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PROFILE-GAETANO Nov-7-2005 (510 words) xxxi

St. Gaetano Catanoso revived devotions, founded order

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christ's suffering out of love for humanity led St. Gaetano Catanoso to a devotion to the "holy face of Christ," a devotion seen in the religious order he founded, in his commitment to eucharistic adoration and in works of charity.

The Italian diocesan priest, who lived 1879-1963, was one of five men in the first group of saints proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

At the Oct. 23 canonization ceremony, the pope said that daily Mass and frequent eucharistic adoration "were the soul" of the priesthood for St. Gaetano.

"With zealous and untiring pastoral charity, he dedicated himself to preaching, catechesis, the ministry of confessions, to the poor, the sick and the care of priestly vocations," the pope said.

He added that the priest's "spirit of charity, humility and sacrifice" was transmitted to the Daughters of St. Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, the religious order he founded in 1934.

Gaetano Catanoso was born into a wealthy Catholic family in Chorio di San Lorenzo, a town in Reggio di Calabria province in southern Italy.

He entered the minor seminary at the age of 10 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1902. Among the many campaigns he conducted later in life was the "Institution for Poor Clerics," a campaign to raise scholarship money for poor boys who felt they had a vocation to the priesthood, but whose families could not afford the seminary tuition.

In 1904 he was assigned to a rural parish and served there for almost 17 years, promoting devotion to the Holy Face, including by establishing a confraternity committed to prayer and charity.

The rural areas of Reggio di Calabria were extremely poor, had a very high rate of illiteracy and were breeding grounds for crime, so St. Gaetano opened an evening school for children who had to work at home or on the farm during the day.

The Reggio di Calabria provincial government's foundation for promoting charitable giving and volunteer activity is named after the saint.

Later transferred to a large parish in the provincial capital, also called Reggio di Calabria, the priest revived eucharistic and Marian devotions and promoted devotion to the Holy Face. He organized other priests to conduct missions with him in the city's parishes, to hear confessions for hours at a time and to minister to people who had been the victims of organized crime.

According to a Vatican-published biography, he was a crusader against blasphemy and against "the profanation of feast days."

Poverty and World War II combined to leave many children in Reggio di Calabria orphaned in the early 1940s. The future saint opened a makeshift orphanage in 1943 and -- with the help of donations from Calabrian immigrants in the United States -- opened a new facility in 1948. The building now houses a residence for the elderly.

As he grew ill and became blind, St. Gaetano lived in a small room at the Veronican Sisters' headquarters, welcoming visitors, listening to their troubles and hearing their confessions.

He died at the age of 84 and was beatified in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.


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