Bishop William Giaquinta
Founder of the
Pro Sanctity Family
Pro Sanctity’s First
Midwest Regional Convention
July 26, 1998
Presentation on Bishop William Giaquinta
· who he was
3. Relevance of His Spirituality in Today’s World
4. Points of Reflection
· Is born in Noto (Syracuse, Italy) on June 25, 1914. His parents are Gaetano Giaquinta and Maria Avolio. He is the third of four children (one brother, Rocco, and two sisters, Dina and Tina). He is baptized in the Church of St. Michael.
· His family moves to Rome when he was 9, but William remains in Noto. He rejoines his family in 1925, when he was 11.
· On December 15, 1927 William enters the Minor Seminary in Rome, St. Apollinare. His parents enroll him in the “school for priests” so William would learn to study and obey…(William, instead of going to school, was collecting stamps for the missions until he was caught! Later on, when sharing with us about his life, Bishop Giaquinta told us that as he entered St. Apollinare, he knew that this was the place where he was meant to be and that he would be a priest! This awareness and certainty of the call never left him). In the Minor Seminary he develops a great love for Our Lady of Perseverance. He continues his formation in the Major Seminary by St. John Lateran where his profound love for Our Lady of Trust matures.
· On March 18, 1939 William is ordained a priest. His holy card says, “O good Jesus, form me according to your heart” (O bone Jesus, fac mihi secundum cor tuum).
· On March 19, 1939 he celebrates his First Mass in the Church of St. Helen in Rome.
· In 1939 he continues his studies at the Pontifical Juridical Institute; in 1943 he earns the degree in Canon Law “cum laude ab utroque.”
· From June 1942 to November 4, 1949 he is Assistant Pastor at the Parish of “Madonna dei Monti” (Our Lady of Mountains) at the Esquilin Hill. He is also appointed Spiritual Director of the Youth Catholic Action. He starts his ministry of hearing confessions and of spiritual direction and remains faithful to this ministry for 26 years, until he becomes bishop and moves to Tivoli. He spends over 18 hours every week in the confessional!
· In 1945 he starts to work in the Vicariate of Rome. He is Judicial Vicar from 1945 to 1955; Substitute of the Vicariate and Director of the Discipline Office from 1955 to 1961; General Secretary from 1961 to 1968. He is totally at the service of the diocese of Rome.
· In 1946 he is appointed Diocesan Spiritual Assistant of the Women’s Catholic Action.
· Through his years of ministry as confessor and spiritual director, Fr. Giaquinta experiences the spiritual thirst of people, their hunger for God and His ways. He sees the need for an apostolate aiming at helping people come in touch with their spiritual thirst, and offering them opportunities to quench their thirst by living an authentic Christian life, and thus respond to the call to “be holy as Our Heavenly Father is holy” (Mt 8:48).
· In 1947 he founds the Pro Sanctity Movement whose members strive to live holy lives and offer means to spread the call to holiness among people. Seventeen years before the Universal Call to Holiness becomes the official doctrine of the Church, documented by Vatican II in chapter V of the Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), he speaks of, believes in, and teaches the call of all people to sanctity of life.
· On February 11, 1949 Msgr. Giaquinta is appointed Rector of the Church Our Lady of Loreto (La Madonna di Loreto) at the Roman Forum. He remains at Our Lady of Loreto until 1968.
· On May 1st 1950 he founds the Institute of the Apostolic Oblates, a Secular Institute for women, now of Pontifical Right. In 1962 he founds the Apostolic Sodales, a Secular Institute for Diocesan Priests; in 1969 the Organization of Social Brotherhood and in 1972 the Social Animators, an ecclesial Organization for men.
