Matteo Farina; his Catholic faith was his strength as he fought brain cancer throughout his teenage years.

Venerable Matteo Farina                     catholicnewsagency.com

By Larry Peterson

Matteo Farina was born in Avellino, Italy, on September 19, 1990. It was apparent early in his life that Matteo possessed a deeply spiritual side. He would recite the Rosary every day, read the Gospel, and he developed a devotion to St. Padre Pio and St. Francis of Assisi.

This all happened before he was nine years old.  He made his first confession when he was eight and, on June 4, 2000, received his First Holy Communion. He would go to confession once a week and attend Eucharistic Adoration as often as he could.

On May 10, 2003, the Archbishop of Brindisi, Ostuni Settimo, confirmed Matteo. His sister, Erika, acting as his sponsor, stood behind him with her hand on his shoulder. Matteo had a dream several years earlier in which St. Pio came to him and revealed the secret of Christian happiness. Padre Pio asked Matteo to spread the message to others. The announcement was, “You must understand that who is without sin is happy, then you have to teach it to the others so that we can go all together happily in the heavenly paradise.”

This dream led Matteo to realize that his vocation was to evangelize, and he wrote, “I hope to succeed as an “infiltrator” among the young people, telling them what God wants. I look around me, and I want to enter in young people’s lives quietly like a virus, infecting them with an incurable illness called love.”

Matteo’s cancer first surfaced when he was 13 years old. Severe headaches and problems with his vision began to occur. His parents and his Uncle Rosario traveled with Matteo for health checks in Avellino and Verona, and those visits were followed by a journey to Hanover for a brain biopsy. It was discovered his brain was filled with malignant cells.

His strong faith and love of life never fades. He smiles at everyone, and even when recovering from surgeries, he tries to cheer up other patients. He would say, “It is useless to despond. We have to be happy and transmit happiness. The more happiness we give people, the more people are happy. The more they are happy, the more we are happy.”

In January 2005, he goes to Germany for a craniotomy operation to remove a third-degree brain tumor. He spends over a month in Milan receiving chemotherapy treatments and returns home on April 2, 2005. This was the date that Pope John Paul II died. Doctors believed the cancer was in remission, but at the end of 2007, his condition grew worse. By October 2008, his mom insisted he receive Anointing of the Sick.

It was during these teen years that he met a girl named Serena. They fell in love and always strived to have a chaste relationship. Serena remained at Matteo’s side until the end. He said of Serena that “she was the most beautiful gift the Lord could give.”

He underwent another operation, but by February 2009, his arm and leg were paralyzed, and he needed a wheelchair to get around. In late March 2009, he developed a high fever and was admitted to the hospital.  Archbishop Talucci visited him and gave him an Easter blessing.

However, doctors could do no more. Matteo received his last Holy Communion on April 13, 2009, and died one week later, on April 24. He was 19 years old.

Matteo Farina’s mission may be summed up in his own words, “My God, I have two hands, let one of them to be always clasped to You in order to hold You closer in every trial. And let the other hands fall throughout the world if this is Your will…as I know You by others, so let others know You through me. I want to be a mirror, the clearest possible, and if this is Your will, I want to reflect Your light in the heart of every man. Thanks for Life. Thanks for Faith. Thanks for Love. I’m Yours.

Matteo’s reputation for personal holiness had been witnessed by many. He was declared a   Servant of God on April 11, 2016. On May 5, 2020, Pope Francis declared him a person of “heroic virtue” and gave him the title of Venerable Matteo Farina.

Venerable Matteo Farina, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Did you know that the first ordained, African-American Priest was born a Slave?

Meet Venerable Father Augustus Tolton

Father Augustus Tolton                                                    public domain

By Larry Peterson

This is about a man who was born a slave in Missouri and became the first African-American ordained a Catholic priest in the United States. I wish that not only the people of Missouri but folks all across America would learn about him. He was a man whose goodness shined like a brilliant star inspiring others by his gentle and caring example. Say “Hello” to Augustus Tolton.

