Fr. Barbangelo's First Centenary of Birth
(San Demetrio Ne Vestini, July 26, 2020) Since the death of Fr. Antonio Barbangelo (Padua, 2009), in San Demetrio, where for several years Fr. Antonio had been Superior and Rector of the Church Madonna dei Raccomandati, many young people and "blessed boys" (of which some were orphans) of those years, still remember him with a filial affection for his educational attention towards them at that time.
In the month of July, a Memorial Mass is celebrated to remember his figure that for many of them was a real father. Among the various initiatives, in addition to the floral tribute to the bronze Medallion of Fr. Antonio in the Piazzale dei Rogazionisti, installed by the City a few years ago, there is always a moment of conviviality and the Eucharistic celebration often presided over by a Rogationist, usually by Fr. Giovanni Bruno who spends his summer vacation in his native San Demetrio. This year, however, he is prevented from coming from California because of Covid19.
This year, also marks the First Centenary of the birth of Fr. Antonio, we wanted to give greater prominence to the event with the extraordinary participation of ten fellow Rogationists from Morlupo and the Curia in Rome, including the Vicar General of the Rogationists, Fr. Jose Maria Ezpeleta who presided over the Eucharist concelebrated in the ancient Church of S. Maria ad Cryptas in Fossa, near San Demetrio, made available by the parish priest Don Gaetano, who also a former altar boy of Fr. Barbangelo. For the occasion Centenary of the birth of Fr. Antonio (1920 - 2020), a white chasuble, worn for the first time by the celebrant, was donated to the Church.
The Superior General, Fr. Bruno Rampazzo, sent a message for the occasion, addressed to Fr. Renato, who read at the end of the Mass, which was welcomed with applause:
“The event - we read among other things - offers an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship that bind those who grew up next to Fr. Antonio and shared values that were then kept, over the years, in the vicissitudes of life.”
The Eucharistic celebration in memory of Fr. Barbangelo was very much attended by those present and lived intensely, especially for the presence of Fr. Jose Maria, a Filipino and a former seminarian of Fr. Antonio. His homily, was a living and moving testimony. Here are some passages. After introducing himself to the commentary of the Sunday readings, he expressed his joy in presiding over this particular Eucharist and sharing the privilege of having known Fr. Antonio Barbangelo "as Father and educator who taught us the values of today’s parable, not only with words, but with the choices he made in his life".
He then continued: "I entered the Rogationist Seminary in Manila in 1982, 38 years ago. I spent three years with Fr. Antonio as my formator in the aspirancy, postulancy, and novitiate. Many of you have spent more years with him. But I think you can identify with my testimony, that those years were the most significant moments of my formative life. I was a teenager, a bit 'idealistic, but at the same time confused. Fr. Barbangelo patiently accompanied me and taught me the art of discernment, of intuition of values that really matter, of seeing my ideal in the vocation to which God has called me."
"Like the protagonists in today’s parables, Fr. Barbangelo showed me how to recognize the treasure, the pearls, and the good fish, and how to have the courage and joy to leave everything to choose and possess what really matters, what is really important, and what I will carry with me throughout my earthly life and into eternal life. Fr. Barbangelo lived the lessons of today’s parable. He left his beloved Italy and his beloved San Demetrio, his “blessed boys” (benedetti ragazzi), his friends, his relatives to go across the globe in search of fine pearls even though he was already 56 years old. He went on a mission full of audacity, enthusiasm, concentration, and trust in the Lord".
"The language barrier or the difference in culture or age, or any other difficulty did not prevent him from dynamically meeting young people in all parts of the Philippines and beyond, in the organization of all kinds of activities, from teaching music and songs, to playing football, to going in field trips and pilgrimages. He did all this with a constant, active, loving, and paternal presence with his seminarians. More than words, Fr. Antonio actually transmitted the values of the Gospel: we knew that he had found the precious pearl in his Rogationist vocation, that everything else is of less value than it, because it is the means through which God wants us to experience the fullness of life."
"Fr. Antonio touched our lives, and I believe that, as a pioneer Rogationist missionary in the Philippines, he also influenced mine. At the age of twenty-two, I went on my first foreign mission to India, where a year earlier Fr. Antonio had begun the Rogationist mission. Then, after five years of priesthood, I was sent to Vietnam as a pioneer Rogationist missionary to that country where I remained for nine years. Then, I went to South Korea where Fr. Barbangelo went first and found vocations for the Rogationist Congregation. I owe this missionary sensitivity to Fr. Antonio and I am sure that many others can say the same."
"The evangelical life of Fr. Barbangelo who testified in the Philippines for ten years, from 1976 to 1986, produced fruits a hundredfold. Many of the seminarians became Rogationist priests, some diocesan priests, and a large number formed Christian families. We may have traced different paths of life, but we all live the values learned in the formation and education we received from Fr. Antonio, that is, making good, intelligent, and wise choices that will lead us to the joy of the fullness of life."
After the Holy Mass we found ourselves in the square of the Rogationists, in front of the Palazzo Cappelli of which the reconstruction work for the earthquake of 2009 is started, for the floral tribute to the bronze Medallion, graced by Vicar Fr. Jose Maria. Then some participants addressed their greeting to Fr. Antonio, among them the Mayor of San Demetrio, Mr. Silvano Cappelli, who wished the "return" of the Rogationists to San Demetrio, since the Palace is being rebuilt after the earthquake.
After that, Fr. Matteo Sanavio spoke on behalf of the General Council, recalling some moments of his presence in San Demetrio as a young cleric, during Easter with the traditional celebration of the Red Madonna and, as a young priest, participating in the unforgettable ERA Meeting of 1997. There was also the memorial of Francesco Leonardis, a former "boy" of Fr. Antonio, recently deceased, read by his neice.
Finally, Fr. Renato Spallone, as the last Rogationist parish priest in San Demetrio, spoke about San Demetrio, the legacy of Marchesi Cappelli and the Rogationists, recalling events and the Rogationist priests who worked here: Fr. Antonio Barbangelo, the worker of the first hour up to the most recent. Fr. Vito and Fr. Biagio were present at the event. He concluded, thanking all the residents of San Demetrio for the constant esteem and warm welcome from them.
Before the community lunch shared at the "Del Rio" Restaurant in the nearby Fontecchio, the "Benedetti Ragazzi" of Fr. Barbangelo prepared and enjoyed a nice non-alcoholic aperitif outdoors. In the greeting of "See you again" to next year 2021, the Rogationists present at the centenary celebration thank everyone for their welcome, in particular, the organizers of the event: Berio, Ezio and siblings Ernesto and Genoveffa.
Article by: Fr. Renato Spallone, RCJ
Picture: Charcoal Painting by Fr. Shajan Pazhayil, RCJ