Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo

A Hope That Will Never Falter

Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo missionaries in the U.S., twelve priests who work and live in communities along the East Coast and in Colorado, demonstrate the true meaning of freedom: a life defined by openness to the plan of Another.
Chiara Tanzi

Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo missionaries in the U.S., twelve priests who work and live in communities along the East Coast and in Colorado, demonstrate the true meaning of freedom: a life defined by openness to the plan of Another. A presence here since 1990, the order just celebrated its 25th anniversary with a papal audience.

It's a Friday afternoon in Kensington, Maryland, and a group of middle school students have gathered at Holy Redeemer Parish, as they do every week. They pray together, and one of the adults, Fr. Roberto Amoruso, reminds them of their "rule": "Jesus is giving you something great right now. If you see it, tell someone and, if you don't, say the Memorare so that you can see." After a few years of friendship that keeps this rule in mind, their method has borne fruit. From the total distraction typical of pre-adolescents, they've woken up, to see that being in class or helping at home is actually an invitation to more. From not remembering what happened the day before, they now speak with a precision that betrays the influence of Fr. Roberto's own contagious enthusiasm for the present moment. And so, "on Monday, this happened…" and "on Thursday, I saw that…" Life's ordinary moments become invaluable signs of "something great." Fr. Roberto is a priest of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo (FSCB), one of twelve priests now present in the United States. Spread between Washington, DC, Boston, and Denver, they work in parishes and teach various subjects. In America, the would-be land of hope and opportunity, they come to bring a hope that will never falter, with no other strategy than willingness to share the love of Christ. After all, it's a love that so impassioned them that they left their homes (in four countries) to tell the world about Him.

In February, their Fraternity celebrated its 25th anniversary with a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. He urged them to "bring to everyone the communion that is born from the heart of Christ" (see p. 30). This is the whole point of their work, and if they become true fathers to the people it is because of this love that they bear. The Fraternity's mission is simply to extend this friendship of Christ to everyone. Fr. Michael Carvill noted that belonging to this fraternity is "extraordinarily helpful, because it reminds you of who you are, what you are waiting for, and Who has come. So you live in reality."

SOMETHING AWAITED. Fr. Michael's reality, since 2009, is his life as the pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield, Colorado, while two of his confreres serve in the parish and also as teachers and chaplains at local Catholic schools. It is a young and lively place, with over 3,000 families registered and a few new parishioners each week. Their biggest problem has become space: the 1,000-seat church can no longer accommodate all the people at Mass. Beyond gratitude for this abundance, he appreciates the eager response to everything that the new priests propose, but he's quick to insist that this enthusiasm is not due to themselves: "We are just a few normal men, but we bring something deeply awaited by the human soul. There is a hunger in people for things that speak of the truth, a hunger for hope." Fr. Accursio Ciaccio is teaching religion to 160 middle school students in the parochial school, a highly unusual position for a priest. However, the priests had noticed a great need in this age group to have the faith proposed to them, and so moved quickly to respond.

This simplicity is evident in the whole history of the Fraternity of St. Charles in the United States. It began when Fr. Michael arrived in the U. S. in 1990, taking temporary positions in Sacramento and Tampa. Then, through Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, whom Fr. Michael had met while studying at the John Paul II Institute, Cardinal Sean O'Malley invited them to settle in Fall River, Massachusetts. Fr. Michael, Fr. Vincent–who now lives in Jerusalem–and Fr. Antonio Lopez arrived in Fall River in June 1994. Fr. Michael worked in the diocese of Fall River until 2009 when he moved to Denver. There, Archbishop Charles Caput had come to know the Fraternity through Together on the Road, by Msgr. Massimo Camisasca, Superior General of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo. Archbishop Caput asked for priests of the Fraternity to come to Denver shortly after the book was published. With some sadness, Fall River was left behind to follow this providential call and, in the meantime, other houses have been born.

In Washington, DC, six priests and one seminarian now constitute the largest FSCB house in the U.S. Fr. Antonio López moved there with Fr. José Medina and Fr. Stefano Colombo in 2002 after working and studying for eight years in the Boston area. Unexpectedly, he was recently named Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family. Fr. José Maria Cortes just arrived from Portugal to become pastor of Christ the King Parish in Silver Spring, recently entrusted to the Fraternity by Cardinal Wuerl. Beyond their official roles, the priests also serve the CL community wherever needed: Fr. Pietro Rossotti helps to lead the CL university students (CLU); Fr. Franco Soma, a teacher at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, follows the high school youth group (GS) present in a number of local schools; and Fr. Roberto, of course, helps to lead the "Knights," when he is not busy teaching at the Avalon School for Boys.

Fr. José went north to Boston in 2005, where he was later joined by Fr. Stefano. There, Fr. José is now the Principal of Cristo Rey Boston High School and, aside from this demanding job, serves as national responsible of GS. The school is flourishing in its service to low-income minority students and a glance at Fr. José's cluttered schedule leaves no doubt as to his total commitment to the students and teachers before him. Fr. Stefano also teaches there, while Fr. Luca Brancolini teaches at another high school in the city.

PRICELESS. The brief history of these priests in the United States testifies that openness to the plan of Another was not merely an entrance hurdle, but defines their whole life. Fr. Michael explained that becoming part of a missionary society in the Church means being available to go wherever one is sent, because, through the circumstances and the Superior, it's Christ Himself who does the sending. Far from an oppressive obedience, "being sent by Christ gives you a great freedom and a great certainty." His words seem contradictory, but maybe they make sense after all, if you recall Fr. Roberto's middle school students. They learned that happiness is possible now, because the reality before you is given by Christ Himself for you to see something great. Fr. Gabriele Azzalin, recently arrived in Denver, perhaps said it most simply in a letter to Fr. Camisaca: "What's priceless is being happy in the place where you are." In the USA, the FSCB have found a people with a lot of positive energy, and a desire to hope. The priests' witness to Christ points to a purpose for such energy and "a hope that does not disappoint." Fr. Antonio, FSCB North American regional delegate, notes that their proposal breaks open the American religious tendency to "fall prey to a self-determining freedom that thinks it is able to choose whether, how, and where to relate to God."
Instead, "Christ's consoling presence in the Church teaches us that God is all in all. Being awakened to this totality makes us truly free."