Father Giovanni Gaddo

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Father Giovanni Gaddo

(8th Provost General)

by
Domenico Mariani

(Translated by J. Anthony Dewhirst)
Is it possible that a little boy of 12 could be convinced that he had a religious vocation, to the point of devoting himself to serve the Lord all his life with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a religious Institute? Would he have sufficient maturity and knowledge of his own powers and human life to be definitely sure about it? Or would it not rather be autosuggestion, domestic economic problems, or the influence of some good person influencing his choice?

We know how modern psychologists would answer these questions. But we can say positively and absolutely ‘yes’. This is borne out by the reality of the facts; for instance, his life, the supernatural gift of a religious vocation, in which grace is grafted on to human nature, and incessant prayer reinforcing his human efforts.


Giovanni Ferdinando Angelo Gaddo was born of Carlo and Maria Amiotti at Vercelli, the Casa Borgogna in the Via del Duomo, on 7 February1895.

His father was a worker in marble, and this work provided for the upkeep of the family. His mother was a housewife and died early (1903?), so little Giovanni and his sister Lucia (a year his junior) were looked after by their grandmother. But she also passed away in 1907 and the Parish Priest of Crescentino, Don Pietro Gianotti, taking an interest in the family, wrote to Don Policarpo Garibaldi, the Novice Master at Calvario in Domodossola, in order that he might intercede with the Provincial, Giambattista Pagani, to accept the boy into the Institute of Charity. ‘The boy is very willing, he is good, he got the best marks in the exams and won the first prize. His grandmother having died he is poor and alone. His father is a marble worker and, because of his work, is almost always out of town. Hence, besides being neglected and alone, he has no one to cook for him and look after him’.i

Meanwhile little Giovanni went to the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Vercelli, as far as the 6th Elementary Grade. But, once he had become an Aspirant at Craveggiaii in 1907 he had to repeat some classes (there were only elementary schools there) and later take the school leaving exam at Stresa, in the municipal school, on 7. 7. 1912. He was 14½ when he entered the noviciate at Calvario on 27. 9. 1909iii. The following year he received the religious habit and on 15. 9. 1911 he made his first vows.

After the noviciate he began his studies at secondary school, first at Craveggia (where he was Vice – Prefect of the Aspirants), then at Stresa, at Arluno and at Domo, where 17. 7. 1914 he took his secondary school leaving certificate. He continued his classical secondary studies at Domo, which, however, were interrupted because on 19. 11. 1915 he was called up. He was a soldier in the medical corps at Turin, then in the infantry at Vercelli (taking his school leaving examination in classics at Domo, in three extraordinary sessions instituted for the military).

In November 1916 he joined the Faculty of Arts at Turin, and on 4. 5. 1917 he entered the Military School for Officer Cadets at Modena. He was sent to fight at the front. On 20. 6. 1918 he was wounded in the left leg, and the following day was made a Lieutenant. He would pass the months of June – September in the hospitals of Mestre, Milano and Vercelli, after which he had 2 months leave, and on 12. 12. 1916 he returned to the 80th Infantry Regiment stationed at Verona.

It was a time of great difficulty regarding his vocation. The Rosminians in the forces corresponded regularly with their superiors (Father Ignazio Colombo, Father Giuseppe Bozzetti…), but at the same time they experienced the trauma of the brutality of war and after this, the attractions of social life. We should remember that at Verona Giovanni Gaddo would have moved in circles of distinguished nobility and would have been an officer greatly admired by the women. On 30. 11. 1919,when he was discharged from the army and laid down his swordiv that would have been the time when he really made a definite choice for the Lord. Apropos of this there is an untold story about this period. The main character himself told it privately to an ex pupil of the College at Domodossola. One day in November he went up to San Zeno in Monte to ask for guidance from Don Giovanni Calabriav. The latter did not reply to his questions. He took the fine young officer to an attic and showed him a skeleton. Then he affectionately sent him off. Silent but eloquent advice!vi

Meanwhile in April 1919 he attended the 3rd year of University as an officer and graduated at Turin with full marks on 21. 4. 1921.