· Can a fire burning in the heart be contained? To go, to announce the message of love… Msgr. Giaquinta founds Pro Sanctity Centers and Bethanies (houses of fraternal life for the Apostolic Oblates) in Catania, Palermo, Pescara, Imperia, Brescia… The Italian boundaries are too narrow for the message of universal sanctification. On May 24, 1962 the horizon widens with the going to the United States: first Los Angeles, California, then Brooklyn, New York, and afterwards Omaha, Nebraska. In 1965 he opens a center in Bruxelles, Belgium. In 1971 the Pro Sanctity message reaches Gozo and Malta. In January 1973 Msgr. Giaquinta goes to India and on May 7, 1975 a center of spirituality is open in Kottayam, in South India.
· On September 24, 1968 the Holy Father, Paul VI, nominates Msgr. Giaquinta Titular Bishop of Carini and Apostolic Administrator of Tivoli. He accepts this precious gift with a heart of a shepherd, grateful to serve the Church he always loved, and to make the bond of fidelity with the Holy Father stronger. On November 1st 1968, Solemnity of All Saints, Msgr. Giaquinta is ordained Bishop by Cardinal Angelo Dell’Acqua, General Vicar of His Holiness. He is installed on November 17, 1968. His coat of arm: a stormy sea, a boat sailing, a star, with the words, “DUC IN ALTUM” (Put out into deep waters) Lk 5:4.
· Bishop Giaquinta loves his local Church in the manner of Christ, as a bride, ready to sacrifice his own life. He guides his diocese with a shepherd’s love and as a father: with insight, care and wisdom. All those in Tivoli who have the opportunity to know him and enjoy his presence, experience how profound, generous and active his dedication as Bishop is. He cultivates a love of God, a love of Christ, a love of the Church and a love for one another by his homilies, pastoral letters, and personal pleas to both the faithful and the clergy.
· He is very involved in the Italian Episcopal Conference. In 1969 he is chosen to participate in a Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Nations at Coira in Switzerland on “The Priest in a Changing World.” In 1970 he goes to Malta for the First International Congress on “The Distribution of the Clergy in the World.” He is elected President of the Commission for the Clergy, and served in this position for several years. In 1972 he promotes research on the “condition of the Clergy.”
· On February 1972, His Holiness Paul VI appoints him Ordinary of Tivoli. On November 1st, 1983 “DUC IN ALTUM” is published. The volume presents the life of the Diocesan Community and of its Bishop, His Excellency Msgr. William Giaquinta, from 1968 to 1983.
· These years are marked by the cross; a cross he embraces with love and out of love in the name of that paternity which he asks for as a gift from the Lord, on the day of his installation at Tivoli. He is sick, but continues to serve his diocese.
· His health worsens, and on November 1st 1986 he presents his resignation as Bishop of Tivoli to the Holy Father John Paul II, who accepts his resignation on June 25, 1987.
· From 1987 to 1994 Bishop Giaquinta spends his time assisting and leading all the branches of the Pro Sanctity Family. The tenderness of God the Father, whom he loves tenderly, shines through his life which is wholly oriented toward the encounter with God-Love.
· On June 15, 1994 Bishop Giaquinta’ self-offering for the holiness of humanity reaches the final stage. His death is a personal expression of his submission to and love of the adorable will of God.
· On Saturday, June 18, 1994 the burial Mass is celebrated in St. John Lateran even though Bishop Giaquinta is Bishop Emeritus of Tivoli and arrangements are made to have the wake and burial Mass at the Cathedral of Tivoli! This is what the Vice-Vicar of the Vicariate of Rome says at the beginning of the service:
“The decision to have the burial Mass here prevailed
because the Archbasilica - St. John Lateran-
mother of all Churches which embraces them all,
is a symbol of the Church of Rome in which Bishop
Giaquinta, coming from his native Sicily, was
canonically incardinated. He gave himself
totally to the Church of Rome… Here he formed
himself to the priesthood under the maternal
gaze of Mary of Trust. He was a Roman
priest at the service of the diocese, fully
given to the Diocesan Curia, the
Ecclesiastical Tribunal, to the General
Secretariat, to the spiritual guidance of
people - an area of work he favored -
Assistant Pastor at Madonna dei Monti,
Rector of Madonna di Loreto at Traian
Forum, Diocesan Spiritual Director of
the Catholic Action, giving himself
tirelessly hearing confessions, preaching
retreats, aiming from the very beginning
to affirm and spread the universal call to holiness….”
