Tag Archives: courage

This 21 year old never stopped smiling as cancer destroyed his body…meet Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio—

Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio                                                         facebook-fair use

By Larry Peterson

Nicola D’Onofrio was born in Villamagna, Italy, on March 24,1943. His father, Giovanni, and his mom, Virginia, had their son baptized three days later in the parish church of St. Mary’s. Nicola’s dad was a successful farmer, but more importantly, he was a man of integrity, honesty, and wisdom, virtues fueled by a deep and abiding Catholic faith. His mom was known for her piety and kindness. Their character traits would be passed on to their son.

As Nicola began to grow the distinct qualities of kindness and peacefulness seemed to be part of whom he was. He made his First Holy Communion on the feast of Corpus Christi in June of 1950.  Three years later, in October of 1953, he received his Confirmation. His teachers and even his classmates invariably spoke or wrote of Nicola’s hard work ethic, his kindness, and his availability to anyone who needed help. No matter the season, he never missed serving at Mass in the morning even though it was a   two-mile walk to the church.

When Nicola was about 10 years old, a priest who belonged to the Order of St. Camillus aka Camillian invited him to consider entering the Camillian Studentate in Rome. Nicola immediately accepted the offer, but his parents felt he was not ready.  His father wanted him to stay at home and take over the family farm, when he grew up. His two unmarried aunts tried to convince him that he was their only heir. However, Nicola, even at his young age, wanted desperately to become a priest.

During the following year, Nicola prayed and studied hard, and by the end of the year, his family gave him permission to enter the Camillian school. The school was for pre-teens to see if they truly displayed signs of having a real vocation. The date he entered the school was October 3, 1955. He was twelve years old, and it was the feast day of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The Little Flower would later become his spiritual guide.,

During the next six years, Nicola’s character continually manifested a person who was humble, friendly, helpful, and above all, always smiling. He was constantly ready to help others, render words of comfort or understanding, and simply be there when and if needed.

Interestingly, Nicola learned after several years at school that his father had wanted to bring him back home. Nicola wrote him saying he was determined to become a priest in the Camillian Order no matter the cost. His dad humbly relented.

Nicola worked hard and applied himself to his studies, gaining the respect and admiration of his teachers. He wanted to be a worthy priest, and his work ethic evidenced that. On October 7, 1961, and after a period of intense training, Nicola took the vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and Charity towards the sick, especially those with contagious diseases. These vows were binding for three years. At the end of that period, he would take his final vows as a professed Castillian religious.

It was toward the end of 1962 that first symptoms of cancer that would kill him reared its ugly head. He did not understand the pain he was having, nor why he felt weak. Testing ensued, and following the advice of his superiors and the doctors, he was operated on at the urology department at St. Camillo Hospital in Rome.  The diagnosis came back as positive for Tera-tosarcoma, better known as genital cancer, and it had already begun to metastasize. The date was July 30, 1963.

The pain and suffering increased dramatically over the next year. Weakend and in constant pain young Nicola never stopped praying  and smiling. His Rosary was his constant companion. He  had one desire; he wanted desperately to be able to take his final vows.

A request was sent to Pope Paul VI, and he granted Nicola a special dispensation allowing him to receive these vows. On May 28, 1964, Nicola D’Onofrio consecrated himself to God for life. It was his final act of love. On June 5, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Nicola, fully conscious and completely aware that he was dying, smilingly received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

Nicola passed away on June 12, 1964. He was twenty-one years old, and he was surrounded by his family and Camillian brothers. A close family friend who had assisted Nicola throughout his illness remembered his last moments and said, “He seemed to me like Jesus Christ on the Cross, so calm and confident, with prayers on his lips, calling Our Lady ‘Mom.’

Pope Francis declared Nicola D’Onofrio a man of ‘heroic virtue’ and worhty of the title, Venerable,on July 5, 2013.

Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

This kid from Iowa grew up to be a Bishop in Uganda, served in all four sessions of Second Vatican Council, and his cause for sainthood has been sent to Rome.

Servant of God Vincent McCauley              Congregation of Holy Cross

By Larry Peterson

Vincent Joseph McCauley was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 8, 1906. His dad, Charles, worked as an installer for AT&T and his mom stayed home taking care of the six kids of whom Vincent was the oldest.  Vincent’s parents were active and devout Catholics; dad was a member of the Knights of Columbus, and mom was active in the Rosary Altar Guild and parish prayer groups. The McCauley children grew up knowing what it meant to be Catholic.

During the fall of 1924, during his first semester at Creighton College, members of the Congregation of Holy Cross came to St. Francis Xavier Church to conduct a parish mission. Vincent, who was 18 at the time, had a life-changing experience. The mission sparked within him a call to the priesthood.

His family was stunned. He had never expressed an interest in a religious life. But he wrote to the vocation director that a calling to the priesthood “has been the aim of my life for many years. Trusting that God will it, my only desire now is a favorable reply from you.”

Vincent McCauley did, in fact, receive a “favorable reply” and on July 1, 1925, entered the novitiate. He professed his first vows one year later and took his perpetual vows on July 2, 1929. He then was sent off to Foreign Missionary training in Washington D.C. After completing his training there, he had one more stop to make. The date was  June 24, 1934; he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John Noll at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Great Depression of the 1930s left its boot-heel on many a person in America. It even affected missionaries. Father Vincent was trained in missionary work, but the depression had left the Holy Cross Order short on funds. Instead of going overseas, Father Vincent was assigned to the faculty at the congregation’s seminary in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He would remain here for the next two years.

In 1936 Father Vincent was sent to East Bengal to be the rector of a minor seminary. During his time there he learned much about indigenous people.  In 1944, because of poor health, he had to return to the United States. He would spend the next fourteen years working in Washington D.C. It was during this time that he began treatments at the Mayo Clinic for skin cancer, an affliction he had been battling most of his adult life.  But his experiences in Bengal had prepared him for the mission work that would come his way; serving in East Africa.

In early 1958, Father McCauley and Father Arnold Fell were sent to Uganda to check on establishing a community mission under the Holy Cross umbrella. Bishop Jean Ortiz of Mbarra, wanted the “White Fathers”  to establish a new diocese in West Uganda. McCauley wrote, “Unless something changes our impression, this is a great opportunity for Holy Cross.”

They submitted a very favorable report. The job was entrusted to Father McCauley. He arrived back in Uganda on November 4, 1958. It took only three years for Father McCauley to establish schools and churches in the region. The Holy Cross Order, under the guidance of the priest from Iowa, was about to open a new Catholic Diocese in Fort Portal, Uganda.

Having been the effective and inspiring guiding force in establishing the new Diocese of Fort Portal, Father Vincent was consecrated the first bishop of Fort Portal on May 18, 1961. Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston was the presider.

Bishop McCauley immediately set out to organize and promote the Catholic Church in East Africa, He was so successful at his work that he was invited to represent at the Second Vatican Council. His opinions on missionary work in Africa regarding finances, and forming catechesis and how to overcome conflict among different tribes in the area was highly regarded by the council. It was a challenge for sure because there were many cultures and nationalities mixed together.

The baseball playing priest from Iowa did all these things while having to endure over fifty surgeries for his chronic skin cancer. In 1976 he had open heart surgery, having a plastic aorta placed into his heart. Then in 1982, suffering from lung cancer, he agreed to another surgery. He died during the operation. The date was November 1, 1982; the Feast of All Saints. He would become a part of their team.

In 2006 Bishop Vincent J. McCauley was declared a Servant of God and his cause is now before the Congregation of Saints in Rome.

We ask Servant of God, Vincent J. McCauley to pray for us.

copyrigh©Larry Peterson 2019