Articles in Publication
Chronicle and Imperial Services Gazette.
Notice of Death
of Mgr. De Piro.
Mgr De Piro
On going to
press, we learn with the deepest sorrow of the death of the Most Rev.
and Nobel Monsignor Dean G. De Piro D’Amico which occurred suddenly
yesterday evening in his early fifties. The gentleman had conducted a
religious procession at Hamrun and was in the act of imparting
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Parish Church when he was
taken ill and fell down on the altar steps whilst reciting the prayers
before the Benediction which ceremony had to be concluded by another
priest. Mgr. De Piro was at once removed to the Central Civic Hospital
where he passed peacefully away.
space nor time permits us to pay our tribute to the memory of this
saintly priest in this issue.
All Malta is
plunged in deep mourning for his death, which is indeed a national loss.
The Times of
Editorial Page 2.
Monsignor De Piro
One of the
best-loved perhaps the most beloved man in Malta has died in Mgr. De
Piro. His sudden death has cast a gloom over all; each one of us rightly
feels he is personally bereaved. The nation has suffered a grievious
loss at a time when qualities such as those so eminently manifested by
Mgr. De Piro are more than ever rare and valuable.
Mgr De Piro
lived as he died in harness. Although believed to be slightly
indisposed, his sudden death was entirely unexpected. He assisted at
Benediction at eh Church of St. Caetano, Humrun on Sunday evening,
collapsed during the service, and died quietly a little while later.
Reverend the Honourable and Noble Monsignor Canon Dean Joseph dei
Marchesi De Piro D’Amico, D, D., to give his full title was connected
with some of the most prominent families in Malta. He held the high
office of Dean of the Cathedral chapter. He was one of the two
Representatives of the Archbishop of Malta in the Senate. Last year he
celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his appointment as Spiritual
Director of Fra Diegu Institute, Hamrun. Recently he had established a
convent for missionaries at St. Agath’s Church Rabat, now nearly
completed and was planning to go to Abbissinia next year in connection
with missionary work.
Mgr. De Piro
rendered great and valuable service to his fellow countrymen notably as
regards his part in settling the politico-religious dispute, which has
troubled the relations between Church and State. But it was as a father
and a friend of the poor and outcast that his memory will live. He was a
great Christian gentleman, full of the love of God and his fellow
creatures. His personal humility, keen intelligence, and unwearied
activity in doing good made him beloved far and wide during his life; in
death his memory will be enshrined in the hearts of all rich and poor.
He is survived by His mother and by his brothers, the most noble Igino
Baron of Budak and the Noble Pius De Piro Gourgion to whom we offer our
Funeral Pg. 20
of Mgr. De Piro took place at 4.30 pm on Tuesday. The body was taken
from St. Joseph’s House, Hamrun to the Adularia Cemetry. A long
procession of motor-cars and carriages followed the hearse.
Representatives of all sections of the community assembled at the
graveside to pay their respects to the memory of a well beloved
personality. His Excellency the Governor accompanied by his Aide-de-Camp
and Mr. E Missed, Imperial Secretary, Members of the Cabinet, Members of
Religious Societies including many priest colleagues of the deceased,
Members of the Senate and Assembly, representatives of many Band clubs,
and orphans from St. Joseph’s House, Fra Diegu Institute and the Zejtun
Institute for girls were included among the hundreds of mourners present
in the great Cemetry.
Chronicle and Imperial Services Gazette.
Diego and St. Joseph Institutes.
to Mgr. De Piro.
understand that the Right Rev. Mgr. E. Bonnici D. D. has been
provisionally appointed to succeed the late lamented Mgr. G. De Piro
D’Amico as director of Fra Diegos and St. Joseph’s Institutes.
As was his
late predecessor, Mgr. Bonnici is a representative of the Clergy in the
Chronicle and Imperial Services Gazette.
the following from ‘The Times’ of the 19th
Correspondent telegraphs that Senator Mgr. Nobel Depiro, Dean of Malta
Cathedral, fell suddenly ill during religious procession and died
shortly afterwards. There is deep mourning throughout the island. In
June 1932, he was instrumental in bringing to an end the differences
between the Church and Lord Strickland’s party.
The Times of
Solemn High Mass.
Committee of the De Piro Missionary Institute now under the Presidency
of the Hon. Senator the most Rev. Canon Mgr. E. Bonnici D. D. are
arranging for a solemn High Mass for the repose of the soul of the late
Hon. and most Rev. Dean Canon Mgr. De Piro to be sung at the Gesu’
Church Strada Mercanti, on the 23rd instant. Further details
will be made public later.
Chronicle and Imperial Services Gazette.
Mgr. De Piro
announced in this paper, solemn funeral services will be held in the
Gesu’ Church of Strada Mercanti Valletta, on Monday next, the 23rd
instant for the repose of the soul of Mgr. G. De Piro.
At 6 a.m. on
that day, a low Mass with Communion will be said by the Rt. Rev. Mgr. E.
Bonnici D.D., Director pro. tem. of the Institutes formerly directed by
the late lamented Prelate, in which boys and girls of the said
institutes will take part.
Simultaneously various low masses will be celebrated by the respective
local superiors of the Institutes.
At 8 a.m. a
solemn High Mass "De Reque" will be celebrated at which the Rt. Rev.
Mgr. P. Galea J. U. D. Vicar General and Locum Tenens, will officiate
and the Seminary Choir will sing Gregorian Chants.
organising Committee earnestly hope that no one will fail to pay his
last tribute to the memory of this most worthy Maltese ecclesiastic
whose whole life was unostentatiously spent on benefiting the poor of
LET US GIVE
TO OTHERS WHAT ST. PAUL HAS GIVEN TO US.
population of the world is now approximately 1,800,000,000. This immense
family is renewed (as has been calculated) every thirty five years,
hence we see that some 50,000,000 persons appear before God’s tribunal
every year – either to gain by their merits, eternal joy or to be sent
into everlasting punishment. Now out of the 1,800,000,000 barely
600,000,000 are Christians; 200,000,000 non-Christians know and
acknowledge God, but are not baptized. The rest are idolaters. It may be
added that out of the 600, 000,000 baptized souls only little more than
half belong to the soul of the Catholic Church; the rest wander about
outside Her fold.
1,800,000,000, 1500 millions are still in darkness. These facts are
enough to make any good Christians heart bleed and to long to do all it
can to repair so great a loss. He feels impelled to help the great work
of the Catholic Missions which considering the great demand, is so
One can help
the Missions in several ways. One of the best ways, is by fostering
vocations – by helping promising subjects to obtain their end of going
into Apostolic field to battle against error and to bring the Light of
Faith to the benighted Pagan.
motive, there has been established in Malta, a Missionary Society: the
Society of St. Paul; a religious congregation for preparing students for
the Missions. It was founded the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Dec. Joseph Dei Marchesi
De Piro in 1910. Blessed by the last three Pontiffs and canonically
established by the Bishop of Malta, His Grace Mgr. Maurus Caruana O.S.B.
in 1921, the Society has already got four Houses: three in Malta, and
one in Australia; into which boys who feel the call to the Missions and
show signs of true vocation are accepted.
knows what it costs to feed and clothe the student during the time he is
being trained. With the greatest economy it takes £30 a year, or £2-10 a
month, or 1/8 a day to keep each student. There are at present 17
students; but there are many more waiting to be admitted – good suitable
subjects; and it is for this object that these burses are being
consists in a sum of money of £250 for a student; and £50 for an
Aspirant; the interest of which will provide for the maintenance of one
student or one Aspirant. Another means is a sum of £100, by means of
which a room is erected for a student and on the door of the room the
name of the donator (if he likes) will be written. The amount may be
given by one individual or collected among the friends of the Missions.
thanking all our benefactors, we remind them of the promise of our Lord,
that they shall receive a hundredfold reward. We also wish to remind
them of the daily prayers offered up at the Institute for all our
news about our Society, write to:-
Rev. Fr. Superior General S.S.P.
Malta. (Phone – Rab. 3)
Saturday, 7th February, 1959.
do the good things in life receive the notice they deserve. The Society
of Saint Paul falls in this unfortunate category.
A few days
ago six members of this Maltese Society came to our Catholic Action
Center to "sell" themselves on our invitation. By means of original
colour slides and a good running commentary they showed us their mode of
life, their homes, and their mission.
of Saint Paul, founded by the late Mgr. Joseph De Piro, is essentially a
missionary society, which gives first preference to the spiritual care
of Maltese migrants in foreign lands.
have an extra vow, besides the three common to all religious, to go to
the missions. Although the Society received ecclesiastical approbation
in 1921 it is only recently that it has grown and spread in foreign
lands. Besides Malta the Society has houses in Australia and Canada.
come from all walks of life. The Interview which the Father Master
conducted in our presence with five of the members of the Society was
the highlight of the visit. The members interviewed included two who
entered the Society while still young, another coming straight from the
Minor Seminary, a clerk, a dockyard employee.
The Saint Paul’s Society is a society without
pretensions, yet it gets its work done. When one has the opportunity, or
rather the good fortune, to get in contact with some of its members one
is struck by the vivid desire of these aspirants to serve the aim of
their beloved Society; they long for the day of their departure to work
among Maltese migrants.
Moreover its members strike you for their simplicity
and humility. This I think is largely due to the imprint of their
saintly Superior and to their practical and genial Father Master.
Some other religious societies aim at having a good
number of their member’s experts in Dogmatic Theology, Canon Law, Holy
Scripture, etc. This is certainly praiseworthy. The members of this
Society, however, learn what there is to know only to be able to
discharge their ministry among their brethren wherever these happen to
The Society of Saint Paul is wholly Maltese, yet it
is very little known in the Island. And it certainly deserves to be
known better. I do in fact appeal to all Catholic and lay organizations,
be they Catholic Action Centers or Y.C.W. sections, be they band,
football or political clubs, to invite the members of this Society for
an illustrated lecture. Father Master will be only too happy to deliver
such a lecture and to illustrate how they live and by what means they
try to achieve their aim.
The address of the Society of Saint Paul is St.
Agatha’s Convent, Rabat Malta. Invite them. You will never regret it.
March 3, 1959
Missionary of St. Paul.
An Active Organization.
of St. Paul, founded by Mgr. Giuseppe De Piro in 1910 under the
patronage of Pope St. Pius X, is one of the leading Christian
organizations in Malta. Its early years were spent in a number of homes
including St. Dorothy’s Convent at Mdina, the present Xara Palace Hotel,
and the Piazza Celsi, though by the time of the society arrived there,
efforts were being made to find the fathers a permanent home.
3, 1932, the firs stone of what was to be the headquarters of the
society, namely St. Agatha’s House, Rabat, was laid. In June of the
following year the first part of this building received its blessing. In
September, Mgr, De Piro, S.S.P., died.
young man attracted to the society, membership is comparatively easy,
application for membership being made to the Superior General at St.
Agatha’s; this is followed by an interview. If the applicant is
considered suitable for training, he is asked to visit the society for
two or three months and acquaint himself with its work. The society
gains many members from the St. Joseph Institute, Hamrun, and the
Festive Oratory, Birkirkara, with which it has very close connections.
Successful applicants to the society are termed novices and in a short
religious ceremony, receive their ‘cloth’ or habit and then begin one
year of noviceship training during which the novice decides to become
either a priest or a lay brother.
At the end
of this first year another ceremony takes place in the church and the
novice, be he for priest or lay brother, takes his vows; the priest
receives a cross as symbol of his status , and the brother a rosary, and
henceforth observes the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.
commences his studies, and these consist of two years of literature, two
of philosophy and four years of theology; meanwhile the lay-brother is
engaged in numerous duties in and around the college.
at St. Agatha’s, the students enjoy pleasant surroundings though many of
their studies, consisting of theology and philosophy, take place at St.
Mark’s College, Rabat, under the tutelage of the Augustinian Fathers,
and also at many foreign schools and universities.
debars nothing that benefits the education of their students, and
residents enjoy all manner of recreation including football, tennis, and
similar pastimes and hobbies.
who finds no difficulty in spending his spare time is Father V.
Camilleri, S.S.P. Having a great interest in archaeology, Father
Camilleri has spent long hours in the catacombs that lie beneath the
Society church and buildings, excavating a labyrinth of graves and tombs
lying there. The catacombs take their name from that of a young girl who
fleeing from a marriage to the pagan prefect of Sicily, one Quintanus,
finally found refuge in Malta. It is said that she came to the catacombs
to pray for the souls of people buried there: here, a statue now adorns
the main altar of St. Agatha’s Church.
There is a
story about this statue that it was endowed at one time with
supernatural powers: in the early centuries, during the siege of Rabat
by the Turks, a nun had a vision in which she saw the statue standing on
the battlements of the city and as the statue stood there the arrows of
the Turkish soldiers turned back in flight. On hearing of this vision,
the Maltese leaders placed the statue of the saint on the walls of the
city and on seeing it the besiegers fled, and thus the city was saved.
passed before any real investigation was carried out in the catacombs,
much of the digging being done by the members of the society, until
1949, when Professor Ferria, S.J., deciphered an inscription discovered
in the tomb while doing so, noticed a number of paintings under a ¼ inch
of plaster covering the catacomb walls; he instructed the students and
priests on the methods they should use to uncover these valuable finds.
saw the beginning of the main post war excavation of St. Agatha’s, under
the capable hands of Father Camilleri, who has uncovered a number of
unique affrescoes in the crypt of St. Agatha.
catacombs extend for an area of approximately 35,000 square feet and are
being excavated to even greater depths. Besides the many paintings and
affrescoes, steady work in the catacombs under Father Camilleri has
revealed six types of graves, the most important being those described
as Saddle –backed canopied table graves – and an Arcosolium grave.
were supplemented by a number of Agape tables around which the funeral
banquet took place. It is hoped that even more important finds will be
made in the near future: this would be a just reward for the efforts of
Father Camilleri and his assistants.
long hours of study are over, the priest must leave his brothers to
journey to far corners of the earth to assist Maltese emigrants.
Children's Own - 198
A Great Maltese.