· On December 12, 1995 the Vicariate of Rome approves a prayer for the glorification of Bishop Giaquinta.
Who He Was
· He was a man of keen intelligence and strong will; of reflection, vision and enterprise; reserved and austere (his appearance seemed severe; however, he was actually an attentive listener and people were attracted by his personality and spirituality). He was a man of culture, and a lover of the truth. He liked to study, to research, to discover. He was well educated; had many interestssuch as: languages (he was fluent in Italian, French, German, English, Latin, and knew Greek and Hebrew well); reading and writing literature and poetry; music; traveling; sports (soccer, Ping-Pong, basketball). Open to God and to what was going on in the world, he was a dynamic person with goals and projects. Down through the years, his strong personality became meek, humble, transparent. He was always in search of the “adorable will of God.”
· He had another gift : the ability to read the signs of the times. He looked at the events of the world, society, Church, Institute, etc. as kairos - -time of the Lord, time of graces that needed to be discovered, unfolded, embraced. Hence his prophetic horizons, his creativity in proposing and in planning, his loving “yes,” his “standing” by the cross awaiting the surprises of the Lord.
· He was a man of prayer and contemplation: he would get up at 4:30 a.m. to pray, meditate, study, and prepare the retreats that he would preach during the year. He lived the “contemplata aliis tradere” (to give to others the fruit of one’s contemplation) before proposing it to others.
· He was a man of great ideals: he dreamed of the civilization of love, a world of “All Saints, All Brothers and Sisters,” and gave his contribution for enhancing the coming of God’s kingdom with his unceasing prayer, a life of sacrifice and love, intense apostolic activity, missionary care, pastoral concern.
· He was an apostle of interior life. He was always available to hear confessions, he was an attentive and efficacious spiritual director. He was an untiring preacher and teacher. He conducted many retreats and spiritual exercises: over 50 retreats for the laity; 34 for the Apostolic Oblates - - each retreat with 4 45minutes meditations per day, 14 meditations altogether with the last meditation always dedicated to our Lady; 30 for priests (in 1973 he preached a retreat to the Bishops of Triveneto, in North Italy. The future Pope John Paul I, the then-Patriarch of Venice, was among the participants). He led days of prayer and recollection, adoration, round-table sharing; gave conferences to help all cultivate and develop their interior life. In all his ministry he brought the richness of his keen intelligence and solid theological formation, always strong in his faith and faithful servant to the truth, as well as a witness of loyalty to the Pope and to the Magisterium. “Sentire cum Petro” (to be one with Peter) was a point of reference his entire life and the sure guarantee of being in accord with the truth.
· He was a prophet of the call to holiness. He had a great passion for the holiness of people. He understood holiness as a life of love in all its dimensions - - personal, family, at work, social - - and he witnessed and taught it.
· He was a faithful and disciplined priest, attentive to living his priesthood fully in the footsteps of Christ. “A month before he became very ill, one day in Chapel he said, ‘How I wish to live fully this experience: the poverty of the cave of Bethlehem, the charity of the Cenacle and of the Eucharist, and then this consuming of oneself to the point of giving my life for all on the cross.’ He then added something very meaningful, ‘Perhaps you have not noticed that the Crucifix we have in the Chapel is turned toward the window, not toward the inside of the Chapel…; what would have seemed a mistake is rather meaningful for us, because poverty, charity and consuming of oneself take us toward the world, that is outside the window, in that space of redemption that is humanity’ ” (Il Domani Ci Attende, p. 335-336)
· We have many pictures of Bishop Giaquinta - while he is praying, writing, preaching, eating, playing, talking; pictures with the Holy Father, Mother Teresa, the Oblates, Pro Sanctity Movement, etc. There is, however, a picture that was never taken but that remains in the heart of those who assisted him during his last days: Bishop Giaquinta in bed with his hand on the Liturgy of the Hours! A gesture of fidelity to his priestly prayer life. Without strength, or voice, yet he wanted to pray the Liturgy; when it was impossible, he “found consolation” touching the Liturgy of the Hours. He was faithful to the end.