On April 1, 1854, Peter Tolton paced nearby as his wife, Martha Jane, gave birth to her second son. They named him Augustus (after his uncle), and the baby was baptized soon after in St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Brush Creek, Missouri.  Mrs. Savilla Elliot stood as Augustus’ godmother.

It was a situation a bit out of the ordinary at the time.  That was because Mrs. Elliot was married to Stephen Elliot, who happened to be the “owner” of Augustus’ mom and dad.  The Tolton family was slaves, and their three children, Charley, Augustus, and Anne, were born into slavery.  Slave owners and their slaves, all Catholic. It was quite uncommon, especially in the mostly Protestant south.

Augustus was seven years old when the Civil War began.  Stephen Elliot permitted Peter Tolton to head north, and he supposedly was able to join the Union Army.  A bit later, Elliot gave Martha and her children their freedom too.  They headed north, and with the help of Union Soldiers crossed the Mississippi River and entered Illinois, which was a “free” state.  They settled in the town of Quincy.

Martha and her oldest boy, Charley, were able to get jobs at the Harris Tobacco Company, which made cigars.  Augustus looked after his little sister, Anne.  He also began spending a lot of time standing across the street from St. Peter’s Church, which was not far from the rooms where they lived.  Augustus Tolton’s life was about to change.

The pastor of St. Peter’s was an Irish American priest, Father Peter McGirr.  Father McGirr had noticed a shabbily dressed African-American boy spending an excessive amount of time near the church.  After several days had gone by, Father walked across the street and introduced himself to the boy. After a brief conversation, Father asked him, ” Well, now lad, do you go to school?”

“No, sir.”

“Would you like to go to school?”

Augustus jumped into the air and yelled, “YES Sir, YES!”

Father McGirr and Augustus headed to St. Peter’s.  The priest’s move was very controversial, and most of the white parishioners did not want a black student studying along with their children.  Father McGirr held firm and insisted that Augustus study at St. Peter’s.  He got permission from Augustus’ mom, who was shocked that this had happened to her son.  Augustus Tolton’s life had been placed on the road to his destiny.

The Holy Spirit may have moved Father McGirr because he saw something in Augustus that others did not.  Within one month, the boy had moved on to the ” second reader.”  Father approached Augustus and asked him if he would like to receive his First Holy Communion.  He did, and by the summer Augustus was the altar boy for the 5 a.m. Mass.

After several years Father McGirr asked Augustus if he would like to become a priest.  He told him it would take about 12 years of hard study and dedication.  Augustus said, “Let us go to the church and pray for my success.”

After graduation and with the unwavering support of Father McGirr, Augustus attempted to get into a seminary.  It was the 1870’s, and prejudice was almost taken for granted.  Augustus was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied.  But the young man did not despair, lose hope, or begin to get bitter.  On the contrary, he continued to pray, and his prayers, combined with the fearless determination of Father McGirr, enabled him to gain admission to St. Francis Solanus College (now Quincy College) in Quincy, Ill.

Augustus proved to be a brilliant student and, upon graduation, was accepted into the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.  Founded by Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century, this was a training ground for missionaries.  It was here that Augustus became fluent in Italian as well as studying Greek and Latin.  In 1886, at the age of 32, Augustus Tolton was ordained to the priesthood in Rome.  He was the first black Roman Catholic priest in the United States.

Newspapers from across the country told the story of the former slave now ordained as a Catholic priest.  When Father Tolton arrived back in Quincy, he was greeted as a hero.  A brass band played, and Negro spirituals were sung as thousands of people, both white and black, sang together, lined the streets together, and held hands together as they waited to catch a glimpse of the former slave boy who had grown up to be a Catholic priest.

Father Tolton walked down the avenue dressed in his cassock and wearing the biretta.  When he arrived at St. Boniface Church, hundreds were crowded inside, wanting to receive his blessing.  His very first blessing went to Father McGirr, who was still by his side. The next day Father Tolton said his first Mass at the packed church, while thousands of others stood outside. For these few days, prejudices in Quincy, Illinois, were non-existent.  They had been replaced by love of God instead.

