” of the VATICAN II 

Lights and Shadows

(Fr. Augusto Lombardi and Mons. Aristide Pirovano, 1957-1977)

a) Fr. Augusto Lombardi (1957-1964)

At the General Chapter held in Rome from September 6 to October 3, 1957, Fr. Augusto Lombardi was elected as Superior General. Born at Villa St. Stefano (Province of Frosinone, near Rome) in 1898, he graduated with a degree in literature and he started teaching in some schools in Rome. He joined PIME when he was 30 years old and he was ordained a priest in 1932. He immediately left for Hyderabad (India) and in 1935 he was appointed as member of the apostolic Delegation of India in New Delhi. In 1952 Fr. Lombardi was appointed as Vicar General of Fr. Risso, a position that he held up to his election as Superior General. He was an open-minded missionary, envisioning a renewed Church though well rooted in Tradition.

He worked hard for the establishment of new formation houses in Italy in order to foster more vocations: in Florence, and Cervignano (Gorizia, Friuli Venezia Giulia). In 1961 Fr. Lombardi gave the approval for the construction of the “Missionary center” in Milan dedicated to Mons. Ramazzotti.

In 1962 Pope John XXIII donated to PIME his residence at Sotto il Monte (Province of Bergamo), desiring that it be made into a mission seminary as an expression of one of the dearest dreams he had harbored for many years: to form young seminarians for the work of mission. He blessed the first brick of the building on March 18, 1963 in Vatican City.

b) PIME and VATICAN II

14 PIME Bishops were present were present at the Second Vatican Council (among them two Archbishops). It was the first time they had all met together! Among the Italian missionary institutes only the Franciscans had a larger number of Bishops attending the sessions of the Council (19 Bishops)

In the sub-commission created for the redaction of the official decree “Ad Gentes” (on the Missionary Activity of the Church) PIME was represented by some “experts” (“Periti”): Mons. Gaetano Pollio (former Bishop of Kaifeng in China and then Salerno), Mons. Arcangelo Cerqua (Prelate of Parintins, Brazil), the historian Fr. Tragella and the journalist Fr. Gheddo (columnist for the “Osservatore Romano”).

The stress on the missionary nature of the Church given by Vatican II urged PIME to remain faithful to the specific charism of the institute: the “ad gentes” mission, the foundational character of our identity.

The decree “Ad Gentes Divinitus” of Vatican II quite vividly describes the origin of mission: the Trinity. It is according to “the plan of the Father that he sent his Son and the Holy Spirit into the world to call all peoples to share in God’s life.” The Church is “the icon of the Trinity”, enlivened by the same spirit of mission which impelled Christ himself. The mission of the Trinity, then, continues today through the Church: there cannot be Church without Mission and there cannot be Mission without Church because Mission is a community endeavor (even the Trinity is in itself a community in mission)

In chapter two of the decree, the Council Fathers underline that “the Church is aware that a tremendous missionary work still remains to be done, since a growing number of people have never heard the gospel message.” Renewed by this strong appeal to mission, PIME began to envision and explore new ways of living the missionary charism in the world.

c) Mons. Aristide Pirovano (1965-1977) : The Superior from the Amazon region

On January 30, 1964 Fr. Augusto Lombardi suddenly died and immediately a new General Chapter was convened by Fr. Morelli (Vicar General of Fr. Lombardi) in Rome. During that Assembly (March 5-April 15, 1965) Mons. Aristide Pirovano was elected as the new Superior General.

He was born in Erba (Como) in 1915 and ordained a priest in 1941. He was assigned to Brazil, which he reached in November 1946. He founded many PIME missions in the Amazon region. He was Prelate of Macapa’ in 1950 and Bishop in 1955 (he was consecrated by Mons. Montini, the Archbishop of Milan and later to be Pope Paul VI)

One of the most urgent issues he had to confront as Superior was the poor economic situation of the institute. He looked for benefactors and sponsors among the well-to-do families of Italy and through the financial support coming from the U.S. He was able to bring the Institute “above water” and able to breath again!

In twelve years of governance (1965-1977) Mons. Pirovano built the PIME Regional Headquarters in Hong Kong, Eluru and Bombay (India), São Paolo, Macapa’, Belem, Parintins (Brazil), Bissau (Guinea, Africa) and the formation houses in Brazil and in the United States.