"Children's Own" has already printed an article called "Maltese Society
For Emigrants" about Mgr. Joseph De Piro, the founder of that Society.
Now , this year , Mgr. Joseph De Piro has been chose by the "Christus
Rex Society as that priest whose life and good works should be set
before the Maltese public for admiration and study during the coming
year. You may, perhaps ask, "Who was Mgr. De Piro?"
noble parents at Mdina, on 2nd November 1877, Joseph De Piro
shoed his great soul from his early childhood. At 11 years of age he
began attending the Lyceum, where he always had excellent results. After
spending two years as a soldier in the Maltese Militia, he studied Law
at the Royal University of Malta. But his legal career was shortlived,
for he had only bee through the 'course' for six months when all of a
sudden he felt himself called to a nobler course - that of the
priesthood. It all happened on the 8th May 1898, while, along
with the rest of the University students, he was praying before our Lady
of Pompei at the Jesuits' Church in Valletta.
In no time
at all, after breaking the news to his pious mother (who was not in the
least surprised at such a divine call of her godly Joseph), he left for
Rome to start studying for the priesthood. While still a theological
student he had already thought of founding a Maltese Missionary Society.
But its hour was not yet come. In March 1902, he was ordained priest by
a Cardinal in the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano.
why he wanted to become a priest, was strong which to work amongst the
orphans and the poor. And he fulfilled that wish to the utmost. A glance
at the many charitable institutions which were under his personal care
and supervision will help us see this clearly. He was responsible for
St. Joseph's Institute of Hamrun, still run by the Missionary Society of
St. Paul which he had founded; Fra Diegu Institute, the "Gesu Nazzarenu"
Institute at Zejtun ( where he also helped to found the Missionary
Sisters "Tan-Nazzarenu"), and also for the "San Francesco de Paola"
Institute at Birkirkara.
all this charitable work he was also at that time Secretary to the
Archbishop of Malta, Deacon of the Cathedral's Canonical Chapter, Rector
of the Seminary for two years, and representative of the Maltese Clergy
in the Senate.
But over and
above all others his greatest and most beneficial service to the Church
in Malta was undoubtedly, the foundation of a Maltese Missionary
Society, whose members make a special missionary vow to go to any part
of the world where their superiors may at any time send them -
preference being given to the Maltese communities abroad. It was on 30th
June 1910, when he founded his beloved Society. All's well that ends
well. And they were not few who thought that such a bold venture would
soon collapse. But God's will was otherwise. Today this only Maltese
male religious institution is a flourishing Society an nobody can deny
the great work which the Missionary Society of St. Paul is doing,
especially among the Maltese emigrants in Australia and Canada. It is
enough to mention that since 1948, 13 members of the Society left Malta
for Australia and Canada to look after the spiritual needs of the
September 1933, Mgr. De piro led the procession in the feast of Our Lady
of Sorrows, which was taking place for the time at Hamrun. But when it
came to the Sacramental Benediction in the church after the procession,
he fainted during the "Tantum Ergo". Though he was only 56 years of age,
that stroke killed him. He died on the same evening at the Central
Hospital, Floriana, where he had been taken. He did not have even the
consolation of rendering up his soul to God in the House of his Society,
surrounded by his beloved sons.
now lie in a sarcophagus built in a newly-constructed crypt at St.
Agatha's House, Rabat, the Motherhouse of the Missionary Society of St.
Paul. There, after night prayers, we daily visit our Founder and beg his
protection from Heaven. But I suppose that nothing can help better to
keep this great Maltese man alive in the memory of our people, than to
join the Society he himself founded in order to continue the work he
wished to, and did, perform.
Times of Malta.
MGR. J. DE PIRO - FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF ST. PAUL
Mgr. J. De
Piro, founder of the Society of St. Paul and one of the two
representatives of the Clergy in Malta's now defunct Senate, died 38
years ago, on September 17, 1933.
Reverend the Honorable and Nobel Monsignor Canon Dean Joseph dei
Marchesi De Piro d'Amico, to give him his full title, was born on
November 2, 1877. At 11 years he entered the Malta Lyceum from where he
passed to the Royal Malta University to study Law. His sense of duty
made the young marquis enter the Maltese Militia which had been formed
at that time.
hair, hazel eyes, fair complexion and standing 5ft 7 inches in his
boots, 18-year-old Private Joseph De Piro, Royal Malta Regiment cut a
handsome appearance. After two years of military life, where his conduct
was "very good" Joseph was discharged by purchase. He came out full of
energy and bearing an iron will, qualities which were to stand him in
good stead through the years that lay ahead.
this time he was chosen as a member of the "Onorati" at the Casino
Maltese but out of humility he turned down the offer.
In May 1898,
Law student Joseph De Piro felt himself called to take up the
priesthood. This needed great courage on his part, he was not only
relinquishing peerage and honour but also riches. His parents had the
good sense not to offer opposition, and after a retreat of eight days he
entered the Capranica Collage in Rome, to study for the priesthood.
later, on March 15, 1902, he was ordained at the Basilica of St. John
Lateran. He celebrated his first Mass in Malta, on March 30, 1902 at the
Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul at Mdina. His home adjoined the
Cathedral and as a young boy he used to cross over from the roof of his
home to the roof of the Cathedral and together with one of his brothers
would climb u pipelines tot he top of the roof.
Now he had
reached the top of his ideal. Six days later he returned to Rome and his
studies. There he fell ill and after recuperating at Davos, Switzerland,
he returned to Malta on March 2, 1904. He went to live in Qrendi, and
served in that parish.
Tact and understanding.
Fr. De Piro was loved by all as he was always at the service of all. He
adapted himself to the environment and the mentality of the people, and
his tact helped over many an embarrassing situation. For instance, it is
said that mothers at Qrendi while in church would not think twice about
breast-feeding their babies. Fr. De Piro wanted to do away with this
custom. So with tact, patience and understanding he explained that this
behaviour was not very appropriate and by time this custom ended.
passed three years working in Qrendi, when he was called up to take
charge of Fra Diegu Institute Hamrun. During the following years he was
in charge of practically all the major charitable institutions in the
Director of Fra Diegu Institute, Hamrun, St. Joseph Home, Hamrun, Jesus
Nazzarene Institute, Zejtun and St. Francis de Paule Institute,
Birkirkara. Near St. Joseph Home he founded a Home for male babies to be
cared for until they reached the age of admission to St. Joseph's. He
also extended his beneficial work to Gozo where he opened another Home
for boys known as Casa di San Giuseppe.
As a token
of appreciation for Fr. Joseph's work His Grace Archbishop Maurus
Caruana made him a Monsignor, later promoting him to Dean of the
Cathedral Chapter. He accepted only on obedience. Some time later, His
Grace made him his secretary.
years in this office Mgr. De Piro was installed Rector of the
Archbishop's Seminary at Mdina. He was also the Director of the Society
of Adoration of the Clergy. But his main work was the founding of
Religious Society for men, naming it the Maltese Missionary Society of
St. Paul. This Society has since flourished and is doing excellent work
in Ethiopia, Australia, Canada and Peru'. The Society has three Houses
in Malta, the Mother House being at St. Agatha's Rabat.
Mgr. De Piro
was by now well known for his goodness, piety, religious zeal and
charity towards all.
Of him it
could be said that he was the perfect image of a peace maker. He filled
this role from his earliest days as a priest; but he was above all, a
communicator. He could put his ideas across. He had dreams and followed
them up to a successful conclusion. He had what nowadays we call weight.
The sort of person who makes you look around as he entered the room and
was not happy about it. He did not take no for an answer and made you
feel at ease. He talked sense. His piety radiated all around him.
mourned nationally when his end came. On that day of September 17, 1933,
Mgr. De Piro led the procession with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows
through the streets of Hamrun. The feast was being held for the first
time and large crowds had gathered. When the procession entered the
church Mgr. De Piro delivered a homily, mentioning the late parish
priest of that town. As he was a bout to give benediction he collapsed
on one of his helpers. Heroically staying there so as not to create
panic, he suffered quietly. Later he was taken to the Central Hospital
at Floriana (now Police Head-quarters), where he died shortly after.
Mgr. De Piro are needed any time any place. Some of them glow, carry out
their mission and go. But others are remembered forever.
MGR. DEPIRO - A HUNDRED YEARS FROM HIS BIRTH.
This man was
a man of God; and moreover, a priest of God too. He founded a Missionary
Society to bring the knowledge and the love of God to those peoples
bereft of them; in his lifetime he personally looked after the needs of
God's poor and their orphaned children - and lived in their midst,
eating their food and not too rarely wearing their clothes. God was his
Cap. and Dean, the Noble Joseph Dei Marchesi De Piro D'Amico Inguanez
Navarra was born on the 2nd November 1877, (a hundred years
ago), in the old city of Mdina, from the Noble Alessandro and Ursola
Agius Gauci. Joseph was the seventh of nine children.
such a distinguished family, the young De Piro could have made sure
headway in the society of his .. He had already started reading law at
the Royal University of Malta. However, God had other ideas about him to
which he responded most generously and promptly. Later on in life this
docility to God's call was to manifest itself even more often in him,
however much he stood to lose in human and material terms.
in an entry in 1901 when he was still studying theology in Rome, records
the reasons that led him to decide to become a priest, as well as the
difficulties such a life entails. Then follow further reasons why he was
to reject proposals to start up a career in Vatican Diplomacy and ,
instead embrace a life of poverty by taking up quarters at St. Joseph's
Institute, St. Venera, after his ordination to the priesthood. Such a
decision meant also that he was voluntarily to separate himself from his
family and all human comforts. This may appear rather odd to understand,
but his life-choice had been made, definite and irrevocable: and he had
decided for God. This explains all his efforts on behalf of the poor,
the many times he used to visit his family in order to ask for some
money to cater for the needs of so many orphans that he was to look
after in later years, the thousand and one ways he proved he practiced
was again made public on his death-bed when the hospital authorities
discovered that his clothes had been cut from the same cloth used to be
worn by his orphans.
Mgr. G. De
Piro was God's man the core. He was always ready to lay up even his most
cherished plans whenever obedience demanded this of him. When still a
theology student in Rome, his diary records that he had already felt the
presentiment that he was to found a congregation of missionary priests,
but he stopped thinking about it when advised to by his spiritual
director. In 1903, struck with tuberculosis, he was obliged to go to
Davos, Switzerland, where he spent eighteen months, all alone, and being
so consciously aware that his hopes of ever founding a missionary
congregation were such a remote possibility. He felt again so near to
God there, and he tells us that then he prayed and prayed, for no other
companion was left him but prayer. On his return to Malta, urged on by
his conviction to found a missionary congregation, he finally fulfilled
his life's call and the 30th June, 1910, opened a house for
the first members of his congregation at Mdina. One would have thought
that now he would have dedicated himself exclusively to his Institute.
There is no doubt that his missioners, still in their formation, were
constantly in his thoughts. But again he gave full value to his
superiors' wishes as representing for him God's will that was to be
fulfilled most faithfully. And thus he always accepted all the tasks
thrust upon him by his Bishop: the care of five homes for orphans, all
at one time; intervening in the 'Sette Giugno' riots in Valletta;
representing the church in the 'Assemblea Nazionale' for the formation
of the New Maltese Parliament between 1919 - 1921; he also had a
decisive role in smoothing out the differences that arose between church
and state in the early thirties. At one time he was also Rector of the
Major Seminary, Dean of the Cathedral Chapter. And when Miss Curmi
turned to him to help her found a Missionary Congregation of nuns he was
only too glad oblige, and thus the congregation of Jesus of Nazareth
came to be born.
these multiple and varied works, however, his heart always burned for
his congregation. He always found time to be with his own, to encourage
them in their call to serve God in the Missions, and recruit new
members. He was all care to pilot this boat well. And the joy he felt
when his first missionary left Malta to serve in the missions in what
was the Abyssinia was indescribable. This was Bro. Joseph Caruana
M.S.S.P., a lay-brother, who worked in that country for 45 years
uninterruptedly without ever taking a holiday, and whose life is almost
legendary. Bro. Caruana's departure filled him with such enthusiasm that
he was planing to go to Abyssinia himself within few months, but death
thwarted him on the 17th September, 1933.
The work he
has started still lives on. The Missionary Society of St. Paul passed
through so many vicissitudes after his death. By the help of God it is
now, however, firmly established. St. Agatha's, Rabat, is its
Motherhouse, while its members in Malta still look after St. Joseph's
Home for boys, besides running also two youth centers, the Oratory at
Birkirkara and De Piro Youth Center at Rabat, and secondary school;
"Stella Maris" is the novitiate house in Gozo. In the missions Paulist
Fathers are to be found in Australia, the U.S. Canada, Peru and
the man, outlived now by what was so dear to him. His personality,
aflame with love for God, sought its fulfillment in the service of His
Church, His poor, and His people still ignorant of His Son. His life was
an uncompromising fidelity to this call.
MGR. GIUSEPPE DEPIRO (1877 - 1933)
writing the profile of Mgr. G. Depiro, founder of the Society of Saint
Paul whose centenary is being celebrated by the Society, I paid a short
visit to St. Agatha's Mother House at Rabat to see for myself the
founder through his work and almost as directly as seeing him visually,
through personal contact with some of the members of the Society. I
could not have a better guide than Father Tomlin, the director of the
House who patiently answered my questions after having shown me round
the place and taken me up on the roof where I could see the new
children’s playground and the considerable expansion of the present
you get the money for all this?" I asked, for the building that is
completed and the expansion under construction must cost thousands of
pounds. "How do you manage to find enough money for all this to pay the
was simple - we have no money, we do not even try to make money. We run
the only free college in Malta; free of course, in the sense that we
don’t' charge fees. We rely on Providence and providence does not fail
That is a
tremendous statement that must baffle any hardheaded economist who
places his faith exclusively in figures and planning. God seems to have
his own plans, and they succeed where economists' long-term plans often
come to naught either because of some miscalculation or because of the
intrusion of some unforeseen disrupted cases. God's plans are simpler
and unfailing in their results as I could see from the whole set-up of
"What is the
main purpose of your society" I asked him. "Mainly missionary work;
preaching and spreading the Word of God where Christ is still unknown
and looking after orphans. We have orphanages in Ghajnsielem Gozo, and a
number of missionaries abroad spreading the Word of God mainly in
countries that are short of priests."
