For our entire Religious Family, last April 24 was a very special date, that made us feel all united, as beloved, desired "daughters" called by God the Father but entrusted to our beloved Father Founder, the venerable Father Gregory of Grotte di Castro.
This date echoed in our communities throughout the world, in the places of our mission, among the people who are part of our apostolates and who live in relationship with us. April 24, Father Gregory's BIRTHDAY, the birth of our Founder who it happened 200 years ago. However, for us today it is a reason to express a profound gratitude, heart-rending praise, fervent prayer and trusting intercession towards him, who has been chosen by the Divine Providence to accept and accompany the divine plan of the foundation of our religious family.
How to celebrate it? A question that has often aroused among the sisters of the General Council. The place was immediately identified, Grotte di Castro, where Father Gregory was born and received those seeds of the Christian faith that helped him to seek and live in the Will of the Lord and to guide and accompany many of our first sisters.
The collaboration with the parish priest of Grotte di Castro, who so wanted to celebrate the event in the birthplace of Father Gregory, outlined a very clear program for both the preparation and the day of the festival.
The parish community of Grotte di Castro, since the beginning of 2022, has been preparing to celebrate solemnly the second centenary of the birth of the venerable Father Gregory Fioravanti. The parish priest Don Manfredi Muccioli, in the parish information leaflet, regularly published a passage from the life of Father Gregory taken from the brochure prepared years ago by Sr. Antonietta Pozzebon. In this way, the parishioners were able to learn about the life of their parishner by reading these passages, almost a series of episodes that made them savor the life and virtues of Father Gregory.
Another very beautiful initiative was the drawing competition, a stamp for Father Gregory, which involved primary and middle school children. They had to draw Father Gregory according to their sensitivity and their artistic tastes on a sheet that was to represent a postage stamp; they were clearly prepared by the teachers who introduced them to the life of Father Gregory and, through photos, to see people and places that referred to his life journey.
The three days before April 24 were carefully prepared by organizing a triduum of prayer services with, children, youth and families, distributed over the three afternoons.
On April 20, the moment of prayer was reserved for elementary school children with the theme, “Father Gregory, friend of Jesus”. The presence of the group was numerous and very participatory and lively. The simplicity of children is always an evangelical attitude that makes them ready to welcome the message of Jesus and the saints.
They presented Jesus with a candle, as a sign of the gift of life, games materials that indicated joyful moments, books that is their commitment to study, the Bible as a desire that the Word of Jesus always accompany them. At the end, they offered some flowers to Father Gregory asking him to help them to be true friends of Jesus.
On April 21, the young people were gathered, to whom the reflection on the Dream of God for each of us was presented and how Father Gregory accepted this "dream" by responding to his specific vocation and to the call to be father and founder of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
Each of the young people was asked to write their dream on a piece of paper (which would subsequently be burned) and to present it to Father Gregory invoking his intercession to learn to know in their dream, how much God wants from each of them.
They lived this moment of prayers with intensity, with concentration and everyone wanted to offer their dream to Father Gregory.
On April 22, families gathered in the Basilica of the Madonna del suffragio. For them, the reflection was, on the life of Father Gregory, his commitment to accompany and guide our first sisters to go on mission. They too, as parents and grandparents, have the delicate and important commitment to accompany and guide their children and grandchildren on the journey of life. The people present participated with attention and love towards Father Gregory, wishing that all the people of the place could know and love him more and more.
The three moments of prayer were led by the parish priest Don Tancredi, by Fra Alessandro, a Capuchin friar born in Grotte and by the sisters of our community present in Grotte di Castro. All the days some young sisters from the community Asisium and the international juniorate, animated the prayer with songs while Vicar general, Sr. Tiziana Tonini offered the various groups a reflection on Father Gregory.
On Saturday 23rd, at the Basilica, a beautiful concert was held with the extraordinary participation of friar Alessandro Brustenghi, ofm. The “In… canto” choir, directed by Maestro Gianfranco Brinchi, Maestro Francesco Poponi and the young and very valid organist Leonardo Poponi also took part in the concert.
On April 24, the eighth day of Easter, and Sunday of Divine Mercy, everything was ready for the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by Friar Massimo Fusarelli the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor. The parish priest Don Tancredi Muccioli and other religious and diocesan priests concelebrated with him. The Superior General Sr. Paola Dotto and the General Council were present. Many sisters came from Rome, Assisi and the Mother House of Gemona del Friuli. Through the streaming connection, the sisters from all the realities in the world were connected together with the lay associates and many people who know our religious family and who learned about this special event.