In September 1920 he was a student at Calvario in the 1st year of theology, but on 9 May 1921 he was asked to teach in the College where he also remained for the whole of the following year.

In September 1922 he had to suspend his study of theology in order to teach at Turin, where he stayed until 1925 (on 23. 9. 1923 he took his perpetual Vows at Calvario).

In September 1925 took up again his study of theology, this time at Rome at Propaganda Fide, with a room at San Carlo al Corso. But his course of studies was not a smooth one. In fact, in September 1926, he had to continue his studies at Domo (where he was Prefect of the senior school). He was dispensed from studying at Rome. He went there simply to take his exams. He also became ill there (TB?). He recovered and returned to Rome in 1927 until the end of his theology, being ordained priest at Novara by Monsignor Giuseppe Castelli on 28. 6. 1929.vii

I must say something about this period at Rome. We know that Father Gaddo was a shrewd connoisseur of art and those years at Rome must have been a time of exploration for him. He knew every nook of the eternal city, making it come to life, flavouring it with legends which enlivened and made every detail interesting. He had as his companions some of our English brethren (Claude Leetham) who called him their Pico della Mirandola, and later our own young students in Rome. To go out with Father Gaddo was a joy and the return home full of ardour and enthusiasm.

In 1929 Giovanni Gaddo began a round of jobs all of which were quite onerous ones. In September 1929 he was in Turin as Vice Rector and President; from September 1930 to 1933 he was at Stresa as Vice Rector and confessor to the Sisters; from 1933 to 1940 he was Vice Rector then Rector and teacher of art at Domoviii During this time at Domo three events stand out: his Presbyter vows, taken at Calvario on 7. 11. 1934; his journey in the summer of 1935 to England and Ireland with the new Father General for the celebrations of the first centenary of the Rosminians there; and the publication, edited by him, of the impressive book which commemorates the first centenary (1837 – 1937) of the Collegio Mellerio – Rosmini, Domodossola.ix

From September 1941 to September 1944 Father Gaddo was at Calvario as Rector and Novice Master but he continued in the department of Art at Domodossola. Vocations prospered in these years (there were up to 35 novices), but they were also dark years because of the war going on. The ascetical character and absolute poverty of Father Master were no small inducement for a sound formation.x

During these years Father Gaddo was given an altogether unusual task. At Stresa the Palazzo Bolongaro, the ex – ducal villa of Elizabeth of Saxony, was up for sale. This was where Rosmini lived in the last years of his life and where he died in 1855. Here was a unique opportunity to recover the house for our heritage and the heart of his Sons. The Provincial, Father Giovanni Pusineri, was a courageous and resourceful man and he gave don Gaddo the task of selling some valuable pictures in Florence in order to obtain the money necessary for its acquisition. The venture turned out well, and with the scholastic year 1942 – 1943 the Casa Bolongaro, with some adaptations, was able to open its doors as a children’s Primary School.xi On 25. 9. 1966, at the suggestion of Professor Michele Sciacca and through the decision of Father General Gaddo, the Casa Bolongaro closed as a school and became the ‘Centro Internazionale di Studi Rosminiani’. This was recognised as a juridic body by the President of the Republic on 31. 1. 1968. This was a prophetic cultural institution, producing even today great fruit for good, not only for the Institute but for the entire Church.
In the decrees of 1944 Father Gaddo was appointed Provincial in Italy and continued in this position until 1955. This was a difficult period, during which he got around the north of Italy in a second hand ‘Fiat – giardinetta’, filling vacancies. (Rector at Domo in 1944, at Turin in 1950, and President at Domo from 1951 – 1953)

In the last year of the war the Ossola was cut off for 34 days (10 September – 14 October 1944) and was proclaimed an Independent Republic. With the return to the Ossola of the Fascist and German troops, a large part of Collegio Rosmini was occupied and taken over. In this difficult atmosphere Father Bozzetti was arrested (4 November). He was taken off to prison at Pallanza and then Novara. He experienced days of anxiety until 21 December when he was set free. Italy was divided into two zones and it was impossible to communicate with Rome and Fabriago. Some Fathers and Brothers, fearing deportation, went into hiding in Switzerland, leaving significant places to fill.