· The last phase of the life of Bishop Giaquinta had been the most painful and yet the brightest, even in the suffering he had to endure. He suffered peacefully and gracefully until he died on June 15, 1994 at 1:41p.m., when he returned to Our Father’s Home. With Jesus, the humble servant of Yahweh, he offered himself by welcoming physical weakness, limitations and pain with an invincible meekness and patience, leaving to all who knew him an unforgettable witness and legacy of life.
· We, Apostolic Oblates and Pro Sanctity Family, received from Bishop Giaquinta the gift of a life filled with love, patience, oblation, and of unceasing prayer until the end of his life.
· The life of Bishop Giaquinta is a reference point and an example from which we draw peace and joy which come from the Lord. Bishop Giaquinta lived indeed the words of Paul, “who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8:35)
“Many times during the long years we spent with him,
listening to his words, reiterating, over and over again,
the marvelous love of God and observing his untiring
and creative apostolic efforts, we grasped his earnest
desire to surrender, unconditionally, his entire life
to the love of Christ and to make of every moment
an act of self-oblation to the Father, in union with
the Lord Jesus, so that every person could know,
be receptive to and live God’s love.”
The Spirituality of Bishop William Giaquinta
· Is based on a solid biblical and theological foundation.
· Is Trinitarian (see Prayers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); Christological (see “Jesus”, “I Thirst”); Eucharistic (see “Jesus, Bread of Life,” “Eucharistic Jesus”); Marian (see Prayers to Mary); Ecclesial (see “I Believe”)
· Is geared toward the sanctification of the world. “We have to know, love, understand, and help the world, like Jesus who loved the world so much”
· Is for all! The core of his spirituality is the mystery of God-love and of God’s love for us, for each person. “The mystery of God’s love for us demands adoration, not understanding.” In one of his beautiful prayers he says, “…I gaze on you: but the more I gaze, the less I understand” (Prayers, “The Christ of Obedience”)
· He grounded his spirituality on the following Scripture’s passages:
· John 4:8 “God is love”
· John 3:16 “Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son”
· 1 John 3:1 “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are!”
· John 10:10 “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full”
· Gal 2:20 “He loved me, and gave himself up for me”
· 1 John 4:19 “We are to love God, then, because He first loved us”
· Deut. 6:5 “Therefore, you shall love the Lord our God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength” (the all, Bishop Giaquinta explains, is a “personal all”: the all of a child, of a youth, an adult, a senior. We have to give our all to God)
· “You Have loved Me From Eternity” and “Tell Me, My Lord” (see Prayers) definehis spirituality and his longing for the Father.
· His spiritual journey follows this path:
What did he find?
· The mystery of love
· Redemptive Love
· Jesus’ Thirst.
What was his response?
· A life of love, contemplation, self-giving
· Full availability (a key word in his life) to his life as a priest, a bishop, and a founder
· Total adherence to God’s will
· A life of intense apostolate
· Bishop Giaquinta’s writings clearly express his spirituality and the journey he followed. On April 1, 1981, he gave a presentation to a group of intellectuals. He concluded his presentation, which was entitled “The Mystery of the Presence” with the following words which describe the restless, search, and finding of his spiritual journey.
“I was restless searching for the Infinite…I understood, actually I experienced, that in this world, here and now, it is possible to encounter the mystery of the Unknown.
I would like to call out to everyone - to the world, the entire globe, the cosmos - so that they would join me in this encounter with the mystery. To tell everyone about the mystery of the Infinite, burning with the blazing fire of Christ, evangelizing with the liberating words of Paul, loving with the heart of a universal brother like Francis of Assisi and Charles De Foucald, using all the mass media available…
I would like to shout to all, so that they would join me in the chorus. I have won my anguish, my restlessness because I knocked at the door of mystery and the Mystery not only answered me, but gave me the certainty that one day its door will be opened wide and I will enter into the Light. I will penetrate into the mystery of that God who, while remaining ever more mystery, will quench our thirst for light and love.”
