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Catholic Heroes… Blessed Joseph Allamano

February 6, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

In the lives of the saints one thing is very common: They have such a strong desire to do God’s will that nothing will hinder their work. Many saints, despite illness, weak health, or many other obstacles achieved their goals. Frequently the amount of work accomplished by such individuals seems humanly impossible — and, of course, it is. Flooded with abundant graces because they opened their minds and hearts to God’s will, they could move mountains. Such was the case of Blessed Joseph Allamano.
Joseph was born on January 21, 1851 at Castelnuovo d’Asti, Italy, which is just ten miles east of Turin. Two other saints also came from that village about the same time: St. Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) and St. John Bosco (1815-1888).
The future saint’s father died when Joseph was just three years old, leaving his mother, Maria Anna Cafasso, to raise the five children by herself. Joseph was the fourth of the five children and his mother played a most influential role in his life as she oversaw both his education and his spiritual formation, as did his uncle — Joseph Cafasso — who also became a saint.
Joseph attended elementary school with John Bosco, finishing in 1862. He then entered the Salesian Oratory at Valdocco, 20 miles east of his hometown. He completed his four years of middle school having Bosco as his confessor.
The close friendship stood the test of separation when Joseph left and moved to Torino in 1866 where he entered the diocesan seminary. Deeply grieved, not only by Joseph’s silent departure, but also that he did not enter the Salesians, Bosco wrote to Joseph, “You hurt my feelings — you left without even saying goodbye.”
Joseph with great respect and love wrote back, “I didn’t have the nerve.”
Joseph’s move was not an easy one. While his mother had no objections to him entering the diocesan seminary at such a young age, his brothers insisted that he attend high school first. Joseph simply told them that God was calling him now and may not be calling him in two years’ time.
His health provided another challenge then and for most of his life. Nevertheless, he persevered in his studies. His classmates, including the future bishop of Mondovi, Msgr. G.B. Ressia, remarked on his great virtue and intellect, “He was the one closest to the heart of Jesus…none of us would have dared to compare with him.”
After Joseph was ordained on September 20, 1873, he worked as an assistant at the seminary for three years and then as spiritual director for four more years. When he expressed his disappointment that he was not assigned to a parish right away, his archbishop informed him that he was giving him the most important parish — the seminary.
He proved a most able assistant and director showing his excellence as a teacher and an administrator. At the same time he continued his studies and received a doctorate in theology on June 12, 1877. Soon he became an associate member of the Canon and Civil Law Faculty, leading to his achieving the chairmanship of both faculties.
Three years later, in October 1880, the archbishop appointed him rector of the Consolata Shrine in Torino. At the age of 29, Joseph demurred, pleading his youth, to which the archbishop replied, “It is good that you are young — if you make any mistakes, you will have time to correct them.
Most would think that such an appointment would take all of his time, but Joseph continued to take on more and more projects and responsibilities because he was so zealous in saving souls. Although he accomplished admirable work rejuvenating the shrine both spiritually and physically — it had fallen into disrepair — he accepted many other appointments.
With the help of his good friend Fr. Giacomo Camisassa, with whom he attended seminary, they hoped to “accomplish some good and honor Mary our Mother and Consolation, with our sacred worship.”
Theirs was a lifelong collaboration for the love of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It ended around 1922 when Fr. Camisassa died. Fr. Joseph grieved deeply, writing, “He was always ready to sacrifice himself for me . . . with his death I have lost my two hands.”
Fr. Joseph also served as the rector of the Shrine of St. Ignatius near Lanzo Torinese. This shrine became a center of retreats for priests and lay people. Sometimes he would even direct the retreats himself, assuring people that he was gaining many more graces than those attending the retreats as he learned from the retreatants. Under his guidance, it became one of the finest retreat centers in the area with the rooms always full.
In addition to serving as rector in these two places, Fr. Allamano also collected information on St. Joseph Cafasso, seeing his life as an example that would encourage priests to follow his virtue and holiness. In a letter to all Consolata Missionaries, celebrating the holy priest’s beatification, Fr. Allamano confirmed that he did not pursue Cafasso’s canonization out of filial loyalty, but for other reasons: “He is a light and example for souls, especially for ecclesiastics.”
A host of his other accomplishments included serving as canon of the cathedral, being a member of numerous commissions, acting as religious superior to the Visitation Sisters as well as the Sisters of St. Joseph, and assisting priests who were serving in the army during World War II. He became involved in journalistic pursuits — expecting high standards of excellence — and raised funds for various apostolic works.
Furthermore, he possessed a great missionary zeal few can imagine, but in all humility he rejected any praise for his work. He firmly believed that with as many Catholic institutions as there were in Torino, there should be at least one dedicated to serving the missions.
Although he saw a need for such an institute, he did not want to become the founder of one. Nevertheless, when his archbishop told him to do so, he agreed and he trained missionaries to be sent to Kenya. The work continued for 22 years until it was phased out after 1909.
This disappointment did not discourage his hopes, however. With the urging of Bishop F. Perlo and the support of Pope Pius X, who wanted a foundation for women missionaries, he listened to his superiors. Cardinal Gotti bluntly told him, “It is God’s will there be sisters.”
When Fr. Allamano explained to the Pope that he didn’t think he had a calling to found such an order, the Pope responded, “If you do not have it, I give it to you.”
Thus on January 29, 1910, he founded the Institute of the Consolata Missionary Sisters, telling them that it was not him, but the Pope who wanted the institute. As the institute grew, sisters were sent to Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Somalia, and Mozambique. Now they are working in Africa, Asia, America, and Europe.
Fr. Allamano died on February 16, 1926 at the Consolata Shrine. His remains are in the Mother House of his missionary sisters in Carso Ferrucci in Torino, lying next to his lifelong friend, collaborator, and cofounder, Fr. Camisassa.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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