In 1945 the difficulty ensued of recovering our schools. There was the burden of quite large economic problems, the worrying defection of numerous young religious who had hardly graduated, and there was a serious car accident with the loss of two valuable lives, the Rector and the Spiritual Director of the College of Domo.

But there were other years – for our country – of political and social, democratic and economic renewal and, a wonderful flourishing in the field of Rosminian studies and of strenuous preparation for the 1st Centenary of the Death of Rosmini. This would culminate in the Congress at Stresa in 1955 at which teachers and scholars from all over the world would gather.

In this period the pastoral work of the Rosminian Fathers spread to the African Missions and – in Italy – to certain parishes in Sicily. In 1950 the new parish of San Giuseppe alle Fontanelle at Trapani was set up, a little afterwards, the parish of S. Maria della Purità in Valderice was accepted, and in 1951, almost by force of circumstances, that of Santa Ninfa, and then Castelveltrano (1971). At this time Father Gaddo also claimed the rights of the Institute of San Zeno at Verona, from which the Rosminians had been expelled by the Austrians in 1851, but in spite of historical documents favourable to usxii this came to nothing.

Subsequently, in 1961, Father Gaddo would play a large part in the Italian Province taking over the parish of Santo Spirito in Milanxiii, the parish of S.Maria Assunta ad Isola Capo Rissuto (1976) and also the parish of Spirito Sancto at EUR, Rome, although by 1980 he had already surrendered the reins of government to a Vicar General.

On 6. 1. 1955 Father Gaddo was appointed Vicar of Spiritual Charityxiv and in September he ceased to be Provincial of Italy retiring to Borgomanero as Director of the Sisters and Provincial Admonitor.
But the Lord allowed his faithful servant only a short respite. On 27. 5. 1956 Father Bozzetti died in Rome and on 23 June Father Gaddo was chosen by the Chapter held at Porta Latina to be the 8th successor of Rosmini to govern the Institute.

The work of Father Gaddo as Superior General has been greater than might at first appear. He convoked two General Chapters at Ratcliffe (August 1959 and the special one of two sessions, July 1969 and July 1970), he participated in the whole of Vatican Council II (11 October 1962 – 8 December 1965)xv, he opened new fields of apostolate in South America (Venezuela, 6 August 1958) and in Oceania (New Zealand, 27 September 1961), he made 17 journeys overseas, among which were two round world tripsxvi, he wrote 20 Christmas Letters on very interesting topicsxvii, he was one of the most regular and well – known of the Superior Generals who went to the meetings of USG at Villa Cavaletti (Grottaferrata). Father Gaddo had the joy of seeing three of his sons made Bishop and he assisted at their consecration. The first was Mgr. Eugene Arthurs, the first Bishop of Tanga, consecrated in the Cathedral of Dundalk (Ireland) 24. 8. 1958; the second was Mgr. Clemente Riva, titular Bishop of Atella and Auxiliary in Rome, consecrated at San Carlo al Corso (Rome) on 22. 6. 1975; the third was Mgr Antonio Riboldi, Bishop of Acerra, consecrated in the piazza maggiore of Santa Ninfa on 11. 3. 1978. He was also present as an act of courtesy for the consecration of Mgr. Maurus Komba, successor of Mgr Arthurs at Tanga on 12. 3. 1970.