Father Tolton remained at St. Boniface’s for five years.  He did meet with stiff resistance as prejudice once again reared its ugly head.  But Father persevered and managed to start St. Joseph’s Parish in Quincy.  In 1892  he was transferred to Chicago and headed a mission group that met in the basement of St. Mary’s Church.  The work at St. Mary’s led him to develop the Negro National Parish of St. Monica’s Catholic Church.

He was such a kind, caring man that he came to be known as “Good Father Gus.”  The church grew quickly and soon had over 600 parishioners.  His next plan was to oversee new construction at St. Monica’s, which had begun to accommodate the swelling numbers of parishioners.  He would not live to see it.

Father Tolton had been ill for quite some time and had never told anyone.  On a hot July day in 1897, with the temperature at 105 degrees, Father Tolton was returning from a retreat in Bourbonnais, Ill.  When he stepped from the train, he collapsed.  Taken to the hospital, he died a few hours later from sunstroke. Father Gus was only 43 years old when he died.  The community was shocked at the loss of their dear friend.  Father Tolton was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery near Quincy.

In March 2010, Cardinal George of Chicago announced that he was beginning the cause for canonization for Father Tolton.  On February 24, 2011, the Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the cause for sainthood. Father Augustus Tolton was then formally designated as “Servant of God.”

Good Father Gus was declared a man of “heroic virtue” by Pope Francis on June 12, 2019. He is now known as Venerable Augustus Tolton. He is currently under consideration for Beatification.

Venerable Augustus Tolton, please pray for us all.

 

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020 (updated from original of 2016)

 

 


This Filipina nun’s legacy continues through the order of nuns she established

ROSARIO ARROYO

Mother Rosario Arroyo                                                   facebook fair use

Mother Rosario Arroyo is much loved and often invoked. Some say her intercession has already brought miracles.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884, in Molo, which is located in the Philippines. She was the only daughter born to  Ignacio Arroyo and Dona Maria Podal; the Arroyos also had two sons. Three days after Maria’s birth she was baptized in St. Anna’s Church in Molo and officially named Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo.

Maria’s family was well to do, and her parents were well known for the generous almsgiving. The Arroyo sons and daughter were taught the importance and virtue of giving of themselves at an early age. This virtuous sense of self-giving became part of who they were, especially Maria.

The young woman could have lived a life of luxury, but her upbringing had left her keenly aware of the misery and plight of the poor and downtrodden. Her compassion for others was genuine and intense. Maria was unspoiled by the quality and abundance of material things that were hers for the taking. She just wanted to share what she could with those less fortunate.

Maria attended school at the Colegio de St. Anna, which was a private school in Moto. She was transferred to Colegio de San Jose to prepare for her First Holy Communion.  This school was run by the Daughters of Charity, and she remained here until she finished her elementary education. From there, she began the initial steps toward religious life. She entered the Convent of St. Catalina in Manila and made her profession of vows on January 3, 1914.

Despite coming from affluence and having great wealth, Maria chose a life of poverty, devoting her life to the poor. She entered the Dominican Order and with the help of two other Dominican nuns, created the Dominican sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. The date was February 18, 1927. From that point forward, she was known as Mother Rosario Arroyo. (Most Filipinos refer to her as Madre Sayong).

The Congregation continued to grow and, after 32 years in existence, the First General Chapter was convened. Meeting from January 3-6, 1953, Mother Rosario was elected the First Superioress General of the Order.  She served for three and a half years before heart failure caused her passing on June 14, 1957.

Mother Rosario’s legacy has spread itself around the entire world. The order runs schools, colleges, retreat houses, and convents, not only in ten dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines but also has a membership of over 250 serving people in the Mariana Islands, the Diocese of  Ngong in Kenya,  several cities in Italy, and in the United States in the Archdiocese of San Francisco  and the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii. All toll, the nuns run 31 schools, two colleges, two retreat houses, a charitable institution, and a clinic. Another 40 or more sisters work in foreign missions.