But to go
back to the word Providence that has been providing so much to the
Society of St. Paul - what exactly is it? Is it a big, impressive word
that seems to mean so much and in fact means nothing or is it a word
with significant content? To the believer Providence is the translation
into concrete action of God's care for those who need help and it
operates through human agency. These are good people whose profound
faith in God's love creates a mystic atmosphere of intimate communion
with God. In the case of the Society of St. Paul, the human agent who
acted on behalf of God communicating from him a message of love to his
new congregation, was Mgr. Giuseppe Depiro, by social rank on the
father's side, a member of the Maltese nobility. On the mother's side he
was an Agius, a typically Arabic surname, combines two ethnic trends and
fuses them into one national unit-the unit of Maltese nationality.
Depiro's original vocation was to become a lawyer, but he changed his
mind to the higher call of the priesthood, a vocation that came to him
after he had lost an older brother. But there were early signs of his
holiness even before he made up his mind to become a priest. He
dispossessed himself of earthly wealth. His mother used to refer to him
as "the poor man of the family". No wonder that when he set up the
Society of St. Paul he laid down both chastity and poverty to which he
added free service to our neighbour, as essential conditions of the
Order founded by him.
like Mgr. Preca (in both cases the pompous title was reluctantly
accepted) lived spiritually in the abundance of divine grace that has
maintained alive an Order of dedicated religious people who do not work
for money but survive on the good will of day-to-day providence.
Providence which, originally operated through Mgr. Depiro, continues to
operate through a number of anonymous benefactors who make good use of
their money by giving some of it to the society which gives it back to
the children of the poor mainly in the form of education free of charge,
and to its missionaries who must be helped not only spiritually but also
materially to reach the Word of God where this is still unknown or
far as numbers are concerned, has more than enough priests and churches
to look after the spiritual needs of the population. The people are
almost spiritually pampered by this lavishness, and the effect is
perhaps undesirable in that, unlike countries short of priests who are
crying for more missionaries, some Maltese may take their priests too
much for granted and lose the sense of personal responsibility for the
propagation of the Faith and the maintenance of the Church as themselves
priests on a different plane - members of Christ's Mystical Body. For
this reason, one might consider the Society of St. Paul as the outlet
for surplus vocations. Indeed, there is nothing so bad and dangerous as
a frustrated newly ordained young man who suddenly finds himself unable
to translate the religious ideals of his generous youth into action
because he does not find the opportunity to do so.
Depiro's emphasis on missionary work was the expression of his
far-sightedness first because it is possible that he may have foreseen
the need of an outlet for surplus priests, and secondly, (the order
might be inverse) because he had a nonparochial view of Christianity,
for Christ needs priests more where there are not enough of them than
where there are enough or sometimes too many. Mgr. Depiro took his
inspiration from Christ's love for man and God's universal fatherhood.
As in the eyes of God we are all equal, so also within the congregation
of St. Paul every member is equal - there are no servants and there are
no masters. They are just the disciples of their founder who, having
acted on behalf of His master Jesus Christ who expressly commanded his
followers to preach his Gospel throughout the world, can regard
themselves as the disciples of the Lord. They are not served but they
themselves serve the Church in the first place the others in the Spirit
of brotherly love. That makes them truly followers of the Lord. Mgr.
Depiro is not a canonised saint, but there is no doubt that he was a
holy man - one of the undeclared saints whose work bears witness to the
love of God and Man.
violent age unfortunately good people do not hit the headlines. The
glamour seems to be reserved largely to political trouble-makers and
vulgar criminals; for this reason we are obsessed of the fear of the
worst - the fatal finger on the trigger or the push-button. It is
salutary to take our minds away from this horror and think of the good
people; Mgr. Depiro is on of them, who worked for the Kingdom of God
which is the kingdom of peace and justice on earth.
Dates in his career.
1907 - He
was appointed spiritual director of the Institute of Fra Diegu.
1910 - He
founded the Society of St. Paul.
1911 - Was
nominated Canon Coadjutor of the Cathedral Dean.
1915 - Was
appointed Secretary of Mgr. Archbishop Dom Mauro Caruana O.S.B.
1918 - Was
appointed Rector of the Episcopal seminary in Floriana.
1922 - Was
appointed director of Sr. Joseph Institute in Hamrun.
Crated the Boys' Orphanage in Ghajnsielem Gozo.
1932 - Was
nominated representative of the clergy in the Senate. It was in this
foundation stone of St. Paul's convent was laid, but he did not live to
Maltese Who Spread the Good News.
Monsignor Giuseppe De Piro will long be remembered as the Founder of the
Maltese Missionary Society of St. Paul. Born in the ancient capital,
Imdina, on November 2, 1877, of the Nobel Alexander and Ursola Agius
Gauci, he was the seventh of nine children.
As a young
lad, the future founder of the M.S.S.P., was educated at the Lyceum in
Valletta, where he prepared himself for higher studies. There he earned
prizes in painting, handwriting, drawing and other subjects.
In so many
ways De Piro was like all other boys but even then he might have
envisaged that a great mission in the Church was awaiting him. In fact
at the age of 14, he was already conscious of his vocation to the
priesthood. But that had to take time to mature.
At the age
of 15 he joined the Maltese Militia where he served for 4 years. After
he was discharged he studied Law in order to become a Lawyer. But one
day, exactly on the 8th day of May, 1898, while praying at
the shrine of Our Lady of Pompei in Valletta, there and then he took his
decision to study for the priesthood.
Philosophy and Theology in Rome. During his stay there his constant
thought had always bee that Malta should help more in the evangelisation
of the world by having its own Missionary Society. After his sacred
ordination to the priesthood, his principal preoccupation was to
implement his ideal. And surely the happiest moment of his life was when
His Holiness Pope Pius X blessed and encouraged him and the first group
of youngsters who knelt at his feet.
Missionary Society of St. Paul was born. Mgr. De Piro was surely a man
who had a wold vision. He died on the 17th day of September,
1933, his memory never to be deleted from the hearts of the Maltese,
both rich and poor.
more than a month ago, the Missionary Society of St. Paul, founded by
the Servant of God Joseph De Piro, celebrated the fifty-fifth
anniversary of the death of its Founder. On this occasion there was
organized the unveiling and blessing of a commemorative plaque which was
affixed on the front of the Dorothean School at Mdina. For this occasion
there was invited Sir Anthony Mamo, the first President of Malta, to
deliver the speech. Today, 2nd November, the birthday of the
Servant of God, we are going to reproduce this same speech.
I wish to
confess that I feel highly honored to have been asked to partake in this
short and sweet ceremony. For this I would like to thank Father Superior
and all the Members of the Missionary Society of Sr. Paul.
In my short
address, which I had prepared in advance, I shall undoubtedly have to
repeat facts which have already been treated in a much better way by
Father Superior in his Homily. This is bound to happen since we are both
talking about the same person. But indeed one never grows tired to
listen to the same things said about Mgr. De Piro who was such a good,
noble and saintly man.
already been said by Father Superior, Humility was the virtue that Mgr.
De Piro practiced most throughout all his life. This virtue, together
with his other great qualities, rendered him to all the Maltese people.
Although he belonged to the Maltese nobility, he always despised praises
and privileges and whenever possible, also avoided all personal honors.
however, not only fair and proper for us but it is also a duty that we
adhere to the command that we find in the Holy Scriptures which says:
"Honor the works of those who act benevolently, for their acts should
never be forgotten, and their name and reputation should not be obscured
by the march of time."
And it is
exactly to comply with such a command that we are all gathered here
today in front of this magnificent building which, together with other
places and mansions adorn the City of Mdina, so bewitching to all its
gathered here in order to extol this noble person and to commemorate his
deeds inscribed here in bronze letters on this marble plaque. But it is
certain that Mgr. De Piro who, during his life time worked endlessly for
a good Christian formation of may children and many youths, now rejoices
in heaven when he sees that his birth-place is today converted into a
school where many student generations acquire sound moral and civil
principles. It is my humble belief that this commemorative plaque itself
as you will soon see, the ideals which Mgr. De Piro embraces and put
into practice, are grouped into three Loves; his love for God comes
first and above all other things; secondly his love for his country
which he served wholeheartedly; and, finally, his love towards his
neighbors through his unselfish service towards children, the poor and
afflicted and the unfailing help he rendered to those who needed it.
practical fulfillment of such ideals only a few, those who are God's
chosen, will reach such a degree of sanctity and perfection as achieved
by Mgr. De Piro. However, I am sure that each one in his own
circumstances in life, can derive his own inspiration and motivation
from such ideals.
commemorative plaque, the Missionary Society of St. Paul is erecting
another small monument to Mgr. De Piro. But the real monument, the
outstanding and perennial monument to Mgr. De Piro, is the Missionary
Society of St. Paul itself. It does not only recall but it also
commemorates and perpetuates his masterpiece and, so to say, his own
he had founded was only a sapling at the time of his sudden and early
demise. But it was God's sapling and it was of a good quality, strong
and sound and was planted in a well prepared plot of ground. And because
it was God's sapling, it laid down its roots in fertile soil, having
been well looked after and cultivated with great care by his sons, the
members of the Society. The sapling grew into a large tree and it now
spreads its branches well beyond the shores of our island and is now
yielding its fruit in far away laces.
All of us
here, friends and admires of the Society, are well aware of the care and
solicitude with which the members of the Society carry on their Founders
undertakings. They are very active in various fields both in our diocese
as well as beyond, amongst Maltese migrants and in the missions amongst
the indigenous. It is of great comfort to learn that new vocations to
the M.S.S.P. among the indigenous are taking root too.
Let us all
pray and hope that the process of canonization of the Servant of God
Joseph De Piro will end with the solemn declaration of a Maltese citizen
as a Saint in Heaven. Thus the Maltese nation which is renowned for its
two-thousand years of Christianity and which owes its birth in Christ to
St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles and the Patron Saint of the
Society, will have one of its children elevated to the highest honors of
Note: We wish to remind our readers that on the 7th
October, at St. Agatha's Church, Rabat, Archbishop Mercieca presided the
first session of the Tribunal which is going to hear the witnesses in
the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Joseph
DEPIRO - SPIRITUALITY TRAITS.
This year the Missionary Society of St. Paul is
celebrating the hundred and ten anniversary of the birth of its founder,
Mgr. Joseph De Piro. In this article, Conrad Sciberras mssp deals with
two aspects of Mgr. De Piro's spirituality.
towards sanctity is doing God's will in the present moment. Indeed, for
God it is not important what we do; He is interested in that we do well
His will in the present moment. Original? Hardly so because it was
Christ himself who defined his mission on earth in such terms -"Because
I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him that
sent me" ( Jn.6,38). "Not those who say 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the
Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father" (Mt.7, 21).
Thus loving God is not mainly a matter of feeling, but one of the will.
It means doing His will.
was a man who matured early in this spirituality. As a young third-year
theology student in Rome, while preparing himself for the Diaconate with
a spiritual retreat, he considered what his future work as a priest
should be. He was not living in the future; he had to decide whether to
take u the studies at the "Accademia Ecclesiastica" for a diplomatic
career, or wither he should return to Malta and take up a more humble
but pastoral work. Some days previously the President of the "Accademia
Ecclesiastica" himself expressed his desire to the Rector that Fr.
DePiro continues his studies there.
was not an easy one to arrive at. As in other such circumstances he took
a piece of paper and listed the reasons for and against going to the
Accademia. What interests us here is reason number 5 on the 'against'
side. He wrote: "As generally out of the first graces I ask the Lord
after communion is to make me know His will, I believe that it is He who
is suggesting me refusal".
To arrive at
a pint when one hears distinctly that voice - God's voice - inside him
is no quick job. It takes years and years of training and prayer. Mgr.
DePiro did make it!
us another way to come to know God's will - "He who listens to you,
listens to me" (Lk. 18,16). Our superiors, irrespective of their I.Q. or
sanctity, can be to us transmitters of God's will. Mgr DePiro knew this
and acted accordingly. On the 11th August, 1929, while giving
a talk to a group of his novices, he said; "therefore we should always
be ready to do what our superiors desire because they are in a better
position to judge things and because in their will we recognize God's
will". The novices were listening to a man who knew what obedience was
When in 1908
Mgr. DePiro put forward to Bishop Pace his idea of setting up a
Missionary Society, the Bishop gave a negative answer due to the fact
that the Salesians had only recently come to Malta. To introduce
simultaneously tow religious congregations in our small dioceses, where
other Orders already existed, appeared to the Bishop as imprudent. Mgr.
DePiro obeyed. It was like the grain of wheat that had to die before it
can produce fruit.
was an extremely busy man - not that this in itself is something to be
given importance. Besides founding the Missionary Society of St. Paul,
Mgr DePiro was not the type to 'invent' work. It was his sense of
obedience that made him accepts from his superiors an ever increasing
list of responsibilities.
appointed director of several children's Homes: Fra Diego (Hamrun), St.
Joseph (St. Venera and Ghajnsielem, Gozo), Jesus of Nazareth (Zejtun -
which he set up with Miss Curmi). T. Francis de Paule (B'Kara) and
others. He acted also as a Secretary General to H.G. Dom Mauro Caruana
O.S.B. and was the Bishop's representative in the Maltese Parliament
(1932). Besides he was nominated by the Government of Malta co-adjutor
to the Dean of the Cathedral. He was a member of the National Committee
formed "Pro Maltesi Morti e Feriti il 7 e 8 Giunio (1919)". He played an
important part in the "Assemblea Nazionale" in the formation of the New
Constitution and the Maltese Government (1919 -1921), and later in
persuading His Majesty's Government to grant elections in June. He was
involved in reconciling Lord Strickland with the Church. He even was
Rector of the Bishop's Seminary.
but some of the responsibilities Mgr. DePiro had, many of which
concurrently. He had them because his superiors asked him to. He was not
the showy type as proved by the fact that he decided against a
diplomatic career which would have showered him with honors.
