50 Years of Missionary Priesthood
Posted On May 23, 2016
On Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2016, the Xaverian Missionaries, along with friends and family, gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Holliston, Massachusetts, where we celebrated the enduring, generous priestly service of three of our men, Frs. Tony Lalli, Dominic Caldognetto, and Ivan Marchesin. They were ordained together in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 22, 1966. Along with them was also ordained Fr. Graziano Rossato who we remembered fondly, and whose missionary priesthood came to an abrupt ending when he passed away through illness in Sierra Leone, West Africa in 2006. Below is an excerpt of the homily delivered by Fr. Lalli on that joyous occasion.
As a young seminarian, I was alone in the parish Church of my native town of Castiglione M. Marino in Italy, and it really overwhelmed me that there was a deep difference in me when I addressed God as Father. I remember crying at the warmth and personal feelings it brought me. My relationship with my own human father (“Papa”) being wonderful, this affectionate, protective closeness bond with a loving heavenly Father who made me and saved me became quite beautiful. Later, I also came through that time when it wasn’t very religiously correct to talk about God as “Father” because it carried a “patriarchal” and painful meaning for some.
God as Father and Mother
I appreciated reflecting on God as “Mother at times, and, again, felt grateful because I had such a loving mother as well. The power of the relationship grew at various moments and through various struggles. Mercy was at the heart of this relationship, but it was also about awe and closeness.
The awe was at the wonder of the Creator of all creation who is a father to me. The Creator of all, from the stars down to the human person – wit its abilities to love and communicate, to create music and make the human genome; to probe the planets and into deep space; to love a baby, and sacrifice one’s own happiness in marriage and care for those most in need – that Creator, knows and loves and sustains me, every moment.
The Limitless Heart of Jesus
The whole mystery of the Incarnation is wonderfully summed up by the imaginative reflection about the Trinity having a meeting to decide what to do with humanity and the mess we’d gotten ourselves into. So I imagine the Trinity deciding to send the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to redeem the world by becoming one of us.
In the seminary and after, I studied, though never enough, about this mystery. The powerful gift for me has been a genuine relationship with Jesus himself. With years of desiring and longing, fighting selfishness and distracting “needs” and “adventures,” Jesus has become a personal companion, and that gift keeps growing.
An ongoing barrier to the depth of this relationship is my sense that I’m so unreliable, yet for Jesus I am a loved sinner. We focus on our sins, but Jesus says, “Be with me in the mission I have from the Father.” You and I are invited to pray for the grace “to see him more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly,” as the song in the musical of the 70’s, Godspell put it. The attraction comes with discovering who Jesus is – what he says and does. This attraction draws me to want to be more like Jesus whose loving heart moves my heart to love like his heart with its limitless and unconditional love.
The Spirit that Confirms
The experience of the Spirit has grown in my these latter years of my life. I’ve known people who were “spirit-filled” and I deeply admired them. I was always a bit afraid of that, however. Yet the presence of the Spirit is tangible and wonderful. The Spirit confirms (makes firm or strong, firms up) whatever is a movement of the divine in us and around us. It is a gentle breeze and can be the fire of Love itself. It is the essence of the courage that comes from never being alone.
Dance of the Trinity
Christian mystics describe God’s inner life as a dance, “perichoresis,” a circle of dance. They thought, and felt, that the Persons of the Trinity are celebrating their divine life dancing together! It’s a dance to which we are invited and, as God’s ambassadors”, we are missioned to invite others to join as partners “so that everyone who believes…may have eternal life.
On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we can give ourselves time to be renewed in our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we can grow in a our desire for a greater openness to the graces that each Person wants to offer us. This is true for all and each of us, and particularly today for the three of us; Frs. Dominic, Ivan, and myself. May this Feast, which blesses our 50th Anniversary of Priesthood, bring us all a renewal in the graces we need and desire to enjoy the very personal gift of god’s love for us – for God’s greater glory and the service of others.
I feel urgently invited to join, again and again, in the “divine dance” more joyfully and more gratefully. Aren’t we all?
Fr. Tony Lalli, SX
Fr. Tony Lalli has worked with the poor in Brazil for many years and also in the United States. He works particularly with Brazilian immigrants in Massachusetts. He is assigned to our community in Holliston, Massachusetts.
Fr. Ivan has worked in Colombia and many years in the United States in leadership and formation. Presently he is assigned in our international center, or General Direction in Rome, assisting our international leadership.
Fr. Dominic worked in Bangladesh in a number of capacities, particularly with a local orphanage, and is assigned to our community in Franklin, Wisconsin for a number of years now.
Fr. Graziano Rossato, ordained together with our jubilarians, worked many years in Sierra Leone, West Africa, since the early 1970’s. In 2006 he became quite ill there and passed to the Father. He was 66 years old.