Reports of miracles attributed to Mother Rosario have been credible enough that the cause for her canonization is underway. On July 28, 2009, the process was initiated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the Philippines.  Based on gathered evidence of miraculous cures that had occurred the official opening of Mother Rosario’s cause took place on October 7, 2009. The ceremonies were conducted at the parish church of St. Anne, in Molo, Mother Rosario’s birthplace.

Miracles that saved people from aneurysm, leukemia, and cancer were among the first documented. In 1983, a Manila woman, Angela Palma, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live, prayed to Mother Rosario to be cured. The cancer was found to be gone, and in 2003 she was still alive without medical explanation for her survival.

Another reported miracle involves a woman with leukemia. In 2004, she was “miraculously cured” after prayers to Mother Rosario were invoked. A year later, she was found to be disease free without ever having had any blood transfusion or chemotherapy as described by doctors.

These are just two examples of purported miracles that have taken place because of Mother Rosario’s intercession. Further investigation will continue until not a shred of doubt as to their veracity can be found.

On June 11, 2019, Mother Rosario Arroyo (Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) was declared by Pope Francis to be a woman of “heroic virtue” and now bears the title; Venerable Rosario Arroyo. She is one step away from being beatified.

Venerable Rosario Arroyo; we ask for your prayers.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

 

 

 

 

 


Meet Augustine John Ukken and Antonietta Giugliano. They both now bear the title of Venerable, the second step on the journey to Sainthood.

Journey to Sainthood                                                 vatican.org

By Larry Peterson

On Friday, December 22, 2018, Pope Francis, based on the recommendations from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, validated nine men and three women as people of “Heroic Virtue.”  These people are now worthy of the title of Venerable. Among them are Augustine John Ukken, from India, and Antonietta Giugliano, from New York. Their lives and journeys are profiled here.

Venerable Augustine John Ukken:

Augustine John Ukken was born on December 19, 1880, in Parappur, located in the state of Kerala in India. Augustine was the second son born to Punnapar and Chalaki Ukken. Sadly, both of his parents died when he was only six years old. The boy was taken in by the parish priest who provided him with a home and an education.

In 1895, based on the recommendations of his priest and mentor (name unknown) the Bishop, Adolphus  Mediycott had Augustine enrolled in the Monir Seminary in Trichur. Upon completing his studies there he moved Kandy, in Sri Lanka, to begin his study for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest by the Bishop Clement Pagany on December 21, 1907.

Father was assigned to St. Thomas College in Thrissur, where he taught French and Latin from 1908 to 1909. In 1910 he became the Rector of the Minor Seminary and remained at that post also serving as Secretary to Archbishop John Manachery from 1913 until 1917. At that point, he was assigned to assist at different parishes doing the work of a parish priest. In 1921 he was named as the Manager of St. Thomas College and remained in that post until 1925.

From 1925 and on, Father Augustine spent time in different parishes getting deeply involved with the poor and starving people and children. Inspired by St. Vincent de Paul, he prayed for guidance so he might help them. On November 21, 1944, he founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity.

The mission of the new order was the “caring of the sick, tending those who are in deathbed, uplifting the poor and giving catechetical formation.”  The new order was approved by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Thrissur, George Alapatt.

Father Augustine John Ukken passed away on October 13, 1956. He was 75. He was declared a Servant of God on August 24, 2008, and on December 22, 2018, declared Venerable.

Venerable Augustine John Ukken, please pray for us.

 

Venerable Antonietta Giugliano:

Among those recommended to Pope Francis by Cardinal Becciu as having “Heroic Virtue”  was Antonietta Giugliano. Antonietta was born in New York in 1909 and move to Italy (probably as a child but there is no definite date). Trained under Venerable Sosio Del Prete, a Franciscan priest,  Antonietta began the Institute of the Little Servants of Christ the King in Naples.

She had wanted to start a group that would offer a Christian response to humanitarian emergencies in the area and in 1935 she started  The Little Servants of Christ the King. The purpose was to assist the elderly, educate the children, and acquire needed items for the poor, such as clothing and food and medical supplies.