In 1973 he consolidated the PIME Theologate of Gaeta (Southern Italy) with that of Milan. Mons. Pirovano used to repeat often: “PIME is a small institute: we cannot afford to scatter our resources.” Many of his choices were motivated by this conviction.

d) A change in our Missionary Strategy

After Vatican II the practice of mission changed: it was no longer the concentration of many missionaries in a given area “commissioned” by the Holy See, but rather the distribution of the personnel in several local churches at the disposal of the Local Bishops. In the past the Holy See would entrust a certain non-Christian territory to the care of a specific missionary institute. Since 1850 PIME had followed that missionary strategy founding around 25 dioceses in India, China, and Burma.

Mons. Pirovano sent some PIME missionaries to work in new mission areas of Africa (in Cameroon, 1968; in Ivory Coast, 1972), of Asia (in Thailand, 1972; in the Philippines, 1968), and of Brazil (Sta. Catariña State and Mato Groso).

In Asia, Mons. Pirovano handed over 5 Dioceses run by PIME Bishops to local Bishops: Jalpaiguri (India, 1967), Hong Kong (1969) Kengtung (Burma, 1972), and Vijayawada (India, 1972). In this “handing over” of the Dioceses, everything built and established by PIME in those territories became propriety of the Diocese and at the full disposal of the Bishops. PIME priests would remain involved in the missionary work, however, in order to facilitate the growth of these young churches. This is a wonderful example of the style PIME acquired in dealing with the local churches.

e) The 70’s: Years of the “Protest” in Italy

Another main concern of Mons. Pirovano was the formation of new members of the institute. It was a difficult and delicate time for the houses of Formation and for the schools of theology. The 70’s were the years of the “Protest” (“gli anni della contestazione”) in Europe following the Chinese Cultural revolution. The new generations rebelled against any traditional structure and establishment in the society. New ways of thinking and acting spread quickly among the youth and that affected even the Church as a traditional institution. Seminarians clamored their complaints against the Superiors and the Formators and this caused frequent re-shuffling of the formation teams. In 1974 Mons. Pirovano took the drastic decision to close the Theological Seminary of Milan and scattered the seminarians to several PIME houses in Italy in order to pursue their studies in the diocesan schools. The following year the choice was made to have only a theological Seminary in Monza, close to Milan. It is still functioning today.

In 1969 the missionary magazine “Le Missioni Cattoliche” became “Mondo e Missione”, a name that has been kept up to today. The focus of the magazine is to present the missionary work of the Church all over the world and to promote missionary awareness among the clergy and in the parishes.

Mons. Pirovano died in 1997. At his funeral Mass, the Superior General Fr. Franco Cagnasso described him as “a man of strong, practical, and essential faith,” a faith nurtured by constant prayer and apostolic zeal. During the confusing years of the “Protest” he urged the missionaries to be faithful to the Roman Pontiff and to love the Church they were serving.

“In the missions you go to preach Christ, crucified and risen: Christ and not yourselves!!!” This was his constant refrain to the young missionaries ready to leave for the missions.

2.3 THE “UPDATING” POST-CONCILIAR CHAPTER 

(1971-1972)

Introduction

After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI asked all the religious Institutes to convoke a post-conciliar updating chapter in order to revise the Constitutions, and re-examine their goals and nature. According to Propaganda Fide, this was not required of PIME since it did not figure among the religious Institutes. Nonetheless, Mons. Pirovano decided to push it through, foreseeing the beneficial effect for the future of the Institute. It will turn out to be a wise choice.

The 7th PIME General Chapter is considered “THE Council” of the Institute. It was held at the PIME headquarter in Rome from May 29, 1971 to January 27, 1972 and saw the re-election of Mons Pirovano as Superior General.

53 were the members who attended the Chapter (one representative for every 13 members of the Institute). To have an idea of the enormous work of the participants, let us look at some statistics:

185 general sessions and countless meetings in the sub-commissions.

349 formal reports of the discussions held in the Assembly

1143: number of times they voted.

1750: number of pages of material distributed to the participants.

