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De Francesco, Vincente, 1885-1974, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/1169
  • Person
  • 23 November 1885-20 October 1974

Born: 23 November 1885, Messercola, Caserta, Italy
Entered: 01 October 1900, St Joseph’s, Naples, Italy - Neapolitanae Province (NAP)
Ordained: 29 September 1915
Professed: 13 April 1921
Died: 20 October 1974, Gesù, Naples, Italy - Neapolitanae Province (NAP)

by 1922 came to St Ignatius, Melbourne, Australia (HIB) working

Provincial of Neapolitan Province (NAP) 1935-1938

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280 :
He Entered the Society at Villa Melancrinis, Naples, Italy 01 October 1900.
After he had completed his studies in literature he went to Acireale for Philosophy.
He was then sent for Regency to Collegio Sozi-Carafa di Vico Equense, on the island of Ponza
He then went to Posillipo, Naples for Theology
1919-1920 He was engaged in military service and then made his tertianship at Posillipo
1920-1931 He was sent to Australia and arrived on 23 October 1920 and went to the Richmond Parish. During his time here he had special responsibility for the Italian community in Victoria and he also did some parish work..

He had been lent to the Australian Mission and was a man of great strength and vitality, untiringly energetic, unfailingly cheerful, greatly loved and trusted by the Italians. He was a tall thin man, had big gestures, a soft voice, and was sincere, talkative and happy. Young people especially enjoyed his company, engaged by his simple statements and affectionate manner. He was like an old friend who converses with ease.
The Italian community in Melbourne spoke little or no English, was not well educated, had no welfare agency and was isolated from the larger Melbourne community. At first, Vincente was not welcomed by the community who treated him both with suspicion and indifference. The did not want to be reminded of their religious obligations by a priest. However, this did not last and they began to understand that he was an asset to them. He wrote a booklet “A Little Guide for Italians in Australia”, which contained prayers and useful information for newly arrived immigrants.
In 1922 he estimated that there were 300-400 families in his care. In 1925 he helped organise a Mission, and about 400 people attended, many then returning to religious practice. Many of these people also became followers of Mussolini, and were involved in some fascist activities, and Vincente joined in with them. Among them grew a more extreme group of anarchists and communists, and the “Clob Matteotti” began to cause Vincente some concern. While trying to remain neutral to non-extreme political groups, he was primarily concerned with the pastoral needs of the Italian community. For this work he was awarded the “Knighthood of the Italian Crown” (Ordine della Corona d'Italia) in 1933.

He was so successful that later he was appointed Provincial of Naples (1935-1938). When asked for “informationes” by Father General, the Vice-Provincial of Australia, John Fahy wrote that he was “a man of great edification, given to prayer, obedient, humble, willingly listens to the advice of others, loving to all, mortified, loving poverty; above all he labours strenuously for the salvation of souls.....He exercises sound judgement, does not hesitate; and is endowed with practical wisdom......., gifted and both prudent and discreet; circumspect in speaking.....He understands the Institute well and loves it dearly. His love of the Society is outstanding........He is a man of rectitude with the greatest sincerity and candour”. This must have been someone close to human perfection as John Fahy rarely gave such praise!

His profile in Naples was that of a man with little understanding of men and things, and Vincente considered that perhaps he was not the best man to take up the office of Provincial. With his frank and open character and happy disposition, it appeared that he might not have the carefulness, discretion and diplomacy that might be required of him. He was anything but a failure. His administration was in order and he fulfilled the role with the qualities ascribed to him by John Fahy. The Italians admired his common sense, good heart and strong spirituality. He seemed to be a man united with God. He did not enjoy his term of office and asked to be relieved after three years. he was then appointed to the Neapolitan church of Santa Chiara - Basilica Santa Chiara, Via Santa Chiara, Naples.

1938 He was happy to return to pastoral work, and then the war years began. Naples was one of the cities that suffered most. They lived with the constant sound of the air-raid siren. The windows in Santa Chiara were all shattered, whole nights were spent in shelters and provisions became more difficult to come by.. Vincente did not know where to turn, though he remained calm and retained hope.

1943 On 04 August 1943 part of Santa Chiara was bombed. Ultimately he welcomed the arrival of the allies and he did much pastoral work among them because of his command of English. Reconstruction of the Church became an important priority for him

1948 His parish work was interrupted in 1948 when he tended to the needs of workmen at “Ritiri di Perseveranza” (Workers Retreats). Returning to the Parish he then focused especially on hearing confessions. All classes and types of people visited him and he visited the sick. he was hardworking and full of understanding. During this time he was also given the responsibility as Vice-Postulator of the cause of Venerable Giuseppe Moscati for canonisation.

1955 After seventeen years in Naples he was sent to Puglia. He visited Bari and Taranto first, and later went to Grottaglie.
1960-1965 He was Superior at Puglia and left this office in 1965 when he was aged 80.
1965 He returned to Naples and to Parish work, helping the sick and suffering. He even visited his home town of Messercola to help villagers in Santa Maria a Vico.

In his later years he suffered from sclerosis of the brain which affected his mental condition and caused him great pain. As such, death was a release for the man who had given so much for so long to those he served.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 3rd Year No 1 1927
Richmond, Australia :
Fr de Francesco continues to do splendid work amongst the Italians. He meets the boats as they arrive from Italy, and presents each newcomer with a little guide book that helps him to learn English, and also contains a good deal of religious instruction, He gets work for them, advises them as to the best localities for farming, etc. Every first Sunday of the month he holds a special service for the Italians in our Church. He goes round the various Churches in Melbourne to hear their Confessions. He made a tour of Australia, preaching in many places, priests speak highly of his splendid work.

Riotta, Francesco, 1844-1919, Jesuit priest

  • Person
  • 25 June 1844-08 November 1919

Born 25 June 1844, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Entered 05 November 1859, Palermo Sicily Italy - Siculae Province (SIC)
Ordained 1873
Professed 15 August 1878
Died 08 November 1919, Collegio Pennisi, Acireale, Sicily, Italy - Siculae Province (SIC)

2nd year Novitiate at Milltown (HIB) under Luigi Sturzo following the expulsion of Jesuits from Naples and Sicily