One might be
carried to think that a man of such influence and high position would
surely be difficult to approach. Nothing could be further from the
truth. Many are those who have testified in writing that they were
struck by his humility. Among these we have three nuns who were at Fra
Diego Home of which Mgr. DePiro was director for more than 25 years.
They said that the Monsignor was extremely humble and that he liked to
stay with the children. Mr. A. Bugeja of Rabat left written that quite
often the Monsignor would give his seat on the train to some worker.
One of the
most significant episodes, however, has been handled to us by Mr.
Francis Xerri of B'Kara: "One episode left a great impression on me.
Mgr. Depiro and myself were walking through Hamrun when he met a girl
who was physically disfigured. He stopped and talked to her with great
love. (She once lived in one of the Homes which were under his care)".
No further comment is called for.
had regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold form henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed" (Lk. 1,48).
Missionary Society of St. Paul, Mgr. DePiro's most precious gift to
humanity, in propagating its founder's charism, would at the same time
fulfill his Magnificat.
Bianco MSSP (Melbourne, Australia)
Mgr. De Piro: a priest for Maltese migrants.
Mgr. Joseph De Piro has always been associated with those in need,
especially the poor and the orphans. He dedicated his life to these
people. But as a priest his heart burnt with zeal to help the spiritual
needs of the people of God wherever they are.
Missionary Society of St. Paul (MSSP), which he founded, he passed on to
his priests and lay brothers his missionary charism. The aim of the
Society has always been to take the Church to countries which had never
heard the Gospel before. Closely associated with this aim was the care
of Maltese migrants.
For a long
time the Maltese had been leaving their country to seek a better future
for themselves and their children. Migration creates problems of
displacement and alienation, as families are cut off from their roots to
start a new life elsewhere. It takes a long time for the migrant to
acquire a sense of belonging in a new country.
All this has
religious, cultural and social implications and migrants, at least
initially, need a lot of help. In the early years of this century.
Maltese migrants felt the need of some assistance from the Maltese
Church. They saw necessity of having Maltese priests who could help them
because they understood their language and shared their culture. Mgr. De
Piro was very much aware of these problems and did his best to help.
to Archbishop Dom Maurus Caruana, Mgr. De Piro received sad reports
about the practice of the faith by some of the Maltese migrants. Those
who sent these reports were aware of Mgr. De Piro's efforts to establish
a missionary society and so felt that he could help them or at least
champion their cause.
dated September 9, 1914, written by a certain G. Fenech, from San
Francisco, USA, addressed him as "the benefactor not only of the Maltese
in Malta but also of those spread throughout the world". Fenech asked
Mgr. De Piro to send out one of his priests, but Mgr. De Piro could not
help because, as yet, there was not member of the Society ordained
priest. Mgr. De Piro promised to do his best.
showed great confidence. He wrote to Mgr. De Piro again: "I am confident
of your ability to find a priest who will come to the aid of the Maltese
in California". Mgr. De Piro kept his promise because, with the help of
another priest, he made arrangements for Fr. Andrea Azzopardi, a
Franciscan, to go to San Francisco. After Fr. Andrea's arrival, Fenech
writes joyfully: "I thank you wholeheartedly in the name of all the
Maltese in California and your presence will be visible for eternity in
the church which we will build in San Francisco".
Mgr. De Piro received pleas for help from Fr. William Bonnet of Sydney,
Australia. He mentioned Fr. Jones Cassar who had been working there for
40 years. Fr. Bonnnett then asked for more priests. With a tinge of
sadness Mgr. De Piro answered on November 17, 1916: "As yet the
missionary spirit is still very limited in Malta". And he continues to
tell Fr. Bonnett: "When you are celebrating Mass, please remember our
Society which is still in its infancy - the Society for the missions. We
pray that there will be a time when we reap some of the fruits of our
labour and efforts…we pray that one day we will set foot in Australia -
so please help us with your prayers, because one of the missionaries of
the Society of St. Paul will be working alongside you".
Mgr. De Piro
tried hard to promote and encourage this work. In the Almanakk
ta' San Pawl, which he published, he gave information about the
good work being done for migrants in Corfu', Egypt, Detroit and
elsewhere by other Maltese priests. He worked consistently to make the
Maltese public aware of the needs of their brothers and sisters
overseas. He was also personally involved in migrant work when, in May
1922, he went to Tunis with a group of priests to conduct a mission and
celebrate the feast of St. Paul. Many Maltese took part in the
celebration and received the sacraments. This first-hand experience of
migrant work helped Mgr. De Piro to clear his own mind and to see more
clearly that, by helping the Maltese, new ways of helping other people
years of intense activity, Mgr. De Piro was working hard to get his
newly formed Society canonically recognized. He was coming up against a
number of difficulties. Because of the missionary nature of the Society
he sought the approval of the Congregation for the Propagation of the
Faith (Propaganda Fidei), in Rome.
the first rules of the Society Mgr. De Piro wrote: "The aim of the
little Society is to be of help to those nations where there is a need
of evangelical workers, but in a particular way and before anyone else
to the Maltese who are away form their homeland". This last part created
confusion among the Roman officials about the truly missionary nature of
the Society and delayed somewhat the much needed recognition. Mgr. De
Piro struggled very hard to clarify the position and was eventually
understood. Yet he kept in mind all the time the needs of the migrants
and hoped that his Society would be able to do missionary work among
good time this apostolate became a reality for the Society 15 years
after his death when, on August 2, 1948, Fr. Augustine Grech, MSSP, set
foot in Australia. Mgr. De Piro's Charism was kept alive throughout the
last forty years and the Society's migrant apostolate extended itself to
Canada and the United States of America.
YEARS AGO THE SERVANT OF GOD MGR JOSEPH DE PIRO
A MISSIONARY RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE
HELPS MALTESE MIGRANTS
visionaries of history were people who were able to see beyond their
situation and their minds were constantly open to new ideas. They were
able to be sensitive to the present needs of those around them and yet
dream about possibilities for the future. Such a visionary and a dreamer
was the Servant of God Mgr Joseph De Piro.
main vision, since the early years of his priestly studies, was the
establishment of a society which would send priests and brothers to the
missions, he also saw the real need of the Maltese who had been leaving
the country to seek a better future for themselves and their children.
In the early years of this century, Maltese migrants felt the need for
some assistance from the Maltese Church. They saw the necessity of
having Maltese priests who would be able to help them because they
shared their language and culture. Mgr. De Piro was very much aware of
these problems and did his best to help.
to Archbishop Dom Maurus Caruana, Mgr. De Piro received sad reports
about the practice of the faith by some of the Maltese migrants. Those
who sent these reports were aware of Mgr. De Piro's efforts to establish
a missionary society, and so felt that he could help them or at least
champion their cause.
dated September 9, 1914, written by a certain G. Fenech from San
Fransicso, U.S.A., addressed him as the benefactor not only of the
Maltese in Malta, but also of those spread throughout the world. Fenech
asked Mgr. De Piro to send out one of his priests, but Mgr. De Piro
could not help because, as yet there was no member of the Society
ordained priest. Mgr. De Piro promised to do his best.
showed great confidence. He wrote to Mgr. De Piro again: I am confident
of your ability to find a priest who will come to the aid of the Maltese
in California. Mgr. De Piro kept his promise because, with the help of
another priest, he made arrangements for Fr. Andrea Azzopardi, a
Franciscan, to got to San Francisco. After Fr. Andrea's arrival, Fenech
writes joyfully: thank you wholeheartedly in the name of all the Maltese
in California and your presence will be visible for eternity in the
church which we will build in San Francisco.
Mgr. De Piro received pleas for help from Fr. William Bonnett of Sydney,
Australia. He mentioned Fr. James Cassar who had been working there for
forty years. Fr. Bonnett then answered on November 17, 1916: As yet the
missionary spirit is still very limited in Malta. And he continued to
tell Fr. Bonnett: When you are celebrating Mass, please remember our
Society which is still in its infancy - the Society for the Missions. We
pray that there will be a time when we will reap some of the fruits of
our labour and efforts… we pray that one day we will set foot in
Australia - so please help us with your prayers, that one day one of the
missionaries of the Society of St. Paul will be working alongside you.
In God's good time, the Society was able to start this missionary work
happened fifteen years after Mgr. De Piro's death when, on August 2,
1948, Fr. Augustine Grech MSSP set foot in Australia. Mgr. De Piro's
Charism and vision is still alive today and migrant work is also being
attended to in the U.S.A. and Canada.
migrate for a better life for themselves and their children, migration
itself has its own challenges. Migration creates problems of
displacement and alienation as families are cut off from their roots to
start a new life elsewhere. It takes a long time for the migrant to
acquire a sense of belonging to a new country. All this has religious,
cultural and social implications and migrants, at least initially, need
a lot of help.
of the Missionary Society of St. Paul have always made themselves
available to the Maltese Community to help them face these new
challenges in a new land. Over the last forty-two years the role of the
migrant chaplain has gone through significant changes. In the early
days, when people were leaving Malta in great numbers, the chaplain's
role - apart from administering sacraments and comforting those in need
- was also that of a social worker. The Society's priests and brothers
helped people find accommodation and housing and jobs, and introduced
them to the local church. People were living in crammed conditions until
they established their own homes and this created a range of
sociological and other problems.
needed those who acted as mediators between them and Government
departments. Some got into trouble with the law and had to be helped in
the courts. The main focus of the chaplain's work was on two levels:
community-building and attention to individuals especially through home
visitation. This is still the focus of the Society's apostolate today.
major challenges facing migrant chaplains today are on two levels: the
aging migrant population and the care of their children especially those
born in their adopted country.
Maltese need the special care of our priests and brothers. As migrants
get old, they become more home-bound and the environment becomes more
threatening. They lose their workmates and their social involvement.
Their children sometimes live far away. It happens that even those who
mastered the language of their adopted country will, in some cases, lose
that means of communication and resort to their native Maltese alone.
This isolates them further from the general population. Loneliness sets
in with renewed vigor when their marriage partners die and they do not
have that community support that would have been found had they still
been in Malta. Strategies for their pastoral care are continuously
revised so that they can be relevant to their needs. For this reason,
the Society together with Maltese Associations and local authorities
organize social welfare programes, grief support groups, home visits by
community groups and individual counseling to help these people in their
major challenge, which is very much misunderstood and not recognized by
a superficial knowledge of migrant work, is the care of the children of
those who were born in their country of adoption. One might think that
these would have no problems because they can speak the language and
appear to integrate well. However, if one were to look closely, they too
have problems with their cultural and religious identity and even their
educational aspirations. These problems can be seen especially in the
breakdown of family life and in the tensions that they feel as they try
to make themselves part of the new country even though they were born
reason the Society has been involves in fostering youth groups and
drop-in centers, marriage preparation course, leadership and vocational
courses and sacramental programs which, while exposing the person to the
new culture, affirms the Maltese culture they came from. The problem of
identity is very crucial for the well-being of the human person; but,
when one is of a different ethnic origin to one's neighbor, this issue
can become very acute.
challenges are being addressed by the Missionary Society of St. Paul in
those places where her members are working with migrants. We thank God
for the foresight of Mgr. De Piro who, so many years ago, recognized the
special needs of so many thousands of Maltese who had to leave our
shores in search of a better future. In celebrating the eightieth
anniversary of foundation, the Society thanks God for her forty-two
years of selfless service to the Maltese in those countries where
presently her members are working.
(Missionary in Pakistan)
YEARS AGO THE SERVANT OF GOD JOSEPH DE PIRO
A MISSIONARY SOCIETY
From time to
time the Spirit of God raises up charismatic leaders (so) that they may
proclaim the perennial message of Salvation, through faith in Jesus
Christ, in a (new) way relevant to their age. The Servant of God Joseph
De Piro, the founder of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul, was such a
person. He realized how necessary it was for the Church to adopt new
methods and techniques of evangelization. In fact, for the last 80
years, the Society he brought into being has co0ntributerd immensely in
the field of missionary apostolate and service. Doubtlessly it was the
Providence of God and an intense spiritual life that enabled the Servant
of God and his sons to accomplish great things for the cause of Christ
and the Church. The 80th anniversary of the foundation of the
Society, being celebrated this year, is also a time of reflection: while
learning from past experience, we project ourselves with courage and new
hopes for the future.
A Missionary Society comes into being.
very foundation of "The Little Society of St. Paul", the Servant of God
Joseph De Piro, infused in his first members the idea of a missionary
zeal and apostolate. From the very beginning, his objective was clear.
In a letter written to Mgr. P La Fontaine, he refers to the Society as:
" I and the young members who form the Society for foreign
In the early
stages of growth of the Society the actualization of missionary life in
its strict sense was somewhat remote, because there were no members
abroad. The Servant of God needed vocations to build up and strengthen
his society. One could ask: "But did De Piro actually want a missionary
society?" We can confirm what he had in mind by reference to the Rules
of the 'Institute for Overseas Missions', as he himself called the
Society: "The aim of the Little Society is to make known the Gospel to
people belonging to a world that has no knowledge of it and in a special
way to help the Maltese who live away from the Island".
As if this
were not enough, the Servant of God named the new founded Society after
St. Paul, the Great Apostle of the Nations. He did not choose him
because he is the Patron saint of the Maltese Islands, but rather
because St. Paul is a model for all missionaries.
Rules and the circumstances in which they were written are a must for
anyone attempting a serious study about the nature of origins of any
particular institute or congregation. In our case too, the original
Rules reveal what the Founder had in mind and heart. His primary aim was
that the Society would do missionary work in those territories where the
Gospel message was not yet known. The Servant of God, coined this
missionary idea in our special and characterizing vow, the Vow of
Missionary Service. Here it is proper to mention the Founder's other
great wish, namely that all members would be committed to the three
essential vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. This means that the
members are religious as well as missionaries.