During the whole of the Council two conciliar fathers were his guests at Porta Latina,

namely, Cardinal Norman Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia) and Mgr. Reginald Delargey, Auxilary Bishop of Auckland, (New Zealand). These two went with him in the car to St Peter’s each day. In March 1961 he received Eamon De Valera, President of the Republic of Ireland who paid a courtesy visit.

Among the tasks of Father General there was also the responsibility of presiding at the General Chapters of the Rosminian Sisters ‘for the maintenance of unity of discipline and their traditional spirit’.xviii Father Gaddo did not shirk this responsibility in April 1965 and May 1971 when Mother Ave Franchi was elected and re – elected, and in March 1977 when Sr. Emerenziana Cortella was elected as Carissima Madre. But he devoted much of his time to all the Sisters meeting them many times during the year and corresponding with them by letter, displaying a sensitivity and understanding all the more unusual considering the markedly, austere character of the man of God.

The same pastoral enthusiasm caused Father Gaddo to care for the Figlie dell’ Istituto della Carità, (Daughters of the Institute of Charity), whom he established as a little Sodality. He wrote some practical and wise Direttive spirituali (spiritual rules) (Rome 1960) for them and kept up a frequent personal and Fatherly relationship, which was always gentlemanly and reserved.

In March 1966 – when Father Gaddo was 71 years old – his health caused great alarm and he had to go into a clinic on the Celian Hill, for a delicate operation for the removal of the prostate and quite a large tumour associated with it. But everything turned out well and his health flourished as well as ever.

Father Gaddo did not neglect to support warmly the Cause of Father Founder and tried to introduce it officially with the Roman Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. He was encouraged in this by the favourable attitude shown on several occasions by the Pope and by the enthusiasm of so many influential friends. His last attempt was on 6. 3. 1972 when, after thoroughly deliberating with his Council, he charged the Procurator General Father Francesco Berra to draw up a petition to the Holy Father and to hand it over directly to Mgr. Pasquale Macchixix together with a brief monograph written by Father Riva. On 7. 7. 1972, Father Gaddo received the news that the Holy Father had gone over the question with the Congregation of the Saints who, in general, had given a favourable opinion to the beginning of the process of Beatification. There was a long, a very long, wait for a further reply. Finally, on 1. 11. 1976 Father Gaddo told his council of a confidential meeting he had had on 27. 10. 1976 with Cardinal Corrado Bafile, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints the gist of which was, ‘The Congregation for the Faith, who have been asked for their considered opinion on the Rosminian matter, after a long examination (3 years!) have replied ‘non expedit’, (it is not expedient) and the Holy Father ‘adprobavit’ (approved). The Cardinal was truly sorry but…nothing could be done’.

On 28 February 1978 the Institute of Charity celebrated its 150 anniversary and Pope Paul VI had the kindness to send by hand ‘to our beloved Son Don Giovanni Gaddo, Provost General of the Institute of Charity an official letter of congratulations, of instruction, of exhortation to ‘walk with renewed vigour in the footsteps of so great a Father’ concluding with the Apostolic Blessing for the Brethren, Sisters of Providence and Friends.xx

But in this same year, 1978, Father Gaddo experienced a grave decline in his general health. He was in Borgomanero in the good hands of Sister Elisabetta Sadler and other doctors and bit by bit he recovered. On 23 June 1978 he felt the need to write the following letter to his Vicars, Secretary, Procurator, Administrator General, his four Assistants and the Provincial and Diocesan Provosts and – for her information – Mother General, Sister Emerenziana Cortella: ‘The light and love of the Holy Spirit be with you. Last January the Lord wished me to experience grave sickness. Today, through God’s grace, and the watchful care of the doctors and our Rosminian infirmarians, the malady appears to have been cured and I am daily recovering my energy, so much so that I can take up again, a little, my duties of Provost General. I feel, nevertheless that I have no longer the energy I once had (I was 83 last February), and especially not to have the intellectual energy for the innumerable tasks in these difficult times. These reasons lead me to have recourse to your wise advice, and that you reply to the following two questions:


  1. Should I nominate a vicar general with full executive authority?

  2. Would you accept that I nominate, for such a task, don T. Kearns (the present Provost Provincial of England)?

Give me a simple reply indicating your opinion.