The Chapter appointed a sub-commission for the redaction of the “Capitular Documents” (“Documenti Capitolari”), which were published in 1972 with a total of 440 pages. It is still considered the most complete text describing the nature, the spirit, and tradition of PIME.

These are the chapters included in the final redaction:

Goal and nature of the institute
The lay missionary (Brothers)
Our spiritual life
The missionary activity
The missionary animation
The formation programs of PIME
Government and structure
Internationality
Economy
Others (various documents)

Based on these “Capitular Documents”, new Constitutions were promulgated in 1978.

b) 3 Criteria to Renew the Institute

In the Introductory part of the Acts, there are listed the 3 main criteria for the renewal of the Institute:

a fuller insertion of PIME according to its specific missionary charism in the Church’s life today

a prophetic presence in the world attentive to the “signs of the times” interpreted in the light of the Gospel.

a return to the original charism of the Institute (Ad Gentes, Ad Extra, Ad Vitam)

c) Goal, Nature, and Identity of PIME: The Non-Christians

This was the first theme tackled by the General Chapter. The goal of the Institute is the evangelization of the non-Christians and the “Plantatio Ecclesiae” (establishment of the local Church) among those peoples and groups where the Church is not yet present. Among the different ways of understanding and living mission, PIME opts for the non-Christians, remaining faithful to the original and specific charism of the institute.

The Chapter challenges the Institute to review its presence, methods, and style in the mission fields. PIME should abstain from any involvement in any kind of apostolate which is not exclusively missionary, and the formation of young seminarians must be directed to preparing missionaries for the “Ad Gentes” mission.

Consequently, the Institute refused to accept any request of work, which would not be addressed to the non-Christians. The famous refrain of Fr. Manna “Our Institute exists only for the work of mission”, had guided the reflection of the Superiors attending the Assembly.

A controversial issue: if the priority of PIME is the mission to the non-Christians, how to justify the presence of the Institute in those countries with a large majority of Christians? (PIME, in fact, was running parishes in Italy, Philippines, U.S.A., and Brazil.)

The Chapter urged the Institute to facilitate the handing over of those parishes to the local Bishops and to qualify its presence in those countries through a more specifically missionary engagement, such as missionary animation, missionary vocational promotion and formation, etc.

These are to be the concrete priorities of PIME in the the missions:

Evangelization to the non-Christians through an authentic witness of life, charity, dialogue: the so-called “Primary Evangelization”
Support to the young churches.
Missionary cooperation with the local churches
To explore “new ways” of living ‘ad gentes’ mission by reading the signs of the times.
Preferential option for Asian Countries.

d) PIME inserted in the Local Church

The “Capitular Documents” stress very strongly the “need’ and the “value” of promoting missionary awareness in our churches of origin. Every missionary must share with others (and in a special way the particular church in which his faith was brought up and nourished) his missionary charism. Our missionary vocation finds roots in the faith of our local communities and we become “signs” and “expressions” of their openness to mission. Hence, we cannot fail to keep in touch with them and to make them “partakers” of our missionary activities.

e) Relationships between PIME and the Dioceses in the missions.

“Our specific task in the missions,” declare the participants of the Chapter, “must be that of being at the service of the missionary dimension of the Dioceses.” We devote ourselves to promoting the faith in those non-Christian contexts which become the exclusive priority of our apostolate. This entails the readiness to leave the Diocese whenever those concrete and specific conditions are no longerpresent (e.g., when there is sufficient local clergy, a well-organinized missionary outreach, etc.)

f) Internationality

For more than one century PIME did not accept vocations from so-called “mission” countries. The reason behind was the concern of the institute to avoid any suspicion of giving priority to its expansion rather than the growth and the strengthening of the local churches.

However, with the “Ad Gentes” decree of Vatican II, the perspective changed. In AG, 20 it is stated that “even the young churches should take part in the universal mission of the Church as soon as possible and send missionaries to preach the gospel throughout the whole world, even though they are themselves short of clergy.” The underlying principle is that the missionary openness of a young church is the clearest sign of her maturity and recognition of her full establishment.

The Chapter underlined the duty of PIME to cooperate in the promotion of missionary awareness and even to facilitate the establishment of local missionary institutes for the Ad Gentes mission.

