Thursday, March 23, 2017


LAST YEAR at this time I was visiting my old friends in San Luis Petén, Guatemala. Here is a fond recollection of March 2016:

“TIKAL! The Temple of the Jaguar! The well-known actor Morgan Freeman was here not too long ago to get inspiration for his National Geographic series on God and had his picture taken in front of the pyramid just like the rest of us residents and tourists. The reason? According to Hollywood’s malarkey the world was supposed to come to an end on December 2012, but… it didn’t. 

The movie’s opening scene shows the Temple of the Jaguar crumbling like an old pile of rocks. The descendants of the Mayan Empire, including our parishioners, are still laughing about it. In fact, the Maya are among the rare people who DO NOT believe in an Apocalypse. They believe in widening cycles of history. Go figure!

On Easter Monday 2016, I concluded the month of March – my favorite – with a “pilgrimage” to Tikal. While tourists braved 90+ degree temperatures to climb the 200 steps of the tallest temple, I sat in the shade of a massive 1,000 year old ceiba. From there I followed the members of an extended Maya family as they prayed to God and Mother Earth, turning to the four corners of the earth with raised hands and offering a burning sacrifice of corn, cacao, beans, candles and incense.

The empire, of course, disappeared centuries ago, but the Maya are alive and well, and so are the Comboni Missionaries who have been sharing their lot and the life of more recent settlers since 2005. I joined them in 2007 when I decided to celebrate my 70th birthday by dropping office life and taking on this new adventure. It was my birthday gift to myself – a keeper as it turned out.

The love of color, the contemplative style of their prayer, the respect for mother earth and for all of creation, all typical traits of the Maya culture, have blended well with the Christian roots planted by Dominican Friars centuries ago. Our liturgies are greatly enriched by all this. I will enjoy and absorb every bit of it while I can.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017


March 17, 1962. It was the Saturday before Passion Sunday and a traditional day to hold ordinations to the priesthood. A number of candidates crowded the altar of the beautiful church of the Immaculata on the grounds of the University of San Diego.

For the first time, there were Comboni students among the candidates. We stood in alphabetical order: myself; Dino Chiavegato who later chose a different path; Caesar Mazzolari, who would later become the bishop of Rumbek; Peter Premarini, currently in Covina, Calif.

The church was packed with family, friends and fellow parishioners of the local candidates. It was different for us, Comboni Missionaries, because our families were back in Italy and we had not seen them in over five years. Fr. Gabriel Chiodi, our superior, had been able to organize a number of newly found friends who showered their missionary concern, love and in time lasting friendship on each of us.

My parents had to wait until June 21 when I was able to celebrate Mass in my own parish in Italy and give them Holy Communion.

March 17, 1962 marked the beginning of a great adventure in the typical all-or-nothing Comboni way. Gladly, it isn’t over yet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I was actually born in Milan, Italy, in 1937. This, among other things, makes me a survivor of WWII. God’s hand  led me to the missionary life and, this coming Friday, March 17, I will celebrate my 55 years as a Comboni Missionary Priest.

God has blessed me with a full and rewarding life where daily routine and crazy adventure have both been an integral part. I consider myself one of God’s survivors. What happened to me on February 1 has me convinced that, if ever my life had a purpose in God’s plan, this last part certainly does. On that day I experienced the signs of an impending heart attack. On February 8 I had open heart surgery for multiple bypasses. This date is now my second birthday.

 As I look back on what has happened to me since February 1, a single word stands out: GRATITUDE. Gratitude to God for giving me a second chance to life. Gratitude to the entire medical system of Mercy Anderson in Cincinnati that made it possible. Gratitude to each and every one of you for your support, help, prayers and concern. I had some very dark moments, but in unexpected ways and at different times, you made them bearable.

- What’s next? STAY TUNED!