First study numbers 826, 883, 884, 885, 877 of our Constitutions of the London Latin edition, or numbers 821, 878, 879, 880, 872 of the Italian translation.



Pray ardently to the Holy Spirit that his most holy will be done.

Reply to me as soon as possible at the following address: Padri Rosminiani — 28021 Borgomanero NO.

Thank you! The Lord bless you and our Lady guide you.


Yours affectionately, Father Giovanni Gaddo.

In fact, from 30. 10, 1972, Father Gaddo had asked the members of his Council for their opinion regarding whether he should continue in the post of Superior General and their reply had been ‘continue’!

He had asked again on 24. 10. 1977 and would ask again on 28. 9. 1978 and on 30. 10. 1978 until he brought the delays to an end and, on 30. 12. 1978, he called to Rome ‘the fifteen members’ provided by the Constitutionsxxi and put before them the situation regarding his retirement and the appointment of a Vicar General with full authorityxxii.

He introduced the proceedings and then absented himself. The discussions continued for three days; then the 13 ‘delegates’ voted. Nine councillors said ‘yes’ for the nomination of a Vicar, one said ‘no’ and three abstained.

On 2 January Father General thanked them and revealed the name of the Vicar he had chosen. It was Domenico Mariani. He added: ‘You thirteen members may like either to accept or not to accept him by voting…I intend to give him extensive power...except over the Congregation of the Rosminian Sisters which I reserve to myself’.

Father left the aula again, and, after a brief discussion, 12 voted ‘yes’ and 1 voted ‘no’. They informed Father General of the result. He said ‘Deo Gratias et vobis’ (Thanks be to God and to you). In this way a great headache was brought to an end.

The life of the Institute continued under the guidance of the Vicar General, who made use of the constant help of Father Gaddo’s councillors. Fr Gaddo, who was stationed in Rome for the first months but then went to the Centro at Stresa, gave his new helper a totally free hand.

At the second session of the 2nd Special General Chapter held at Calvario, the Holy See (having been consulted) finally replied that Father General, who had taken up the task of governing the Institute, could, in virtue of obedience, lay down the post to allow new elections. Father Gaddo freely resigned and on 5 April 1981 Father Giambattista Zantedeschi was elected. For the first time in the history of the Institute we had two living Generals, one ‘emeritus’ and the other just elected.xxiii

In May 1982 Father Gaddo moved to Borgomanero, as confessor of the Sisters of the Central House. This would be his last job and his last residence. He would enjoy spending the summers at Calvario and meeting the Adopted Daughters and the Ascribed. He would never miss the September Assembly of the ex pupils of the College at Domodossola. In fact it was in these surroundings, where he was seen as an ancient Patriarch, that in 1986 the first volume of ‘Giorni antichi’ (with the subtitle: ‘Notizie e documenti per un racconto della storia dell’ Istituto della Carità e delle Suore della Provvidenza Rosminiane’) was published. This was a laborious scholarly undertaking by a man passionate about Rosminian studies, who had finally got the time to devote himself to his preferred work.xxiv The two volumes which would follow (1989 and 1990) would not be done with the same thoroughness as the first volume, particularly the last one which is simply a draft of notes, though valuable ones.

So, in the midst of prayer, study, pastoral work and friendship, Father Gaddo ended his long earthly sojourn of 94 years, almost 80 of religious life, 70 of priesthood, and 25 as General, full of years and merits. It was the evening of 18 February 1989. His remains lie at Calvario in the Chapel of Paradise.