A glance at
the history of the Society would reveal that in 1916 the Founder asked
Rome to consider the Society as 'Missionary'. In fact, on the 7th
of November of the same year, the Congregation of the Sacraments issued
the decree whereby the first member of the Society could be ordained
with the 'titolo missionis'. Unfortunately, this proved disappointing
for the Servant of God because the step forward that he thought he had
made in obtaining the title had not led the Society anywhere nearer
canonical stability. However, he did not lose hope and, with new courage
and determination, he continued in his striving to obtain recognition
and autonomy for the Society.
The Missionary dream comes true.
passed, the problems encountered were not few, but as the Servant of God
was a man of faith, these did not quell the ardent desire that one day
members of the Society would serve the Church in mission countries. In
1922, a Missionary Review entitled: 'St. Paul: Almanac of the Missionary
Institute', was first published. Its purpose was to enhance the
missionary spirit in the members of the Society whilst communicating its
news. If we were to go through the pages of this publication, we would
find that the Servant of God made many a reference to missions and
missionary apostolate. At the time, his frequent use of the expression
'overseas missions', may have caused him some embarrassment, for at the
time no member was actually serving in missions abroad; no member of the
Society was as yet prepared enough to work in mission territory. So the
Servant of God Joseph De Piro, deemed it fitting for the time being that
some pastoral work be taken up with Maltese migrants. He arrived to this
decision partly because of pressure from the local Ecclesial
Authorities, and partly because of the numerous appeals for help in this
regard. The Christian principle that, "Charity begins at home", applied
here, and the Servant of God felt the need to help his Maltese
compatriots abroad. In fact, in the June 1923 issue of the Almanac, he
states that: "The aim of the Society is to work in faraway countries.
But first and foremost it's the Maltese who are abroad that are to
connection with this, he himself went to Tunis where part of the time
there was a fairly large number of Maltese emigrants. This experience
surely strengthened his inner desire to have some members working in
mission lands, not only among the Maltese, but also with those who had
never heard the Word God. Problems never ceased, but the Servant of God
never gave up hope: "May this small Missionary Society become a reality
by having the honour of sending missionaries to non-believers across the
actually took place on Tuesday the 21st of June 1927, when
the Servant of God Joseph De Piro and his members saw the departure of
the first missionary, Joseph Caruana, a lay-brother, to Abyssinia. Now
the long dreamt wish had become a reality: the Society had its first
missionary. Possessing a profound religious spirit and a fervent
missionary zeal, Br. Joseph was the right choice. He became a model
missionary for us to emulate. He was convinced that first he had to live
out his religious life in order to draw people close to God. His life in
Somalia was a long and fruitful missionary gift. He stayed there until
his death on the 23rd of April 1975, never even returning to
his homeland for a holiday.
Development of the Missionary Society
As early as
1916, the Society was asked to send its members to Australia. In a reply
letter, the Servant of God Joseph De Piro, wrote to Fr. William Bonnett,
a Maltese priest working in Sydney: "the time will come when we will
step on Australian soil! But believe me, although the Society is a small
one, the task is hard, and it is necessary for me to practice more
patience… the day will come when you will have a missionary from the
Little Society of St. Paul." The day actually did arrive, but not in the
Servant of God's lifetime. It was in 1948 that work among emigrants in
Australia was inaugurated. From that time other houses were opened in
this continent. Other houses were also opened in Canada and the United
States. The members who worked in these countries contributed immensely
for the spiritual benefit of many, not only Maltese, but also of people
of various nationalities who came in contact with them.
development of the Society continued and in 1968 the first of a series
of houses was opened in Peru', South America. This mission was another
step towards the total realization of the Founder's ideal. A year later,
on the 18th of June 1969, the Founder's greatest desire,
which he did not live to see, namely that the Society would depend on
the Congregation of the Propagation of Faith, was at last fulfilled.
Four years later the Decretum Laudis was obtained. This was
another important milestone marking the development of the Society. Now
the Society had gained pontificial rights and was dependent on the
Apostolic See. This was the day the Founder aspired to see. The Society
now became officially known as the 'Missionary Society of St. Paul'. In
1982 another page in the history of the Society was written with the
opening of the first house in the parish of Chak Jhumra, Pakistan, an
after 80 years of existence gives us courage and hope for the future to
come. The long list of members who served abroad in various countries is
quite a satisfactory recognition of what the Founder started at the
beginning. The setting up of new formation houses in overseas countries,
and the young members in formation aspiring to continue what the Founder
started are proof enough that what God initiated through his Servant
will continue to grow and flourish. Evangelization has no end.
raised from the dead is our faith". (1 Cor 15:20)
once for all and will never die again" (Rom 6:10)
Mission, his Society and his Church cannot fail to have a future.
The Times of
Missionary Society of St. Paul:
of diocesan approval.
Emigration was a fact of life for many Maltese in most of our long
history. After the second would war, thousands of our brothers and
sisters left our shores because our small nation, so lacking in natural
resources, could not guarantee their future.
It is only
in the past few years, with the economic improvement and the slowdown in
the birth rate, that we are realizing that there are other ways a person
can earn a living in our island. The need to go abroad to seek
employment is now almost non-existent. This might make us forget the
plight of thousands of Maltese living abroad who made other countries
their permanent home without any possibility of ever returning.
brothers and sisters of ours and their children are still connected to
us and we have responsibility towards them. Those who left these islands
had to face a new would without any security and many of them suffered a
great deal. Some of them have never felt at home in their adopted
country and are forced to live there because they have children and
grandchildren who will never dream of coming back to Malta.
missionary priest who has studied and ministered in Melbourne, I have
heard hundreds of sad stories of our people who are caught in this
situation. In most cases one can only listen to these stories and
sympathize with them, but on the other hand there are many ways in which
some of this suffering can be eased.
As a member
of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, I thank God that, through the
charisma which was passed on to us by Mgr. Joseph De Piro, we the
members, have been helping to ease some of the pain of separation that
our brothers and sisters feel.
An area that
can cause considerable pain is loss of identity. It is the personal
challenge of each one to come to terms with the question of who he or
she is and what his or her place in society is. This question is crucial
to one's development and it is not an easy challenge to face.
face this issue may times in their lives as they try to adapt to new
situations and adopt different lifestyles to their own. This becomes a
real crucial issue, especially for their children. The children of those
from a migrant background are caught in the middle of this process and
many do not succeed resolve this important challenge in their lives.
ministry, one of my special personal interests and concerns was the
spiritual welfare of the children and grandchildren of the Maltese who
migrated to Australia in the past 50 years. I have asked hundreds of
first and second generation Maltese how they feel about their identity.
Against the expectations of many, these children tell you that while
they may consider themselves foreigners when they come to Malta, they
feel a sense of homecoming.
members of a missionary society, have been using practical means to keep
the Maltese identity alive. We do this through our Migrant Centers and
the personal and family assistance we give to our people. For this
reason, the society has been involved in fostering youth groups, drop-in
centers, marriage preparation courses, leadership and vocational courses
and sacramental programes which, while exposing the person to a new
culture, affirms the rich heritage our people brought with them to the
On the 75th
anniversary of the diocesan approval of our society we can thank God for
the 48 years of our continuous service to migrants. As a missionary
society we see the apostolate among migrants as very important and dear
to us. As chaplains to the migrants we see ourselves as the bridge
between the local church and these Maltese migrants.
helps our people's practice of the faith and for many the retention of
their identity. We also see our ministry as vital for the welfare of the
migrants' adopted country. In a world where there is so much hunger for
peace and love, the message of God's love needs to be continuously
If we help
the Maltese overseas to continue to grow in their Christian and personal
identity, they can become missionaries in their own right wherever they
go. I am proud to say that in many parishes in which I ministered I
found Maltese men and women involved in different ministries within the
parish and many were leadership positions.
We thank God
for the foresight of Mgr. De Piro who, so many years ago, recognizing
the special needs of so many thousands of Maltese who left our shores,
encouraged the members of the society to keep the migrant ministry as
precious for the Maltese province. In celebrating the 75th
anniversary of the diocesan approval of our congregation, we rejoice at
the privilege of having ministered to so many of our people abroad.
Missionary Society of St. Paul.
teeming, as it ever was, with priestly vocations, had always attracted
the attention of the Church in Rome. Though small in size, in its
chequered history, Malta saw hundreds of its best youths leaving its
shores to propagate the Gospel in the world. Several attempts were made
to have a proper organization for training missionaries. In fact, at
about the middle of the last century, Propaganda Fide, the Church's
department for missions, thought it was high time that something
concrete should be done. So a certain Mgr. Casolani was ordained a
bishop with clear instructions to start a missionary movement that would
promote a continuous flow of Maltese priests to missionary lands.
failed for several reasons. But God, who was behind the good intentions
of the Church, had his own ways to carry out Propaganda's endevour. The
year that Bishop Casolani died saw the year of the birth of Giuseppe De
Piro. He was to be the man that Providence had singled out to carry
Piro, later Mgr. De Piro, was born in Mdina on the second of November
1877. His father Alexander had his plans for his son. Handsome,
cheerful, Giuseppe would make a fine lawyer. But Providence was planning
otherwise. On the 8th May 1898, while the university students
were gathered in church for the 'supplica' of Our Lady of Pompei, De
Piro decided to become a priest. The Missionary Society that later he
was to found had no doubt a link with that momentous decision. This
year, on the 14th November, the Missionary Society of St.
Paul is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its official
birthday, in canonical terms its "Erectio Canonica". The local Church in
Malta, through Archbishop Maurus Caruana, O.S.B., gave its blessing and
the go ahead to Mgr. De Piro and his little frail band of young
H. Newman sys that at some stages in his life man is bound to give his
best. Nobody now hesitates to state the foundation of the Missionary
Society of St. Paul was De Piro's best moment of his life.
Paul VI in 1973 granted the Decretum Laudis, that is the final approval
of the Society, he insisted with the then Superior of the Society that
the Society should be faithful to the Church: "Ora siate fedeli alla
Chiesa", - incidentally those were the Last words that Pius XII said to
Montini when he appointed him Archbishop of Milan. Little perhaps, the
Pope could imagine how true were these words as a characteristic of the
Founder. Mgr. De Piro practiced this characteristic to a heroic degree.
To serve the Church he almost sacrificed the Society, his pet project,
that needed all his time of which the service of the Church left him
very little. De Piro worked at a great and worrying pitch of intensity
that may well had been the cause of his untimely death at 55 when the
Society needed him most. There is no doubt that De Piro was a man for
all seasons. The Church could rely on his sterling qualities, especially
his great sense of duty. He was in fact entrusted with the direction of
five orphanages, he was secretary to the bishop, representative of the
clergy in the Senate, and for some time Rector of the Seminary. Besides
of course many pastoral duties.
all this hustle and bustle of duties there was one golden string going
through all De Piro's life: the foundation of a missionary Congregation.
It's history now that almost nobody in Malta took seriously De Piro's
dream. There were so many Orders in Malta who had their missions. Why
create another one? Obviously, many thought, this weak point of De Piro
will fade away with his demise. Few could imagine and measure the love
of the missions that was bubbling in the heart of this great man.
But how all
this dream of a missionary Congregation started?
De Piro as a young seminarian kept a diary. It is the story of his soul
brimming with ideas for a future that was beckoning. It is the story of
a soul that is gradually being moulded by the Holy Spirit for a future
mission. It shows the struggle going within a soul where Christ is
pushing himself to win priority in the dreams of the young seminarist.
Friends are telling the promising student to start a glimmering career
in the Academy that may lead him to be a bishop and eventually a
cardinal. But no. Christ's vast fields of harvest enrapture Joseph's
heart. "Something tells me" he wrote in his journal "that I must go to
St. Joseph's orphanage in Hamrun and help there, because I feel that
from St. Joseph a missionary Society has to be born".
that is what he did sometime after his ordination. At Sr. Joseph's God
developed and matured his plan for Don Giuseppe De Piro. There he
learned at firs hand a much needed lesson. We might say he even received
an injection which is the basis of many of God's great plans. At St.
Joseph's De Piro scrutinized and learned how Providence works through
its mysterious ways. How to start a work of God with nothing to rely on.
De Piro needed that lesson that would come handy as a special charism of
his future Society: complete dependence on God. His Missionaries will
accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God in proportion to their
trust in God. De Piro will later summarize all this in one of his
favourite dictums: "If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its
idea of going to St. Joseph's from where a Missionary Society will be
formed was hardly a rational one. St. Joseph's was all geared to receive
orphans, not missionaries. Still I firmly believe that De Piro's writing
in his diary was a divine inspiration. And as often happens with such
inspirations God led them to their completion in a way know to Him and
not as De Piro envisaged. In fact, the main bulk of his first
missionaries came exactly from the orphans of St. Joseph's.
Society then was to be born in the poverty of St. Joseph's. We might say
in the poverty of Bethlehem. And in a world where consumism was looming
ahead the Society will be shinning with a prophetic message of God's
priority in life. All the works of the Society were to bear this
important imprint. God will be the only security on which to build and
execute his plans.
help of God working though benefactors the Society will continue to
march to pastures new happy and thankful for the Church's blessing 75
A script of
a lecture delivered at the Maltese Center, 477 Royal Pde, Parkville for
the Malta Historical Society.
SERVANT OF GOD, (MGR) JOSEPH DE PIRO (1877 - 1933)
OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF ST. PAUL.
The idea of
this talk came to my mind when once, after one of the monthly lectures,
the president asked me to talk about the work of the Congregation in
Australia. I am not a historian but I accepted the invitation and at
once decided to talk about the man who made all this possible, the
Founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, Joseph De Piro.
number of us where born in Malta and know about it. Some know very
little. Some know next to nothing. So I will start from there. Malta is
a small island (the size of Philip Island) in the Mediterranean Sea,
roughly 100 Km from Sicily and about 300 Km from Africa. We know that
the oldest standing public place for worship in existence is in Malta.
At one point Malta was inhabited by the Phoenicians, they by the
Carthaginians and then the Romans took over. In 60 AD when Malta was a
Roman colony, St. Paul was shipwrecked on the island. The writer to The
Acts of the Apostles calls the inhabitants "Barbarians". That means that
the people did not speak Greek, one of the main languages at that time.