The delegates at the Chapter opted to continue the promotion of PIME vocations from Italy, United States, and Brazil. (Much later, in 1989, PIME would erect its own seminary in India).

g) Method of Work in the Mission

PIME operates neither according to a uniform style nor following a specific method or approach. PIME accommodates a plurality of charisms and methods of evangelization. One of the qualities most required of a missionary is the capability to adjust patiently to the ever-changing context of mission and to find the suitable approach to the reality. To every member and community of the institute it is recommended to express a creativity, which makes possible and even necessary manifold forms of presence and activity.

The starting point of the reflection during the Chapter was the present missionary situation in the world. “It is important”, the participants concluded, “that in every mission there be some confreres ready to devote time and energies to study some particular aspects of the local culture, religions and traditions, to be up to date with current research on the social setting of the place in order to attune better our missionary proposals.”

Again the “Ad Gentes” document invites the missionary Institutes to qualify their presence under the local hierarchy, assuming specific tasks for the evangelization of specific categories of people or native groups who have not yet heard the Gospel-message.

h) New Emphases in the Apostolate

Human Promotion:

The Chapter stressed the duty for the PIME missionaries to be aware of the real situation of the people with whom they live, of their circumstances, and structural injustices which violate their fundamental rights, to learn from them their true necessities and aspirations and to collaborate with them so that they may be able to identify, express and fulfill such aspirations.

Inter-religious Dialogue:

It shall be the task of every missionary to acquire a sufficient knowledge of non-Christian religions, of the doctrinal and pastoral problems related to them, and to cultivate in him the fundamental dispositions to dialogue. The Chapter urges the missionaries who live in countries with groups who profess other religions to enter into a concrete dialogue with them using whatever means are suggested by the situation.

i) The apostolic Spirit of PIME

The Chapter declares that “our spirituality blossoms from our mission and it is not parallel to that.”

The evangelizing Christ is the foundation and model of our apostolic life. Christ is at the beginning of the call received by every member of the Institute, who consecrate themselves for life to missionary activity. The Word of Christ and the events of His life (especially the Paschal mystery) constitute the fundamental inspiration for the values and qualities which must characterize the personality of the missionary.

The content of our evangelizing activity is Christ Himself and the method of evangelization is also patterned on Christ, to whom we conform ourselves and in whom we place our trust for the efficacy of our apostolate.

2.4 THE LAST FIVE P.I.M.E. GENERAL ASSEMBLIES (1977-2001) 

a) Introduction

The recent years of the PIME history were less troublesome than the previous ones, yet characterized by relevant changes due to the new framework of the missionary work and the understanding of mission “ad gentes.”

The years from 1977 to 2001 witnessed a sharp decline of vocations, the choice for internationality, the beginning of programs of post-ordination ongoing formation and the debate on the “new ways” of evangelization in the field of mission.

During this span of time two encyclicals on the missionary activity of the Church were issued: “Evangelii Nuntiandi” in 1975 by Paul VI and “Redemptoris Missio” in 1990 by John Paul II. (see appendix)

b) 8TH General Assembly: Rome, Oct. 3, 1977-January 10, 1978

The Superiors gathered in Rome had to make an “assessment” of the updating process of the Institute according to the resolutions taken at the previous Chapter in 1971-72. The main concern of the Assembly was the approval of the individual articles of the New Constitution, which was promulgated on October 1, 1078. Great discussions and fiery debates took place during the sessions and that was the reason of the long duration of the assembly!

Fr. Fedele Giannini was elected as the new Superior General of PIME. He was born in Lucca (near Florence) on Feb. 6, 1927. He was ordained a priest at the age of 23 and his first assignment was as teacher at the minor seminary in Vigarolo. In 1954 he received a post-card from the Superior general, Fr. Risso, which read: “After the final exams of the students, prepare yourself for departure: on July 29 you will leave for Yokohama (Japan) on the ship called “Asia”. He worked in Japan from 1954 to 1977 when, as Regional Superior, he attended the General Assembly in Rome. In the midst of the troubled years of the post-Vatican II, Fr. Giannini was able to lead the Institute with wisdom and mastery. He was calm and patient in character, a father to all, a missionary in love with his vocation. He was able to solve contentions and to mitigate difficulties by looking at what unites us as members of the same Institute rather than our differences.

c) 9TH General Assembly: Rome, Sept. 8-Nov. 14, 1983

On January 25, 1983 Pope John Paul II promulgated the new Code of Canon Law. New modifications had to be made on the newly approved PIME Constitution.