***********

For an overall assessment of the work of Father Gaddo as Superior General of the Institute, even if premature, I refer to what Father Remo Bessero Belti has written in Charitas, after his death:

‘…It was not easy to be the heir of Father Bozzetti as Superior General of the Institute, either within the Institute or outside it. Within the Institute, perhaps we also made the delicate task of Father Gaddo more difficult, accustomed as we were to the style of Father Bozzetti. As for, outside the Institute it was clear that the great character of the latter together with his impressive personality was irreplaceable both with lay folk and with ecclesiastics.

Father Gaddo had the intelligence and humility to understand this and accept it. And the Lord endowed him abundantly with what he excelled in and could pass on to the Institute, namely a great desire for a serious religious life, in an old fashioned way, with solid virtue, and backbone, as indeed he himself exemplified. He was, indeed very severe with himself. But if he appeared perhaps sometimes to be over strict with his religious, it is necessary to point out that with the passing of years, in his service to the Institute as Superior General to be precise, he became ever more ‘paternal’ and both understanding and indulgent towards his brethren. I believe that his experience with the brethren outside Italy helped him to broaden his outlook mentally and emotionally. It is certainly true that he was always willing to visit them. And certainly the fact of being ‘superior’ and ‘guide’ of the Rosminian Sisters helped him. He devoted a great deal of time to them but he derived great benefit from this, precisely because of the sensitivity needed.

…Father Gaddo grew up in the tradition of the Fathers who looked on the Constitutions as the text which Rosmini handed over as the immoveable foundation of the Institute, and he felt that he had a duty, so to speak, to defend it. At the same time he felt that he owed obedience to the suggestions of the Church. Other Fathers had to sort out this situation in Congregation but Father Gaddo felt it, experienced it and suffered it on another level, in his responsibility for the Institute with regard to the brethren and the Church. And this was his cross…and also his ‘agony’. Only God knows how much he suffered in those years, how much he prayed, how much he interceded, how much he ‘offered up’. But the Lord, precisely because of his ‘agony’, and always in accordance with the evangelical law of the grain of wheat which, if it does not die cannot bear fruit, saw to it that everything would be resolved in the most balanced way and in harmony. And this happened in the last General Congregation, held at Rome in 1988, at an opportune time because Father Gaddo could see that his suffering had borne very good fruit’.

And again from the reflections of Father Bessero, I take a last perceptive comment regarding the sensitivity of Father Gaddo towards women. ‘This was a characteristic which he wonderfully manifested together with austerity of spirit. At his funeral we heard, in the tributes after the homily, the really beautiful testimonial which one of the Rosminian Sisters gave in the name of all of them: ‘We, your Sisters, realised that you desired the best for us and you did your best for us. Thank you. Also you spoke to us, as also to your Fathers, of the ‘manly’ spirit desired by Father Founder in order to walk in the way of perfection. But you have been one of the few who has understood our feelings as ‘women’ and you have walked with us with strong and enlightened sensitivity. Those who have experienced you like this, and there are so many of us, will never forget you. Your understanding is part of our lives. Speak of us, your daughters, to our heavenly Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to Mary, to Father Founder, and ask for holy vocations. Dear Father Gaddo, obtain for us your and our prayer that the Church will recognise soon the holiness of Father Founder. Amen’.xxv

And this is precisely what is happening: through the prayers, suffering, the price paid in the life of so many of our Brethren, Sisters, Ascribed and friends, that today – like Father Gaddo – enjoy the beatific vision of God.


i Generalitial Archive, Rome, letter of 14. 8. 1907

ii His father accompanied him to Craveggia on 14. 9. 1907 and signed a statement in fine handwriting ‘to leave my son, Giovanni, fully and entirely free to enter and remain in the Institute of Charity, ready, however, to take him back if, and for whatever reason, he might not be able to remain in the said Congregation’. Somewhere I have heard of Giovanni’s ‘lump in the throat’, at remaining alone in the mountains of the Vigezzo when his father departed.