Professor Aquilina, I think, believes that the people spoke some sort of
Semitic language. But there are no written documents of that time. In
870 AD the Arabs took over the island and again professor Aquilina
believes that the old language died gradually. In 1090 AD Count Roger
the Norman conquered the island and from that point onwards Malta became
part of Sicily politically and so part of Europe. From 1530 to 1798
Malta was ruled by the Knights of St. John. Then the French ruled the
island for just two years. Malta was an English Colony from 1800 until
simplistic history of Malta helps us to understand better the person we
are to talk about today, Joseph De Piro, born in Imdina in 1877 when
Malta was a British colony and when the British Empire was a world
THE DE PIRO FAMILY
The De Piro
family is a noble family that went to Malta around the time of the Great
Siege, that is 1565. But it is much, much older. This family went to
Malta from Italy, from the cities of Pisa and Firenze (Florence). In
Malta they had titles like Baron and Marquis conferred on them. This
shows that they played some very important roles in the politics of the
Island. They lived in Imdina but possessed land and buildings in Malta
and in Florence. Joseph De Piro's father was called Alexander. His
mother Ursula Agius Caruana. She was also noble by birth. Both were
convinced Catholics. They fulfilled their religious duties. But they
were deeply concerned about their social duties as Christians. So they
were helped the poor, helped people in need and taught their children
the value and nobility of manual work.
very quiet city; before the Knights of St John built Valletta, it was
the Capital city of the island. The Nobility lived there. Joseph De Piro
was born in very rich and noble family when social position and titles
of nobility meant so much. In the family there were seven boys and two
Piro: Early life and Priesthood.
child number seven. He was born in 1877. All the children were given the
best education available; Joseph first had home tutoring and then he
passed the examination for the Lyceum. Apart from the intellectual
education the children learnt some manual trade or trades; they had to
give a helping hand in house chores although there were maids and
servants in the home. The mother, Is-Sinjura Ursula, was a first class
organizer. But she did not just give orders; she also did her share in
the tasks undertaken. She also built a very Christian family; not simply
in the traditional sense of going to church and praying but also in
matters of social justice; they treated the people employed with them
with the greatest fairness and they helped many poor beggars or people
first educated at home. Then he passed the Lyceum Examination. He did
very well at school; he was also very gifted in the arts. He could have
made a first class artist. He joined the Royal Militia for two years;
there he was a part-time soldier and fulfilled his duties very
conscientiously. Roll calls show that he hardly ever missed. He went to
the University and started reading Law. He was preparing himself to
become a lawyer or barrister. However on the 8 of May 1898, during a
Novena to Our Lady of Pompeii at the Jesuits' Church, Joseph felt strong
enough to decide to become a priest. He informed his mother of this
decision - his father had already died. He made the necessary
arrangements, talked to the bishop and some months later went to Rome.
He stayed at the Capranica. In Rome he studied Philosophy and Theology.
While studying in Rome, he wrote letters to a Maltese priest in Malta
and he felt the call to do something for the missions, like founding a
missionary society. He was also very much interested in the orphans and
boys hit by poverty living at St. Joseph's orphanage, Hamrun. He was
ordained priest before he had finished his third year of Theological
studies. On the 15th of March 1920 he was ordained a priest.
Soon after he came to Malta and sung his first solemn high mass on the
30th of March that same year. The Rector noted the following
about him: "Joseph De Piro is naturally inclined to
forgive always. He is very kind. He left behind him a much cherished
memory in this College."
Sickness: (Tuberculosis) A time for reflection.
He had not
completed his studies but obtained the necessary permission. He was
thinking of finishing his studies and then studies further Canon Law.
Yet his dreams were not to be fulfilled. Some months after he was
ordained a priest he was diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis - a
very serious illness at that time. So the doctors suggested a long stay
on the mountains. He went to Switzerland and stayed there from August
1902 to February 1904. During these months he did not just strengthen
himself physically. For him it was a time of prayer, reflection and
searching for God's will.
DE PIRO AND THE ORPHANS.
life, Joseph De Piro was assigned seven orphanages; for boys and for
girls. I am not going to list them but I will speak at length about one,
The Fra Diegu Institute for Girls at Hamrun. He was responsible for it
from 1907 to 1933, the time of his death. During his busy life he never
resigned from any of the orphanages although he resigned from other
prestigious positions, as we shall see later.
His educational System.
or system of education was very simple and effective. He wanted children
under his care to be better children, to receive sound formation which
would serve well them when they were to leave the orphanage and love on
their own. He never wanted children to be punished physically; not even
to be abused verbally or shouted at. However this does not mean that he
let things go by. He wished that children be corrected gently, showing
them that they had erred, but that they were still lovable. Usually,
after correcting a child, he would smile and offer a lolly. He was
against unsupervised children and against laziness. He always
appreciated the children's and the nuns' work and he showed his
appreciation. He excused people's mistakes and was careful not to judge
people's intentions. When people gave him something special, even during
meals (like a very beautiful orange), he would say, "Well, let's give
this to the children!" He wished and wanted the children to be happy and
went to extremes to make them happy. All his means - and his family's -
even houses, were used to help the poor. There were plays, holidays,
at least two big lunches every year: Christmas and Easter and sometimes
St. Joseph's, his patron saint. He organized outings at the family's
property at Qrendi. He wanted children to learn not only academic
subjects but other necessary trades or arts, like cooking, sewing,
embroidery ('rakkmu'); for boys he insisted on trades such as printing,
bookbinding, shoe-making. At St. Joseph's Boys' Orphanage (Gozo) he
introduced a band which was very successful and is still in existence as
the Ghajnsielem Band. Whenever he went abroad, he brought small gifts
with him: like soap and perfume for girls. He held 'Prize days' and
invited personalities at his Orphanages to be guests of honour. When
children were sick he visited them in hospital and carried gifts with
him, like oranges, for example.
a priest to be interested in the spiritual welfare of those under his
care. That was why he worked so hard. He taught them to have a fixed
time of regular prayer. Every Thursday he spent an hour of Adoration in
front of the Blessed Sacrament with children. He wanted them to sing
well in church and asked for a person learned in this matter to teach
the children and the nun concerned. On special occasions he saw that
there were priests to hear the children's and the nuns' confessions. He
spoke of true and everlasting values-and he taught what he himself tried
When Young Persons had to leave the Orphanage.
was a rich man, he was noble by birth and he knew what earthly comfort
was like. Yet he chose not only to help the poor, but also to live for
the poor and to feel the pangs of poverty. He put his wealth and that of
his family at the poors' and orphans' service. He begged from his mother
and from his relatives. His mother used to call him, "Il-fqir tieghi!",
"My poor son". When he was in need, he even went begging from his rich
friends. On Thursdays he used to visit streets where his rich friends
lived and paced up and down. Some say that was his way of asking for
money. Probably it was very humiliating for him.
his mother in his charitable works; she used to gather young women, even
well-to-do women and they would sew liturgical vestments or do whatever
was necessary and possible to help; She used to say, "These are my
visits to the theatre and my films: working for the poor." Quite
naturally, she also worked with the others. She also visited the
orphanages and spent time talking to the girls who lived in the
orphanage and she worked with them too.
passing on to another subject, I wish to emphasize the following points:
He never resigned from any of the orphanages;
He did his
best to advance every particular orphanage;
He was very
gentle with those in charge and with the persons under his care;
encouraged everybody to achieve the best one could;
interested in every person under his care.
HIS SENSE OF JUSTICE TOWARDS THOSE WHO WORKED WITH
Piro had a great respect towards those who worked with him or those who
were employed by him. When Fr. Joseph Spiteri was elected Assistant
Superior, he told him to sign instead of him and state that he was
assistant superior. He assigned another priest Fr. Gaetanus Bartolo to
be responsible of the wages. So he explained everything in detail. Since
wages were low, he used to put some extras money. He even handed a
pension to ex-employees in need. He also used to visit the sick
employees - either at home or at the hospital. In case of need,
sometimes he even called a doctor. However he was always careful either
not to humiliate the people involved; he would let others appear as if
they were taking the lead.
HIS SENSE OF DUTY TOWARDS HIS COUNTRY: HIS
The Seventh June Riots.
De Piro decided to be a priest, his ideas was to serve God in whichever
way he asked him. He was not after honors, titles or the lime-light. He
was not after making a career in the worldly sense or of making money. I
think most of us heard about the seventh June nineteen nineteen Riots;
what is referred to as the "Sette Giugno". The Maltese people were
striving for a better Constitution because they wanted to be masters of
their destinies in their own country. At the National Assembly sitting
on 25 February 1919, Monsignor Ignatius Panzavecchia suggested a motion
calling for more autonomy in local problems. The session was adjourned
for June 7, 1919. On that fateful day, the second sitting was in
session. The meeting was held at "La Giovane Malta". There were big
crowds in Valletta because many people were facing unemployment. The
First World War was just over and the Empire did not need too many
workers at the Dockyards as it needed during the war. The people were
protesting because they felt they were treated unjustly. Some people
became violent and attacked the premises of The "Malta Chronicle" and
the English Club. The Maltese police did not try to control the
situation. So the Lieutenant Governor called in the English soldiers to
take charge. The soldiers fired at the people, many were hurt and four
people died; two more died later because of inflicted wounds.
this was happening in the streets, the sitting of the National Assembly
was in progress. Notary Salvatore Borg Olivier suggested a committee or
deputation be chosen to form the draft of a constitution. Meanwhile an
injured person was carried into the hall where the meeting was in
progress and people started asking protection. The sitting was brought
to a hasty end. Most people at the National Assembly left quietly
because they sensed the explosive situation. Monsignor De Piro was asked
to take charge. He and five other members formed a delegation. With
great difficulty they took charge of the crowds and acted as mediators
between the English authorities and the Maltese crowds. After
negotiations, Barrister Caruana Gatto addressed the crowds and informed
the angry people of the negotiations' results. First, that all the
soldiers were to be called to their quarters and second, that those
responsible were to be held accountable for their actions. Very slowly,
the crowds dispersed.
On the 8th
and on the 9th of June, there were further protests and some
criminals took advantage of the situation; there was looting and poverty
destroyed. Some people even tried to attack the Bishop's Palace at
Valletta. Bishop Portelli and Monsignor De Piro faced the angry crowds
and tried to calm the people and to reason with them.
1932: Senator in The Third Parliament (17 Oct 1932 -
23 Jul 1933)
time, De Piro was chosen as chaplain of the Third Parliament. On hearing
the news, Bro Joseph Caruana MSSP who was in Abyssinia, wrote the
following: "I have heard that you were elected Senator. Congratulations!
In the "MALTA" I read that some rascals insulted you. I was very sad for
you. I think they do not know you."
praised for being above party politics, for writing to help others and
for not seeking his own interests. That is what "The Daily Malta
Chronicle" said on the 19th Sept 1933 edition, two days after
Mediator between Lord Gerald Strickland and the
On the 27th
April 1930, The Bishops of Malta and Gozo issued a pastoral letter
saying, "It is a grave sin to vote for Lord Strickland, his candidates
and those who side with him in his fight against ecclesiastical rights
and discipline." Church authorities also condemned the newspapers "THE
DAILY MALTA CHRONICLE" AND "IX-XEMX".
Government felt the Maltese were not free in the elections and the
Constitution was suspended. This means that Malta returned to its pre 7th
June 1919 political status.
1930 - 1932 crisis, De Piro acted as intermediary. He met secretly with
Lord Strickland several times. Very little is known about the meetings.
He never said anything about it. One of our members told me, "He never
said anything; he kept complete silence." In Maltese he told me "Qatt ma
qabzitlu kelma", and "Fommu sieket".
death, "THE DAILY MALTA CHRONICLE", Lord Strickland's newspaper, said,
"Peace was settled very quietly. There was none like him trusted by both
sides. There was none like him who had the necessary qualities to
accomplish this delicate mission."
another case where he sought the good of all involved: Church, State and
all the individuals involved without making any personal claims for
HIS LOVE AND DEDICATION FOR THE CHURCH.
Piro became a priest to serve the church and the people as a priest. He
was a man for the people: he said mass, heard confessions even on days
off, celebrated marriages, heard people's problems. However, in this
section we will be speaking of this, the public positions he held in the
church as an ecclesiastical figure.
Secretary to the Archbishop 1915 - 1918
Archbishop Caruana chose him as his secretary. He fulfilled this duty
with his usual scrupulosity: everything in order, attention to detail,
everything on time. During this time the Archbishop chose De Piro and
other holy and experienced priests to organize meetings to help the
newly-ordained young priests to settle down in their new and difficult
vocation and profession. Records show his dedication to duty but we know
very little else about him in this duty.
Rector of the Seminary 1918 - 1920.
Archbishop asked him to be in charge of the Major Seminary, that is the
institution where young men are trained to become priests. The priests
who were seminarians under his care noted his fatherly kindness, his
interest in those under his care, and his ability to correct gently.
In 1920 he
wrote an eleven page letter to the Archbishop about the state of the
seminary. In fact it was a detailed report. He spoke about the
professors, combining truth and charity. He commented on the teaching of
philosophy and theology and showed how teaching can be upgraded. He
called for a resident spiritual director and confessor. He criticized
the use of a certain book because the 1917 Code of Canon Law rendered it
were financial problems, he said that if the problems faced were so
great, it was better to close down the Seminary.
Summer Holidays, seminarians helped in liturgical functions in their
parish church. Then, the parish priest had to write a report on the
persons involved. But some parish priests wrote hasty reports for
formality's sake. The Rector asked for more detailed and specific
reports. The seminarians had some communal outings which were suppressed
because of financial problems. The rector noted that seminarians turned
indifferent and sometimes even hostile to each other since these
celebrations were suppressed. He suggested that they be re-introduced.
On the 27th
August 1920 Fr. De Piro handed in writing his resignation as rector of
the Seminary. He said that he had to dedicate more time to the
congregation he had founded, the Missionary Society of St. Paul.
Seeking Peace in the Gudja Parish 1922.
