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In mission: The Xaverian Missionaries

By Frank Mazzaglia
Posted: 10/22/2010

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Long before Ad Gentes, the Archdiocese of Boston enthusiastically welcomed Religious congregations whose primary missionary charism reached out to other countries and the home missions. Thanks to the archdiocese and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Boston proved fertile ground in support of distinctive missionary activity around the world.

When the helpless people of Cheng-chow, China found themselves victimized by flooding, competing warlords, and crippling poverty, Bishop Luigi Calza, a Xaverian Missionary, desperately sought financial assistance. Help arrived just in time from distant Boston through a priest he had never met. The priest's name was Father Richard Cushing, the Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The very grateful Bishop Calza then made a promise. Every day for the rest of his life Bishop Calza would say a rosary for that Boston priest who had aided his people. The gesture touched Father Cushing's heart.

Some 20 years later, aware of the mission spirit in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Italian-based Xaverians appealed to Archbishop Richard Cushing for permission to found a house within the archdiocese. As the request was being considered, Father Pietro Maschi, a popular Scalabrini priest and the founding pastor of St. Tarcisius Parish in Framingham, went directly to Archbishop Cushing to plead for the Xaverians and to cut through the ecclesiastical red tape. Prior to joining the Scalabrinis, Father Maschi had studied at the Xaverian Missionary minor seminary in Parma, Italy and maintained fond memories of the congregation. Two of his former class mates included Bishop Calza, and Boston-born Father Giovanni Bonardi, who was baptized at St. Leonard Parish in the North End. Father Maschi apparently hit a tender spot when he reminded Archbishop Cushing of Bishop Luigi Calza's daily rosary on his behalf. That may well have done it, as Archbishop Cushing warmly welcomed the Xavarian Missionaries to the archdiocese in 1947.

Blessed Guido Maria Conforti founded the Xaverian Missionaries in 1895 to proclaim the Gospel among non-Christian people. The congregation sought to fulfill the dream of St. Francis Xavier to bring Christ to the people of mainland China and Taiwan. However, when missionaries were expelled from China in 1954, the Xavarians established missions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Given the more open environment today, the Xaverian Missionaries have returned to China.

Cardinal Cushing proved to be a good friend to the Xaverians. He blessed Our Lady of Fatima in Holliston in 1950, and later, their minor seminary. He presided over the ordination of Father Angelo Frosi, who became Bishop of Abaetetuba in Northern Brazil. Cardinal Cushing even travelled to Parma, Italy where he ordained a class of Xaverians. In his later years, Cardinal Cushing still kept updated on the Xaverians through Father J. Henry Frassineti who was responsible for the congregation's foundation in the United States.

Today, more than 800 Xaverians staff parishes and are engaged in education, health services, economic projects and a wide variety of social service agencies in 20 countries around the world. You can learn more about the Xaverians Missionaries by contacting Father Joe Matteucig, SX at 508-429-2144 at the Fatima Shrine in Holliston.

Frank Mazzaglia is associated with the Missionary Alliance which is comprised of religious missionary congregations of priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people whose members toil in the vineyards for Christ all over the world.