Antonietta gave most of what she and her family had to the needy. A woman who possessed a deep humility, she spent the rest of her life fighting severe pain and illness, yet never wavering in her mission to help those in need.

Antonietta passed away in Naples in 1960. She was 51. She left behind as her legacy the order she had founded plus a reputation as a woman of great holiness. The cause for her elevation to sainthood began in 2006. She has completed the second step in the four-part process of Canonization and is now Venerable Antonietta Giugliano.

Venerable Antonietta Giugliano, please pray for us.

 ©Larry Peterson 2019


Servant of God; Father Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly (Kathanar)

Venerable Payyappilly Varghese Kathanar

By Larry Peterson

On April 14, 2018, Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He presented the cardinal with the names of eight Catholics who have attained the designation of Servants of God. This designation is awarded to those who have attained the first pedestal on their road to canonization. Among those named was Servant of God, Father Varghese Payyapilly Palakkappilly (yes, that is a definite tongue-twister so we will keep it at Father Varghese).

Cardinal Amato was authorized by the Holy Father to place those named worthy of receiving a promulgation of “the Heroic Virtues.” Pope Benedict XIV, 1740 to 1758, who is considered the defining authority on these virtues, wrote five volumes about them. They are still used in determining if a Servant of God meets the criteria of demonstrating ‘heroic virtue.’

A simple way to think of  ‘heroic virtue’  might be as a virtue that has become a second nature.  It becomes a habit of good behavior that can only be attained through the love of God and a closeness to Him, a closeness that most of us never reach. Heroic Virtue must be a part of those who would be advanced to the level of Venerable from Servant of God.

Father Varghese was born in India, in the province of Kerala, on August 8, 1876. He attended St. Albert’s School in Ernakulam which is on the southeast coast of India. From St. Albert’s he moved onto the Central Seminary in Sri Lank (formerly Ceylon) an island off the coast of India. From there he attended the Papal Seminary, also in Sri Lanka, where he was ordained a priest on December 21, 1907.

Father Verghase was assigned as a parish priest and served as such in various parishes from 1909 thru 1922. While serving at the parish in Arakuzha, he began St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School. His presence and efforts at the school and church helped reunite many estranged families and succeeded in making the church self-sufficient through land purchases.

Father Verghase also managed to acquire land for the construction of St. Joseph’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He remained there until 1929. It was reported that during Father Varghese’s tenure there, vocations to the priesthood exploded.

Father Verghases’s reputation as a kind and loving priest continued to grow. He became a member of the Diocesan Council and the Director of Apostolic Union as well as the Priests’ Provident Fund. People from all over came to him because they wanted his counsel to help them with their problems. He managed to bring many families back together using the wisdom he received from the Holy Spirit.

The simple priest was held in high esteem both by church officials and government officers. His empathy for the poor and suffering and his reputation spread far and wide after he helped many victims of the great flood of 1924. He even turned St. Mary’sHigh School into a shelter and delivered food himself by boat.

On March 19, 1927, Father Verghese founded the Sisters of the Destitute. His intention was to continue what he saw as Christ’s saving message among the poor. He found abandoned people, brought them to the shelter of the Home for the Aged and nursed them.

Today the Sisters of the Destitute, have over 1500 nuns and also include among its ranks doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers. They are located in Asia, Europe, Africa and across the United States.  The operate such institutions as homes for the sick and needy, health centers, libraries, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and cancer centers.

Payyappilly Palakkappilly Varghese Kathnar (that is Father Verghese’s full name) died from typhoid fever on October 5, 1929. He was buried at St. St John Nepumsian Syrian Catholic Church in Kornthurthy, India. On August 25, 2009, Father Verghese was declared a Servant of God by the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar CatholicChurch.

When Pope Francis authorized Father Verghese as worthy of having “the heroic virtue” he (aswell as the seven others) were elevated to the rank of Venerable. A miracle attributed to Father Verghase is under review for Father Verghese and if validated, Venerable Verghase Payyappilly may become beatified.

Venerable Verghase Payyappilly, please pray for us.