No major amendments were introduced but only a few corrections on the terminology used. Among the changes, the most relevant one was on art. 8 of the Constitution: “PIME is a Society of Apostolic Life.”

Fr. Fernando Galbiati was elected as the new Superior General. He was born in Bussero (near Milan) in 1932, ordained a priest in 1956 and then assigned to the mission in Hong Kong where he returned after his mandate as Superior General. In 1999 he was called to Rome and appointed as Secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Union of Clergy and Religious. He traveled a lot visiting the missionaries in the field and trying to update them regarding the current issues of internationality and the rediscovery of the original charism of the Institute.

d) 10TH General Assembly: Tagaytay (Philippines), September 8 – October 21, 1989.

The Assembly was preceded by a wide consultation of the members of the Institute on the topic of “Internationality”. This was the issue addressed to the missionaries: “Should PIME, according to its specific charism and tradition, be open to Internationality even in those Countries whose majority are non-Christians?” 202 members (roughly one third of the members) answered to the question with the following result:

67 “yes” without conditions and 11 “no” without conditions;
87 “yes” but with some conditions and 30 “no” with some conditions;
7 did not express a definitive stand on the issue.

44 PIME delegates took part at the Assembly. It was the second General Assembly held outside of Italy (The first one took place in Hong Kong from February 15 to March 7 1934 and elected Mons. Lorenzo Maria Balconi as the new Superior General). The Mission Statement issued by the participants is a summary of the main topics tackled during the Assembly concerning the identity of the Institute. “We, the PIME missionaries, called by God to follow Christ, are an INTERNATIONAL community of priests and lay missionaries, dedicated for life to the witness and discovery of the Kingdom of God, primarily among people who are not yet Christian.” This General Assembly marked a turning point for the openness to Internationality of the Institute.

Let us clarify the terms. PIME was already an International Community since it had traditionally accepted priests or lay missionaries (Brothers) of different nationalities who requested to join the Institute to serve in the mission. This, however, did not entail any establishment of new seminaries or starting vocation-programs for eventual aspirants. PIME did have two Formation Houses outside of Italy: one in the United States (1952) and one in Brazil (1958). Moreover, since the 60’s Fr. Augusto Lombardi and later on also Mons. Pirovano accepted Indian priests as members of the Institute. However, a provision in the 1978 Constitution (based on the decisions of the Updating Chapter of 1971-72) limited our international character to countries “with a Christian majority,” setting a precise limitation to the vocation promotion in the rest of the mission territories. The 10th General Assembly at Tagaytay opted for the removal of that provision opening a new historical phase for the future of the Institute. As a consequence, PIME started activities of missionary animation and vocational promotion in India, especially in the state of Andhra Pradesh where the PIME missionaries were well known. The acceptance of aspirants was to be gradual and well considered by the Superiors. No Formation Houses were to be opened immediately: the first aspirants joined the Diocesan or Regional Seminaries assisted in their discernment by a PIME Formator. It will be only a few years later that PIME will establish the first Seminary in Eluru.

Fr. Franco Cagnasso was elected as the New Superior General. He was born at Susa (Turin) in 1943, and ordained a priest in 1969. He worked as a columnist of “Mondo e Missione” and as missionary animator from 1972 to 1977. He was assigned to Bangladesh where he remained until 1983 when he was elected as Vicar General of Fr. Fernando Galbiati. Fr. Franco led the Institute through the “transitional period” following the historical Chapter in Tagaytay. His re-election as Superior General in 1995 confirmed the approval and support of the Institute to continue in pursuing those objectives. When Fr. Franco ends his mandate in 2001, PIME will be significantly different (though still faithful to its nature and identity) from its status in 1989.