iii In the Archive at Stresa there is his simple and frank written answer to the 15 questions which were usually asked of the person entering the noviciate. The writing is large and firm, almost like an adult’s.

iv The tasselled sword of Lieutenant Infantryman Giovanni Gaddo is still kept in a cupboard in the Palazzo Rosmini at Rovereto, and is now an antique.

v Don Giovanni Calabria (1873 – 1954), founder of the Congregation of the ‘Poor Servants of Divine Providence’ (1907) was canonized by John Paul II on 18. 4. 1999.

vi At his demobilisation Giovanni Gaddo was decorated with the ‘Croce al Merito di guerra’ (licence n. 19.257), but he would never seek the ‘Cavalierato di Vittorio Veneto’ with its attached pension: He was both proud and modest in the knowledge that he had served his country simply as his duty.

vii The Holy Picture commemorating his first Mass, celebrated at Calvario, Domodossola on 30 June 1929, states ‘Giovanni Gaddo, Rosminian, offers his first Sacrifice of the Mass for his father, mother,


sister, superiors, brethren, relations and friends’. On the other side is a reproduction of the miracle of Bolsena, painted in the stanze of Raphael. (In the Vatican, JAD)


viii The Rivista Rosminiana, beginning in 1924, contains numerous articles on literature, history and art, written by Giovanni Gaddo: see the 1st General Index (1906 – 1941) from n. 403 to n. 417 and the 2nd General Index (1941 – 1981) with seven articles.

The Bibliografia Rosminiana (Rosminian Bibliography) of Cirillo Bergamaschi (Vol. VI, Indices) contains a good 57 titles of books and articles of Giovanni Gaddo. I especially remember that Father Gaddo was a keen and competent expert of one of the most famous sacred monuments in Italy, entrusted by King Charles Albert to the Rosminian Fathers in 1836, of which he has written the artistic and historical guide, La Sacra di San Michele in Val di Susa (Sodalitas 1935, pp. 127).



ix There are two volumes Memorie centenarie of the Collegio Mellerio – Rosmini, Domodossola. One is edited by Father Gaddo. This records the 100 years from the taking over of the Collegio Mellerio on the part of the Rosminians in 1837; the other is edited by Father Giuseppe Airaudo, recording the 100 years of the new building, constructed in 1873.

x At the age of 30 Father Gaddo was already completely white – haired and this created a sense of veneration in those who approached him. But his sight and walking were youthful. He was well known for his long walks with his novices in the Ossola. The shortage experienced during the war years was terrible, for example he wore clogs like his novices. The recreations after supper in which Father Gaddo, in the centre of a great circle, held forth on Rosminian reminiscences and the fioretti of the lives of the old fathers, were unforgettable.


xi See the magazine, Charitas, 1942, pp. 54 and 96.

xii Pius IX with his Brief of 12. 5. 1847 assigned the parish of San Zeno in Verona to the Institute of Charity ‘in perpetuum’. The Episcopal Curia implemented the Pontifical Brief, by its act of 30. 3. 1848. Only the Imperial ‘placet’ was lacking which never arrived.

xiii It is said that when word spread that a parish was available to be built in the City for a religious Order, many Provincials offered their services. But Cardinal Montini had other ideas, and while refusing their offers he sent for Father Gaddo and asked him to accept the parish for the Institute of Charity. Later he blessed the foundation stone of the church in piazzo San Pietro after becoming Pope.

xiv According to the Rosminian Constitutions the Vicar of Spiritual Charity is the person who is in charge of the Institute in the case of the death of Father General unless he has provided for this by a separate Decree (C. n. 941).

xv All the ‘instrumenta laboris’ distributed to the Conciliar Fathers, a photo and medals, and not least (and very precious) Fr Gaddo’s personal notes are preserved in Generalitial Archive. Together with Father Gaddo, another Rosminian father, the Bishop of Tanga, Mgr Eugene Arthurs, participated in a great part of the conciliar sessions.