“Lord Jesus, I want my life to be
a faithful reflection of your life.
I wish to abandon myself to the Father’s will,
detached from my whole being,
offered to you, in order to be an instrument
for the holiness of others”
(Prayers, “Priestly Commitment”)
Relevance of Bishop Giaquinta’s Spirituality
in Today’s World
· Bishop Giaquinta was an optimist… by grace. He believed in the goodness of human beings, affirmed the positive and made a point of identifying signs of hope in events and situations.
· Many times we heard him point out the problems in our culture - - materialism, hedonism, secularism - - along with the signs of hope present in today’s world. In his Apostolic Letter “As the Third Millennium Draws near” published on November 10,1994 Pope John Paul II listed the following signs of hope.
· In society in general: scientific/technological advancements, especially medical progress; environmental stewardship; peace and justice; solidarity among people, especially between North and South
· In the Church : “greater attention to the voice of the Spirit through the acceptance of charisms and the promotion of the laity; deeper commitment to Christian unity; increased dialogue with other religions and contemporary culture” (“As the Third Millennium Draws Near”, 46)
· Contemporary Americans have six spiritual needs according to George Gallup Princeton Religion research:
1. The need to believe that life is meaningful and has a purpose
2. The need for a sense of community and deeper relationship
3. The need to be appreciated and respected
4. The need to be listened to - to be heard
5. The need to feel that one is growing in faith
6. The need for practical help in developing a mature faith
· Bishop Giaquinta addressed all of these needs through his personal example and his teaching, the Pro Sanctity Movement, and the Institutes he founded.
· He recognized and valued the potential of each person, and offered his hand to lead each one in need to broader horizons.
· He believed that a saint is the one who becomes what the Lord has called him to be. Every personis the projection of God’s love, a son or daughter of the heavenly Father, and a brother or sister to all people. “All Saints, All Brothers and Sisters” was one of his mottoes. A utopia difficult to be fully actualized, but it is a goal for which we strive, knowing that God who “so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (Jn 3:16) will bring to fruition the plan for which every creature longs and strives. This perspective gives meaning and depth to the human person in his or her relationship with God and with others.
· He believed in the sense of community and in family spirit.
· Here are a few of the many slogans Msgr. Giaquinta used to say:
“A thin thread intertwined with many others becomes a strong rope”
“A single match is only a small flame, but if everyone in the room lights
a match, the room will become bright”
“The unity of the small creates the great.”
· Bishop Giaquinta established structures conducive to prayer, to self-knowledge and self-giving; he offered means to help people develop a mature faith, and grow in holiness.
Points For Reflection
· How is my journey of faith-hope-and love going? Is Christ the Center of my life? Am I dormant or awake? Am I determined to seek and to find what God wants from me? Am I ready to embrace His will and let Him “use” me the way He wants?
· Do I know my limitations? Do I accept them? Do I become frustrated or discouraged by them? Do I know that God loves me and wants me happy and fully alive? Am I aware that whatever happens in my life, even the most painful and humiliating situations, come from the hands of our loving God who allows them as an opportunity for purification and an occasion of growth and holiness?
· Do I accept the fatigue and the demands of daily work with a Christian attitude, that is, with the awareness that through work I become the extension of God’s creating action, and that I imitate the laborious poverty of Jesus and share in His redemptive act?
· Do I strive to perform my daily tasks with fidelity and a sense of responsibility? Do I make of my work an authentic means of holiness? Do I ask Jesus that I may be for others - members of my family, friends, fellow workers- His light, His Heart, His hands? Do I help others to be their best and strive toward holiness?
· Am I open to the Spirit? How am I responding to the invitation of the Holy Father to live this year 1998 with “a renewed appreciation of the presence and the activity of the Holy Spirit, and of the theological virtue of hope?” Have I made “a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God’s plan?”