Those of us
who were born in Malta and spent some years there, know how much pride
and passion are involved in the parish church, the statue of the patron
saint the committee in charge (il-partit tal-festa) and the village
festa. In 1922 tempers flared up in the village of Gudja about some
misunderstandings. The priest felt threatened and withheld daily mass,
although masses were said on Sundays. Since no priests were available,
the Archbishop asked Mgr. De Piro to take charge and to try to find a
peaceful solution. He went there on the 13th of July and
spent a month there. He and some members of the new congregation
provided the necessary ecclesiastical services and worked hard to
promote a message of peace. When the feast was over, he and the two
members of the Society left Gudja. The people were grateful for what he
did in their parish; they asked him to stay there; quite naturally, he
could not because he had other duties.
JOSEPH DE PIRO AS
FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL.
Piro was involved in many activities, his main accomplishment was the
Missionary Society of Saint Paul. He had this dream since he was a
seminarian in Rome. When he was convalescing on the Alps in Davos, he
had more time to reflect, plan and pray.
years 1904 and 1907 he was exercising his ministry at Qrendi while
recuperating. At the same time in 1905 he started sharing his ideals
with fellow priests. He thought that other priests might be interested.
On the 16th January 1905 something strange happened to him.
He was in Valletta with another priest. A beggar approached the two
priests and asked for money. Fr. De Piro gave him some. The beggar
thanked him in a very unusual way, saying, "May Saint Paul be with you".
In his diary, Fr. De Piro noted this strange expression, more so since
it came from a beggar.
Fr. De Piro
was talking of "A Society of Missionaries". Other priests told him that
they had had a similar idea and had tried, but they had failed. There
were priests who told him that was an impossible idea, unless something
miraculous happened. In his diary, De Piro noted, "At the moment there
will be neither vows nor oaths. However we must be ready to submit to
the divine will with the greatest generosity. This should be the word
which urges us foreword, 'I will follow you wherever you go'. He felt
the need for a community of future missionaries. At that time in Malta
there was 'The Big Mission' and 'The Small Mission'. These consisted of
groups of priests who visited parishes and spent some time preaching
there. De Piro took part in these missions on different occasions. But
he said that his ideas were different; he meant going to foreign
Archbishop Peter Pace blessed his dreams and encouraged him to find
other priests with similar ideals. In 1909 De Piro drew a sketch of his
society. He wrote, 'Aim of the (Little) Society (of Saint Paul) is
that of forming missionaries and sending them wherever they are
required'. In 1909 the Apostolic Visitor Monsignor Peter La
Fontaine was in Malta. Together they discussed De Piro's ideals. He told
De Piro to write a letter to the Pope and to get his Archbishop's
written approval. La Fontaine then carried his letter with him to Rome
and gave it to the Pope, at that time Pius X. In a letter dated 27
January 1910, the Pope blessed De Piro and his ideals. An his non
existent companions. De Piro wrote a phrase which was to cause him much
trouble. He wrote about "A Religious Society to form missionaries in a
special way and above all to work in colonies of Maltese migrants". His
love of Maltese migrants caused him much trouble; later he explained
himself better but he never wavered from his ideas.
De Piro could see his dream taking shape. On the 12th of June
1910 the Archbishop of Malta blessed a small rented house in Imdina. And
some days later, on the 30th of June 1910 two young men
joined him, John Vella and Joseph Francis Caruana. John Vella was to
become a priest and late to leave the Society while Joseph Francis
Caruana was to become a lay-brother and to be the first missionary of
the Society in Abyssinia/ Ethiopia.
In 1916 De
Piro would explain himself better to Pope Benedict XV in these words, '…to
form an Institute for foreign Missions and in a particular way for those
Maltese who live far away from their island…' Our Founder is
daring enough and points out that when he said that the Institute is
'for the Maltese, before everybody else', he wanted to exclude no one.
Finally, in 1921 (14th of November) the Archbishop of Malta
issued a Decree, "Auctoritate Nostra Ordinaria" (By Our Ordinary
Authority) declared canonically erected the Pious Society (of Saint Paul
JUNE 1927 THE ABBBYSINIAN MISSION.
Capuchin Friars had opened a mission in Abyssinia, what we now call
Ethiopia. This particular mission was in what we now call Somalia. The
person in charge of the Mission, Friar Angelo Mizzi OFM Capp asked De
Piro to send him some Missionaries. The people available were few
because there were few members. After the long and necessary
negotiations De Piro could send one member, Brother Joseph Francis
Caruana. De Piro had to say the following about Fra Guzepp, as he was
known. "His name is Brother Joseph Francis Caruana. He is a member
of the Society of Saint Paul. He is 36 years old. In him I see a deeply
spiritual man; he is able to adapt himself very well to children. He is
also an able infirmirian. Here I will be losing his help; but I undergo
this sacrifice knowing with certainty that the Lord will not refrain
from sending me others instead of him."
Joseph left for Abyssinia in June 1927. He worked hard, helped and loved
the people, was a man of prayer and died in that land in April 1975,
aged 83 years. He never left that country - not even for a short
It was not
De Piro's style to do things by halves. He kept constant contact by
correspondence with Brother Joseph, encouraged him, was proud of him and
praised him, sent him money. He also wrote to authorities concerned with
this mission; he encouraged people to pray for this particular mission.
It was present in his heart until he died. In 1933 De Piro was thinking
of visiting Brother Joseph and having two new missionaries accompanying
him. But this was not to happen. De Piro died on the 17th of
THE MOTHERHOUSE, SAINT AGATHA'S RABAT.
hired the first house in Imdina. Later, he moved to two other houses,
also in Imdina. This shows that he had other plans. We have written
records showing that since 1921 he was negotiating to acquire St.
Agatha's chapel in Hal Bajjada, Rabat, and lands surrounding it where he
could build a house for his own Institute. He spent fourteen years of
constant worry, trouble, negotiations and forking out money until he
could lay the foundation stone of what is now The Motherhouse, on 3
October 1932. This was a very solemn day. He wanted it to be a special
to thank all
his benefactors publicly;
to show what
had been achieved;
those working with him;
the few members in his congregation;
young men to become new members;
to make his
above all to
thank God and praise Him publicly for His faithfulness.
On the 30th
June 1933 Archbishop Mauro Caruana blessed the first part of the new
house. Finally, De Piro and his Congregation could say that they had a
home of their own. There they could live together and work to fulfil
their dreams. The new House meant that they now had a base for training
house probably saved the Society from extinction. Less than three months
later, the Founder died suddenly.
HIS LOVE AND CARE FOR MIGRANTS.
De Piro was
always interested in those who are poor, those who suffer, those who
undergo some hardship or other. Early in his life as a priest he was
interested in Maltese migrants. When he wrote his constitutions and when
he presented himself to church authorities, he always said that he
wanted a missionary congregation which also gives special care for
Maltese Migrants. Church authorities in Rome told him, "You cannot have
both; either one or the other". He was always firm on this point.
Finally he got what he wanted.
was a mission in Tunis in 1922, De Piro went and gave a helping hand.
And he also wrote about it in his publication "Almanacc". In the
"Almanacc" he also gave news about Maltese priests working among Maltese
migrants and dreamed of sending his spiritual sons in countries like
Australia and America.
MISSIONARY VENTURES WHICH DE PIRO UNDERTOOK.
"L-ALMANACC TAL ISTITUT TAL MISSIONI"
started to publish this "Almanacc" every year from 1922. He published it
for the last time in 1933, the year of his death. It was again published
in 1934 and in 1936. The its publication ceased.
wrote most of the articles - nearly all of them follow his style of
writing. He published it to keep his benefactors informed of the
progress of his small society. He wanted people to appreciate the gift
of faith and to do their best to share it with others. He rightly
believed that all Christians are called to spread the Gospel in one way
or another. He wanted also his young companions to be on fire with the
love of God and to be ready to share this live with fellow human beings.
He also saw it a way of making his congregation known and recruiting new
vocations. He also saw its publication as a way of holding himself
accountable for the money received; every year he published names or at
least initials against the amount give; every single donation however
small was acknowledged and he prayed for all his benefactors; he
acknowledged all the generosity around him.
THE MISSIONARY LABORATORY.
together with his mother, De Piro founded the Missionary Laboratory;
this was a practical way to collect money and to get people interested
in the missions. As usual, his mother was an organizer and a hard
worker. His mother suggested a "Muzew tas-Somalia", "A Somalian Museum".
Friar Mizzi sent lots of exhibits and postcards to help the venture.
CO-FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF JESUS OF
Josephine Curmi had started to help some orphans and gathered some girls
around her. This was in 1913. Joseph De Piro encouraged her, guided her
and later suggested that she give a missionary character to her
Institute. He also guided her in dealing with civil and ecclesiastical
authorities. He also suggested that the two Societies work together. He
also wrote official letters for Miss Curmi. He is considered as a
Co-Founder by the sisters of Jesus of Nazareth.
OTHER VENTURES IN DE PIRO'S LIFE TO HELP THE POOR.
The Oratory, B'Kara.
In 1910 The
Notary Michael Casolani built a chapel, classes for religious
instruction and a playground so that the poor children of the area could
play and at the same time grow up as practicing Christians. However he
had difficulties in running it. Between 1910 and 1912 it was run by the
Salesians, they named it "Domenico Savio Oratory". However they could
not run it for lack of staff. The De la Salle Brothers tried their hand
and ran it from 1912 to 1918. They also had to move out for the same
reason. Fr. Michael Sammut took charge for some time although his
strength was very weak. In 1925 Mr. Casolani wrote a letter to De Piro
to take charge; he saw the ability of De Piro to deal with the poor
children. In 1925 they started the negotiations and in 1927 Casolani
donated the Oratory to De Piro and the Society. In this place the
children of poor people could go to play and enjoy themselves; they
received Christian instruction; they received the Sacraments of the
Eucharist and Confession; they attended Mass; De Piro introduced also
the theatre as another form of recreation. This recreational and
educational activity is still going on there.
Saint Joseph's Home, Ghajnsielem, Gozo.
In 1924 -
1925 the Parish Priest and the Bishop of Gozo His Brace Bishop Michael
Gonzi asked De Piro to take care of St. Joseph's Institute for Boys at
Ghajnsielem. De Piro accepted this position as duty on himself and also
on his Society. However he layed down his conditions. One of his
conditions was that he would accept any boy who needed help irrespective
of the money available; another important condition was that he wanted
to be the director thus assuming all responsibility and the possibility
of running it his own way. Together with members of his Society, De Piro
did his very best for the children sheltered there and in due time they
even had their own band.
Laboratory for poor girls, Valletta.
In 1927 De
Piro was thinking about those girls who leave the orphanages as they had
reached their eighteenth year. He was thinking of a place where these
young women could work and get paid for their work. He looked for such a
place in Valletta and he also wrote letters to people in authority.
Finally he could start this project and named it "Sacred Heart
Laboratory". He found a number of women ready to help him, amongst them
a certain Marija Assunta Borg. She was a very zealous and hard working
woman but it seems that she wanted to things run her own way and
considered herself equal to De Piro. De Piro stood his ground gently but
firmly. At one point in August 1931 De Piro and Borg declared officially
and legally that The Laboratory for Poor Girls was dissolved. At that
time it was probably unique and it also showed how De Piro had the
welfare of the poor and defenseless at heart.
1911: FR JOSEPH DE PIRO GIVEN THE TITLE OF
As we said
in the beginning, Joseph De Piro was noble by birth. He saw the
priesthood as the noblest thing a man could achieve. For him the
priesthood was to be like Jesus, to serve the poor, to heal wounds, to
live like the poor. So for himself he chose poverty and humility as much
felt that he deserved some sort of title and so she went to the chaplain
of the Archbishop and expressed her wish. Things started
happening…everything behind De Piro's back. The Chaplain wrote to Fr. De
Piro after lots of behind the scene dealings. De Piro came to know of
his mother's actions and told her that he was very sad and that he could
not accept. He told her among other things, "I want to remain a
simple priest. Without any other titles. The priesthood is the greatest
honor for me". He wrote also tot he Archbishop's chaplain
explaining gently that he had to decline the title. He wrote, "Do me
also the favour of informing the Archbishop that the title offered me is
unsuitable to me because of my work". It seems that his mother had
second thoughts after her son's words and said something to the
Archbishop's chaplain or the Archbishop himself. However the Archbishop
had a completely different opinion. On the 19th January 1911,
the Archbishop answered De Piro in the following way.
never sought neither high positions nor ranks. Receive, therefore this
position as coming from the hands of God and accept it as an act of
obedience to me. Leave the rest to the Lord. Just as the Lord began the
holy work of the missions, so He himself will develop it and perfect it.
sincerely, Dear Father Joseph,
WRITINGS AND SERMONS.
De Piro did
not consider himself an orator or a writer. When he preached, he
preached because a priest has to preach. He used a very simple of style
of speaking to the people. Yet he spoke through his faith and from his
heart. I dare say he also spoke to the heart of his listeners. His
written sermons show a man with a very positive outlook on man, life,
God, and God's mercy. He wrote quite a lot. Again his writings seem very
simple. However they reveal the same characteristics: a man full of
faith, gentleness, compassion, love of God and of neighbour. A passion
for God, the Church, man and mission. However his writing is never
sloppy or childish. It is just simple so that his readers / listeners
could understand him clearly.
I hope you
realize that our Founder was a very interesting man. This is a very
brief and incomplete sketch. But it helps you understand how we came to
Australia, for example. May this sketch encourage us to be better
persons and more at peace with ourselves.
CENTENARY OF MGR. DE PIRO'S priestly ordination.
its numerous priestly vocations, had always attracted the attention of
the Church in Rome. Though a very small Island, Malta saw hundreds of
its best youths leave its shores to propagate the Gospel throughout the
attempts were made to have a proper organization for training
missionaries. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century,
Propaganda Fidei, the Church's Congregation for missions, thought it
was high time something concrete was done. A certain Mgr. Casolani was
made bishop with clear instructions to start a missionary movement that
would promote a continuous flow of Maltese priests to missionary lands.
failed, for various reasons. But God, who was behind the good intentions
of the Church, had His own ways to carry out Propaganda's endeavour. For
the year Bishop Casolani died saw the birth of Joseph De Piro, who was
to be the man Providence singled out to carry
De Piro was
born in Mdina on November 2, 1877. His father Alexander, had plans for
his son. Handsome, cheerful, Joseph would make a fine lawyer. But God
was planing otherwise. On May 8, 1898, while the University students
were gathered in church for the devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii, De Piro
decided to become a priest. The Missionary Society he later founded no
doubt was a result of that momentous decision. On November 14, 1921,
Archbishop Maurus Caruana gave his go-ahead to Mgr De Piro and his
little band of young followers.