xvi Father Gaddo’s 17 journeys overseas, some recorded by exceptional photographs, are artistically described in a book which was used as a reader in some Italian secondary schools. The book, consisting of 229 pages with an Appendix of photographs, is entitled ‘Quando era in Viaggio’ (When I was on a Journey) began as instalments in ‘Bollettino dell’ Associazione A. Rosmini dei Collegi Rosminiani’ (nn. 177 – 206). The journeys undertaken were, in chronological order:


  • May – July 1957: Great Britain and Ireland,

  • September – November 1957: United states,

  • August 1959: Ratcliffe, UK,

  • October – November 1959: Tanganyika,

  • September – October 1960: United states (also Florida for the first time),

  • April – July 1964: Tanganyika, New Zealand, Venezuela, United States (world journey),

  • November 1967: Tanzania,

  • September 1968: Venezuela and United States,

  • July 1969: Ratcliffe, UK,

  • March 1970: Tanzania,

  • July 1970: Ratcliffe, UK,

  • April 1972: New Zealand, Venezuela, United States (world journey),

  • June 1973: Ireland and Great Britain,

  • February 1975: Venezuela and USA,

  • June 1975: Ireland and Great Britain,

  • November 1976: Tanzania,

  • June 1977: Ireland and Great Britain.

His Secretary, Father Ronald Catcheside, was his organizer and constant companion on all these journeys.


xvii Some are genuine pieces of historical character, as the one of 1963, entitled ‘Un Centenaio negli Stati Uniti’ (A Hundred Years in the United States). On the occasion of his 50th anniversary of priesthood and his 70th year of religious life (1979), Father Emilio Comper assembled them in book form and gave them to Father Gaddo as a token of gratitude and friendship.


xviii ‘Constitutions’ of the Rosminian Sisters of Providence, 1986, n. 183.

xix Don Francesco Berra was very friendly with Mgr. Pasquale Macchi, the Secretary of Pope Paul VI, with whom he had spent a pleasant time when training in the major seminary of Venegono (Varese).

xx Generalitial Archive, box ‘Procurator’, letter of 12. 2. 78.

xxi For the record, the ‘fifteen members’ were:

  • Michael A. Hayes Vicar of Spiritual Charity

  • Remo Bessero Belti Vicar of Intellectual Charity

  • John O’Kane Vicar of Temporal Charity

  • Ronald Catcheside Secretary General

  • Denis P. Hare Administrator General

  • Andrea Alotto Admonitor General

  • Giambattista Zantedeschi Assistant to the General

  • Anthony Baxter Assistant to the General

  • Cornelius Cottrell Assistant to the General

  • Denis Scott Assistant to the General

  • Emilio Comper Italian Provincial

  • Thomas Kearns United Kingdom Provincial

  • 13.Charles 0’Sullivan Irish Provincial

  • Alphonsus Curran American Provincial

  • Francesco Berra Procurator General

The first thirteen men are those who are appointed to vote (C. 882).

xxii See Constitutions, nn. 878, 879, 880, 881, 882.

xxiii A year later the same thing happened to the Company of Jesus (the Jesuits). Padre Arrupe resigned, Paolo Dezza was nominated Vicar and then came the election of the new Provost General Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach.


xxiv ‘The Old Days, Notes and documents giving an account of the history of the Institute of Charity and the Rosminian Sisters of Providence’. This volume of 809 pages, which has a preface by Domenico Mariani, thanks the Archivist at Stresa, Don Luca Laner, the faithful typist Sr. M. Letizia Stucchi, the editor and publisher, Don Elio Silvi. On 28 September 1986, Father Gaddo was very happy to autograph the frontispiece of the work for so many of his affectionate ex pupils who had a close relationship with him in their annual assembly.

xxv Bollettino ‘Charitas’ 1989, pp. 109, 110, 112.


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