Italian priest, on COVID-19

Italian priest, on COVID-19: “After the crisis, there’ll be a rush to restart the economy. Will we forget the values we’ve learned?”

(Source: CD/Fides)

“Don Orione inspires us to live this time of health and social emergency with seriousness, in full respect of the norms and public guidelines, but also with the fantasy of charity”.

This is what Father Tarcisio Vieira, Director General of the Opera Don Orione wrote in a message sent to all Orionines in this situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Little Work of Divine Providence, founded by Saint Luigi Orione, is engaged in evangelisation with different types of apostolate, including assistance to the sick, orphans, the elderly, physical and mentally handicapped people, in about thirty countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and America.

In these days of medical emergency, four members of the Orionine family have died.

On March 20, 81-year-old Don Cesare Concas died in the hospital of Novi Ligure. On 23 March, Sister Maria Ulisia (Evelina Felici), 86 years old, and Sister Maria Filomena (Rosaria Licitra), 98 years old, died in the hospital in Tortona. Also on March 24, Sister Maria Cristina (Hortencia Nicanora Fontes), born in Maldonado (Uruguay), 91 years old, passed away in the hospital in Tortona.

In his letter, Father Vieira informs – in the midst of so much sad news – of the good that takes place.

“A priest, the only ‘close relative’, who blesses a coffin without letting the Church pray. A doctor, with all his qualifications, who starts doing the simplest thing like feeding an elderly person. An employee who, in the impossibility of the presence of the priest (all in solitary confinement), ‘blesses’ the coffins by placing a small image of San Luigi Orione on them.

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“A parish priest who, in the morning, calls his parishioners, trying to reach in particular the isolated elderly. Many lay people who ‘meet’ in the media to pray and support each other. The Community of the Sanctuary of Tortona, in quarantine, in prayer in front of the Founder’s urn.

“Volunteers who, despite the danger, continue to prepare and distribute meals to the homeless. Seminarians and the religious of Cordoba who take turns to replace part of the employees in assisting the residents of Cottolengo. The clerics who continue to serve in the ‘Vatican showers’ to help the homeless”.

In this unprecedented situation, the Orionines behave as the Founding Father would have done, notes the Director General:

“Faced with the continuous flow of news, in order not to remain closed in sterile emotion, Don Orione invites us to active compassion”, privileging the poor: “taking care of them is ‘taking care of Jesus’.

“In our facilities we have many people in a vulnerable situation, so it is more important than ever to take care of the organisation and coordination of all those initiatives that can protect them”.

Urging to maintain firm trust in Divine Providence, which is in the name of the institute, Father Vieira concludes with this exhortation

“After the crisis, there will be a rush to restart the economy, schools, reschedule cultural and sporting events. Will we by chance forget, once again, those values we have learned at a high price?

“It is up to us, Orionines, to work to accompany and train consciences on priorities. We are already starting to build tomorrow”.

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“So what can we do? Should we give up? Is there a light in this night? Yes. You are the light”

For his part, Don Aurelio Fusi, director of the “Mother of Divine Providence” Province, wrote a letter to the health operators and friends of the Don Orione Centre in Bergamo, a social-welfare complex run by the Orionines that includes 222 residential care home beds, 60 rehabilitation beds and 24 beds for people in a vegetative state.

“Everyone’s life has changed because an invisible enemy has come to settle among us. In front of this enemy, you and all of us, feel powerless”, writes Don Fusi.

“So what can we do? Should we give up? Is there a light in this night? Yes. You are the light.

“I learned that some of you are ill, but a courageous group, regardless of schedules and holidays, is present every day to help our sick and to bring the comfort of presence.

“What is true for the sick, is even more true for those who are dying.

“Dear friends, today you are Don Orione, no longer with the cassock, but with your white coat.

“Today, you are the reflection of Don Orione’s face. I thank you for your presence and for your sacrifices. They will be rewarded by the Lord who is great in love”, Don Fusi concludes.

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More on Novena on the COVID-19 crisis:

“Couldn’t just stay home”: Italian priest goes back to nursing for COVID-19 sick

Spanish COVID-19 coronavirus cleric victim, hospital chaplain tell of days of “intensive priesthood”

COVID-19: 14 Italian missionaries from single community die within a month, first bishop also passes away

24/3: COVID-19: In Santa Marta Mass, Pope thanks doctors, nurses, priests for “heroic example”

Migrants in Milan mourn priest “father and friend” lost to COVID19

On COVID-19 frontlines, brave Italian nuns rediscover meaning of vow to give lives for sick


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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.