e) 11TH General Assembly: Ariccia (Rome), June 18- July 22, 1995

For the first time in the PIME history the “Acts” of the Assembly are published in three different languages: Italian, English, and Portuguese. The main topics tackled by the participants were: Internationality, the missionary task of the laity, the distribution of personnel, and initial and on-going formation. They pointed out some problems which were arising within the Institute and which required concrete solutions to be implemented in the next six-year period:

the drop in number of our missionaries and the rise in average age;
continuing to carry forward activities greater than our effective forces;
various points of resistance in accepting the choice of the Institute towards internationality;
the persistent difficulty in accepting different views, verification and sharing, whether it be in apostolic choices or in the use of the goods we have been given;
the tendency to allow “lukewarmness and a mundane spirit” to invade us, whether it be in regard to the “thoughtless” use of money, frequent traveling even when unnecessary, or the excessive attention given to structures resulting in the loss of the spiritual dimension. (from “The Report of the Superior General”)

The different Circumscriptions were asked to conduct a complete and serious revision of their presence to express the missionary commitment in an ever more significant way. A special consideration was to be given to the need to contribute to the services of formation, animation, and assistance for the Institute itself. The superiors stressed, also, the importance of formulating initiatives and projects that could be seen in the local Church as evident signs of the mission “ad gentes.”

f) 12th General Assembly: Grottaferrata (Rome), May 6-June 12, 2001

It was the first Assembly of the new Millennium in which the Holy Father invited the Church to “put out into the deep” (“DUC IN ALTUM”, Nuovo Millennio Ineunte) and to resume with confidence the mission to proclaim the Good News.

Fr. Gianbattista Zanchi was elected as Superior General (he was the Vicar General of Fr. Franco Cagnasso from 1995 to 2001) and for the first time two members of the General Directorate were elected among the non-Italians: Fr. Mark Tardiff (USA), and Fr. Francisco Da Silva (Brazil). This marked another historical step for the Institute.

Special attention was given obviously to “Internationality”. “We are becoming more and more people from different countries, cultures and churches,” we read in the “Acts” of the Assembly. “If our international character is to be authentic we must learn to live together and to integrate our cultural and ecclesial differences to the greater good of our mission.” A sign of optimism transpires from the evaluation of the superiors: “in recent years the members of the Institute have shown growing maturity and openness to this plurality of cultures.”

To act as a stimulus to renew the missionary spirit of the Institute, the Twelfth General Assembly studied the “identity and Spirituality” of PIME, emphasizing the God-given characteristics of our charism: “we are missionaries ad extra, ad gentes, ad vitam, together (“insieme”). Of these four characteristics the Assembly was especially interested in highlighting the quality of being “together.” “Since we are an international Institute, with priest and lay members of different nationalities working together either in the missions or in the service of the Institute. This is the challenge we face.

“The revival of our charism is something we MUST do together. We must pray together, examine the signs of the times together, plan together, and learn together from the living memory of our confreres. PEOPLE ARE THE MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE THE INSTITUTE POSSESSES.”

This aspect was also underlined by the words of the Holy Father during the private audience granted to the participants at the Assembly; “The spirituality of life in common is the most authentic witness of Christ you can give the world. It harmonizes your diversity into a unity that becomes your greatest common source of strength.”

Let’s have a glimpse of the “assessment” of the PIME situation resulting from the analysis of the participants:

the difficulty of keeping our orientation ‘ad gentes’ alive; we become involved in pastoral situations and lose sight of our need to be present on the frontier, the edge, in genuine mission situations.
We have become middle-class (“bourgeoise”); gradually we begin to think with society’s mentality.
The excessive emphasis on financial resources; we run the risk of turning our work of evangelization into a welfare project.
The spiritual and human frailty of our personality as apostles; we fall into modern habit of avoiding definitive decisions or commitments.

The desire to revitalize our charism imposes fundamental choices and attitudes upon the members. Here are some of the priorities to be considered for the future of the institute:

we must send people to new venues, to places that are especially difficult or closed;
we must give greater space to relations with non-Christians and not submerge ourselves only in pastoral work;
we must cultivate projects that promote evangelization and collaboration between Churches: cultural awareness, language study, a deliberate effort to fit in, accultaration and inculturation;
we must renew our commitment to relieving the many forms of poverty and loss that afflict humanity.