Newman says that at some stages in one's life, one is bound to give
one's best. The foundation of the Missionary Society of St. Paul was
undoubtedly De Piro's best moment of his life.
Paul VI in 1973 granted the Decretum Laudis, namely the final
approval of the Society, he insisted with its then superior that it
should be faithful to the Church: "Ora siate dedeli alla Chiesa"
- incidentally the last words of Pius XII said to Mgr. Montini (the
future Paul VI) when he appointed him Archbishop of Milan. Little
perhaps, did the Pope imagine how true these words were as a
characteristic of the Society's Founder.
Mgr. De Piro
practiced this characteristic to a heroic degree. To serve the Church he
almost sacrificed the Society, his pet project, that needed all his
time, of which the service of the Church left him very little. De Piro
worked tirelessly and this may well have caused his untimely death at
55, when the Society needed him most. He was a man for all seasons. The
Church should rely on his sterling qualities, especially his great sense
of duty. He was in fact entrusted with the direction of five orphanages,
secretary to Archbishop Maurus Caruana, representative of the clergy in
the Senate, and for some time, rector of the Major Seminary … besides of
course many other pastoral duties.
was one golden thread going through all De Piro's life: the foundation
of a missionary congregation. Almost nobody in Malta took De Piro's
dream seriously. There were already so many religious orders in Malta
which had foreign missions! Why create another one? Obviously, many
thought, this weak point of De Piro would fade away after his death. Few
could imagine and measure the love of the missions that was bubbling in
the heart of this great man.
As a young
seminarian De Piro used to keep a diary. It is the story of a dream
gradually being moulded by the Holy Spirit for an important mission. It
shows the struggle going on within a soul where Christ was pushing
himself to win priority in the dreams of a young seminarian. Archbishop
Peter Pace was telling the promising student to start a glittering
career in the Academy, leading him to be a bishop. But Christ's vast
fields of harvest enraptured De Piro's heart.
"Something tells me", he writes in his diary, "that I must go to
St. Joseph's orphanage, in Hamrun, and help there, because I feel that
from St. Joseph's a missionary society has to be born".
That is what
he did some time after his ordination in Rome, on 15 March 2002. At St.
Joseph’s God developed and matured His plan for Joseph De Piro. There he
learned at first hand a much needed lesson. At St. Joseph's De Piro
scrutinized and learned how Providence works through its mysterious
ways. How to start a work of God with nothing to rely on . De Piro
needed that lesson that would come in handy as a special charism of his
future society: complete dependence on God. He would later summarise all
this in a favourite dictum: "If the Lord does not build the house, in
vain do its builders labour" (Ps 126)
idea of going to St. Joseph's from where a Missionary Society would be
formed, was hardly a rational one. St. Joseph's was all geared to
receive orphans, not missionaries. But I believe that De Piro's writing
in his diary was a divine inspiration. And as often happens with such
inspirations, God let them to their completion in a way known to Him,
and not as De Piro envisaged. In fact, the bulk of his first
missionaries came exactly from the orphans at St. Joseph's.
Society then was to be born in the poverty of St. Joseph's orphanage, we
might say in the poverty of Betlehem. And in a world where consumerism
was looming ahead, the Society will be shining with a prophetic message
of God's priority in life. All the works of the Society were to bear
this important imprint. God will be the only security on which to build
and execute his plans.
occasion of the centenary of the priestly ordination of their Founder,
the Servant of God, Joseph De Piro, the members of the Missionary
Society of St Paul wish to invite all the Maltese and Gozitans for a
concelebrated mass, led by His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph Mercieca,
and which will be said at St John’s Co Cathedral, on Friday, 15 March
2002, at 6.30 pm.
Educ. (Adm & Mgt),
Missionary College, Rabat.
Mgr De Piro
and the formation of the young.
Missionary Society of St. Paul
90 years on…
De Piro had the formation of the young people very much at heart; he was
personally committed to this important mission. In fact, when he came to
present the constitution of the Missionary society of St. Paul (MSSP) to
the first members, he would often refer to this apostolate.
He wanted to
make it clear that he considered the formation and care of the young as
an integral part of the MSSP charisma. During the 90 years of its
existence the society has faithfully continued to fulfil this noble role
through, among others, its secondary school for boys - St. Paul's
college's initial objective was the education of boys who showed
interest in the MSSP and its missionary ideal, who would become future
religious members of the Society. This college was meant to be a
'greenhouse' for possible vocations to the religious life and the
missions. Its founder sought to create the human and Christian
atmosphere that would cultivate the growth and formation a religious
statute of the college was very clear in this regard: "St. Paul's
Missionary College caters for the education of those boys who feel they
are called to lead a religious life as members of the Missionary Society
of St. Paul."
Therefore, with its own school, the society could establish and maintain
close contacts with a large number of boys; and provide them with an
environment where they could pursue their physical, psychological,
intellectual, moral and Christian growth, while witnessing a constant
and living example of religious life.
and aims of this college center around its motto: "Instrue me et
vivam - teach me and I shall live". Our students are the future
citizens of this land; parents entrust them to us so that we can
participate in their development. Together, parents and teachers, we
must tap and develop the students' abilities as well as meet their
educational and social needs and aspirations.
educate our students in the widest sense - academically, religiously,
and socially. Being small, this school has the added advantage of giving
the boys the personal attention they require in order to develop their
every other school, the Catholic school has as its aim the critical
communication of human culture and the total formation of the
individual, it works towards this goal guided by its Christian vision of
reality 'through which our cultural heritage acquires its special place
in the total vocational life of people'." And "Mindful of the fact that
we have been redeemed by Christ, the Catholic school aims at forming in
the Christian those particular virtues which will enable him to live a
new life in Christ and help to play faithfully his part in building up
the Kingdom of God." (The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education,
The Catholic School, 1977)
the Catholic School are members of the school community, a community
that consists of staff members, students and their parents (and
friends). The parents are the first educators of our children and by
entrusting them to a school they are inviting it to participate in a
community as an extension of the Catholic family.
work of the Church places us all in a privileged and challenging
position - that of "creating an atmosphere so animated with love and
reverence for God and Man that a well-rounded personal and social
development will be fostered among the children." (Vatican II,
Therefore, as an integral part of the school community, the parents, in
their relationships with the students, teachers and the school's
leaders, together should seek to build a community of faith and
cooperation. Such an interactive partnership is very evident at St.
Paul's and guarantees that education at this college is the development
of man from within, freeing him from that which would prevent him from
becoming a fully integrated human being. This is precisely why our
college's educational program is intentionally directed to the growth of
the whole person.
Is such a
religious and holistic environment still relevant to the young people of
the 21st century?
"The work of
the builders is futile unless the Lord is in their midst" (G. De Piro,
S.127) and "Love for Jesus Christ in one's heart brings about a strong
desire that Christ becomes universally known so that everyone will love
Him" (G. De Piro 2:462).
of our commitment as Catholic educators is Jesus Christ. This commitment
pervades the entire school curriculum and the life of this college. Its
mission is to proclaim and witness with joy and hope the gospel in a
a truly Christ-centered community at St. Paul's Missionary College
everyone strives to foster in the young students Christian values
through example and interaction; to accept the challenge of living the
teachings of Christ in a spirit of humility, love and joy; and to
respond to the spiritual, academic, emotional and physical needs of the
students lovingly and responsibly. The self-esteem, giftedness,
uniqueness, talents, leadership of each boy are enhanced and promoted by
environment, which values discipline, tolerance and compassion and
accepts mistakes and failure as a natural part of life.
are encouraged to see education as a lifelong venture
offered readily, concern or disapproval is voiced in a mature and
which is relevant, academically rigorous and challenging and which
promotes the development of the whole person.
the boys are
encouraged to strive for excellence while valuing effort and achievement
friendship, celebration and the partnership which forms among all those
involved in the school are valued.
into school effectiveness shows that climate and ethos are important
factors influencing personal and social development. Concluding his
prize-day speech of 1997, the rector, Fr. G. Bonello, remarks that "the
greatest care has always been taken so that the required ingredients are
genuine and evenly balanced". The result is an educational institution
where encouragement, support, consistent and high academic expectations,
understanding and caring are the norm; and where the perspectives of
teachers, parents and the young boys themselves area all regarded as
important. The ethos of this college is such that its communities work
and learn in an environment
are loyal to 'their' college and its goals; they are valued,
relationships among them are good and they work well together.
relationships between teachers and pupils exist in and out of the
classroom, enhancing the students' interest in learning as well as
having a positive effect on their courteousness and attendance
care is reflected in the day-to-day curriculum and made available to
students, teachers and parents
confidence and self-esteem of the students are promoted through a range
of extra-curricular activities
achieve realistically high levels of success in external examinations;
as a result the teachers and students are encouraged in their efforts
welcome to be involved and kept constantly informed; they are given
regular opportunities to participate in school life
premises and grounds are attractive, clean and stimulating.
been possible thanks to the hard work, strong, fair discipline and a
belief in traditional values of past and present rectors and teachers
who have always been committed to developing students' abilities and
talents to the full. It has always been their aim to create well-rounded
Christian young men whose lives will be an asset to society.
standard has been attained because in the true and noble De Piro spirit
the leaders of this college have always been strong and never lose sight
of their educational vision and goals. They do not just facilitate, they
design and implement, and they are always on the lookout for appropriate
resources to achieve their goals. They offer all their staff the
opportunity to improve so that they bring out the best in them. They
know that no matter how skilled, student-focused and positive they
themselves are, they cannot possibly create and excellent educational
environment in the school without the teachers.
the MSSP charisma, they constantly install confidence, autonomy, and
personal ownership of the teaching tasks in the staff and parents so
that everyone is working for the same goal - the quality education and
personal formation of every boy. They have always sought to promote a
great sense of community where students, parents and teachers are given
a chance to participate in the running of the school. They have
painstakingly built a welcoming atmosphere where
there is a
sense of belonging
of give and take prevails
aim is the full development of students
learn through mistakes, air their views and speak for their rights
order is not
based on repressive discipline, but on a comprehending, holistic
everybody is sensitive to students' feelings and shares their joys,
sorrows, worries and anxieties
students' initiatives, creativity and organizing abilities are enhanced
by school activities.
built an ethos where there is a climate and a culture for change. And
they have done this by speaking about their vision often and
enthusiastically; by encouraging experiments and taking risks; by
celebrating successes and forgiving failures; and by remaining steadfast
in the face of their inevitable problems and missteps.
It is a
demanding call, the challenges remain great and it will always take a
lot of effort. Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to the
churches of Galatia: "so let us not grow weary in doing what is right,
for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up."
(that awaits us) is not only in the afterlife, but also in this life.
The harvest is students who can perform at the levels of which they are
capable, who seek and obtain as much education as they can, and who, in
a new and different age, can earn enough to keep themselves and their
families out of poverty.
what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water
seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise…"
Archbishop Oscar Romero, quoted in The Tablet, 1997)
Dedicated and committed educators will reap this harvest, but only if
they do not grow weary, only if they do not give up. Mgr De Piro did
not; he remained steadfast in fulfilling God's will. He lovingly watered
the seed with God's love and let it grow and spread, reaching even
beyond the island's shores. His followers, together with St. Paul's
Missionary College, continue to water more and more seeds with their
love and dedication. Indeed, such a holistic education remains very
relevant to the young people of the new millennium.
removes the seed already planted cannot look forward to the day of
harvest." (De Piro 2:412)
June 10, 2000
Home for boys and the MSSP
100 years after the Church opened and started operating what were then
normally termed as orphanages, the state is now preparing what are being
referred to as Proposed Standards for Residential Care Services. High
today know as St. Joseph's Home in Sta Venera first opened its doors to
receive its firs inmates on August 27, 1888, almost 112 years ago. A
house was bought near tas-Samra Church in Hamrun which soon became too
small for the number of boys seeking admittance.
In 1893, the
founder of this home, Mgr Francesco Bonnici, obtained from the
government the lease of a much larger house known as Il-Palazz l-Ahmar
or il-Palazz ta' San Guzepp which had large gardens attached.
orphanage moved into the newly acquired premises to be able to
accommodate and ever increasing number of boys. The founder-director of
the home resigned from his office after 10 years and died soon after in
1905 at the age of 53. He was succeeded by Mgr Vassallo and later by the
zealous Dun Gorg Borg Bugeja who died in harness in November 1922.
beginning it was felt that much attention had to be given to the
technical formation of the boys as a warranty of future well being so
that on leaving the home they could look forward to a better future by
having a definite trade to depend upon. They were taught how to read and
write and trained in a trade of their choice from among carpentry,
tailoring, bookbinding, printing and shoemaking.
senses that one, St. Joseph's institute - Casa Bonnici as it became
known - was a veritable residential trade school, possibly the first of
its kind in Malta.
Mgr. De Piro
was appointed director of this institute on the death of Dun Gorg. He
was already then director of Fra Diegu Institute for girls, also in
Hamrun and a few years earlier had founded the first religious
congregation of religious for men, the Society of St. Paul.
By the end
of 1922 the members of this new congregation were brought in to look
after the boys because the De La Salle Brothers who were running the
home could no longer man the posts. The Society of St. Paul has
continued to look after this children's home ever since.
On June 30
of this year, the Missionary Society of St. Paul, as the religious
congregation founded by Mgr. De Piro became known on obtaining
pontificial status in 1973, will be celebrating the 90th year
of its foundation. The MSSP is nowadays also working, according to its
missionary charisma, in Australia, Peru', Pakistan, the US, Canada and
the Philippines while still serving in St. Joseph's Home, Sta Venera,
where it cares for 24 boys and young men continuing in the footsteps of