Those who were in streaming also had the opportunity to follow a video on the life of Father Gregory and on the history of our Congregation. The video was broadcasted before the Eucharistic celebration.
The opening procession of the Holy Eucharist preceded by a group of 23 young people each with a flag of the countries where the Congregation is present, in addition to the flag of the Vatican State. The flags were fixed around a well-prepared image of Father Gregory on the side of the altar.
At the beginning of the celebration, Sister Paola Dotto the superior general of the congregation greeted the Minister General, the concelebrants and the many faithful present and those in via streaming. She expressed the words with emotion the joy and gratitude to the Lord for the great gift of Father Gregory in the Church, in the Franciscan family and as our beloved father and founder.
The Minister General, Friar Massimo, in his homily highlighted the figure of Father Gregory Fioravanti, evidencing how his supreme ideal was always only the glory of God, self-mortification, and in the service of all those entrusted to him:
… Father Gregory did not have a direct, peaceful life; the meeting with Laura Leroux de Bauffremont, who has her intuition of giving life to a religious family, of Franciscans and missionaries. It was a particular time in history also of the Church, and in religious life, and there was the adventure of a novelty, of an openness… Father Gregory did not personally want this community, this foundation, but he obeyed, he listened, he trusted his superiors and the circumstances that life prepared for him and he did not spare himself. He encountered difficulties; also, to feed these young women, who entered the convent because at a certain point he found himself without anything, he did not even have the material means to keep this community going. He continued to trust, he continued to believe in that hand that rested on his shoulder, the hand of Jesus who told him: “Gregory don't worry, go ahead”. A phrase was typical of Father Gregory: "As pleases God" and so Father Gregory trusted. He learned to recognize the Lord's providence and to trust Him. He gave back to God all the gifts that God had given him. He kept nothing to himself, not even his individual prestige. He has learned to step back.
Remember today, the two hundred years of the birth of the Venerable Fr. Gregory Fioravanti from Grotte di Castro, means then, to give back in praise to the Lord what he was and what he was generated through him; in particular this Institute, this community of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and all the good that we do not know but that came from him.
Remember to continue the journey today. We do not live easier times than those of Father Gregory, on the contrary we live as we often say a change of era: We do not know what our life will be like tomorrow; the uncertainty we have experienced in the last two years fully confirms this. We do not have the reins of history in our hands. We must learn to recognize a meaning, a reason, a Presence in this history and entrust ourselves. So here is Father Gregory, especially in the last years of his life, what did he do? He went back...
He did not put himself at the center, he the Founder, but recognized the Presence of the Lord at the center, the work of the Lord, and it is "this work", that he has favored and made to grow.
We celebrate the two hundred years of the birth of Venerable Fr. Gregory… and we wish us to be able from his life, from the gift of the Spirit that is still alive in him, not only to learn, but also to put ourselves on the road. Moreover, I would say to his daughters, “Do not be afraid! Your father did not choose a reassuring life even in the walls of a convent. He remained there, but he understood that the destiny of his daughters was to go, to go out and the mission was the great breath. Do not be afraid! ...
The parish priest Don Tancredi read the decree of the apostolic penitentiary with which the plenary indulgence was granted from April 24 to May 8, 2022.
At the end of the Holy Mass the award, ceremony of the Drawing Competition was carried out. The Minister General awarded the winning children and youth the certificate with a scholarship. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta offered the awards.
The last act of the busy day was the blessing of the new plaque placed in the house where Father Gregory was born. It replaced the stone kept in 1988. The title of Venerable and the remembrance of the second centenary have been added to it.
The feast continued in the parish hall, where we have our community.
The sisters had beautifully decorated the walls of the hall with many phrases of Father Gregory; reading them one felt his presence, his love, his desire for good and fidelity for all of us, his daughters.
Words that were not only visible to the eyes, but with tenderness and strength, penetrated the heart making us taste once again the charismatic values that our Founder Father Gregory welcomed with faith and discernment by our Foundress Laura Leroux.
The beauty of our charism, which our Founders continue to entrust to us, nourish in all, the deep desire and constant commitment so that in every part of the world the tenderness and love of the Heart of Jesus Crucified may continue to be manifested to all.