Reflecting on the “international identity which PIME continues to assume,” the Assembly decided that a “more specific vocation policy” should be formulated. The different circumscriptions were required to prepare “guidelines” indicating “how requests may be received, providing for vocational discernment and accompaniment, without creating specific PIME formational structures.” A policy for receiving candidates and formation has been formulated in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Candidates are being accepted for formation in places where we have no facilities of our own: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.

Chronology of the main events 
* 1850, July 31: Opening ceremony of the Seminary for Foreign Missions in Saronno, with Msgr. Joseph Marinoni as first Director (until 1891).
* 1850, December 1: Foundation Act of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions, signed by all the bishops of Lombardy.
* 1852: April 10: Departure of the Lombard Seminary’s first missionary expedition for Oceania (present Papua New Guinea), reaching Woodlark on October 8 and Rook on October 23.
* 1855: September 25: killing of Fr. John Mazzucconi and the crew of ‘La Gazelle’ in the Woodlark Bay (beatified in 1984). The massacre results in the abandonment of the mission.
* 1855: the first Lombard Seminary priests arrive in Hyderabad, while other members start work in Bengal (then East India, including the present Bangladesh).
* 1856: four Lombard Seminary members arrive in Agra, North India, while two of its priests go to Cartagena, Columbia (until 1952), and two others to Borneo (until 1860).
* 1858: Three members of first missionary group to Oceania are transferred to Hong Kong.
* 1868: Lombard Seminary members start work in East Burma (present Myanmar).
* 1870: Lombard Seminary missionaries arrive in Henan, China.
* 1871, December 23: opening of the Pontifical Seminary of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul for Foreign Missions in Rome.
* 1872: April: beginning of the publication of “Le Missioni Cattoliche”.
* 1874, June 21: Pius IX officially establishes the Pontifical Seminary of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul for Foreign Missions.
* 1875: The Lombard Seminary opens a theologate in Milan.
* 1885: The Rome Pontifical Seminary members arrive in Hanzhong, Shaanxi, China.
* 1895: The Pontifical Seminary starts work in Mexico (until 1926).
* 1900, July 21: martyrdom of Fr. Alberico Crescitelli at Yanzibian, China.
* 1906, December 1: blessing of the headquarters of the Lombard Seminary in Monterosa, Milan.
* 1912, July 8 -September 23: 1st General Chapter or Assembly of the Lombard Seminary.
* 1916: The Missionary Union of the Clergy founded by Fr Paul Manna.
* 1926, May 26: Pius XI merges the Lombard Seminary and the Roman Seminary into the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions: official birth of PIME.
* 1927, December 9 – 1929, February 4: visit of the general superior Fr. P. Manna to all the PIME missions (his report in “Observations on the modern method of evangelization”).
* 1929, April 4:”Il Vincolo” starts publication.
* 1936, December 8: beginning of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate.
* 1937-1942: PIME missionary work in Ethiopia.
* 1943, March 20: The Region of South Italy is erected.
* 1946: The first PIME missionaries arrive in Brazil.
* 1947: PIME presence starts in Guinea Bissau, and in the United States of America.
* 1949, July 31 – 1950: celebrations of the centenary of the PIME Foundation.
* 1950: PIME missionaries arrive in Japan.
* 1951, June 15: The Region of North Italy is erected and the General Directorate is transferred to Rome.
* 1952: official permit for the recruitment of vocations in U.S.A. and in Brazil with the opening of local seminaries: practical beginning of PIME internationalization.
* 1967: PIME starts work in Cameroon together with Treviso Diocese.
* 1968: PIME members arrive in the Philippines.
* 1971, May 29 -1972, January 21: Special Renewal and Updating Assembly (VII° General Assembly).
* 1972: PIME starts work in Ivory Coast with Gorizia and Belluno Dioceses, as well as in Thailand.
* 1981: PIME missionaries return to work in Alotau and in 1992 go also to Vanimo, Papua New Guinea.
* 1989: the X General Assembly approves the full internationalization of PIME.
* 1990: PIME starts work in Cambodia.
* 1991, October 1: the present Constitutions and Directory come into effect.
* 1992: USA Region starts a mission in the Acapulco Diocese, Mexico.
* 2000: Celebration of the 150° anniversary of PIME foundation.
* 2003: Open a mission in Algeria

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