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Biography of Blessed Marcantonio Durando


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Biography of Blessed Marcantonio Durando, C.M.

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Biography of Blessed Marcantonio Durando

  1. 1. Blessed Marcantonio Durando, C.M. “the little St. Vincent of Italy”
  2. 2. His family, childhood and youth The Durandos were a respected and wealthy family in Mondovì Ten children, two died in infancy Marcantonio was born on 22 May 1801 The family atmosphere was one of liberalism tainted with secularism The mother, Angela Vinaj, however, was very religious and rich in Christian virtues Attended diocesan seminary in Mondovì at age 14; departed for the novitiate of the Priests of the Mission, at age 17 Mondovì, Italy
  3. 3. Young Priest Decided to join the Congregation of the Mission because he wanted to be a missionary in China This was not granted by his superiors, who wanted him to stay at home for the ministry of parish missions and clergy retreats His preparation, his interior life and his eloquence all contributed to the reinvigoration of these two primary ministries of the Congregation in the Piedmont region of Italy
  4. 4. Electrifying Preacher Here is what one person said about the mission in Sommaria, in the diocese of Turin: “The sermons were given by Fr. Durando. There was a huge attendance at the exercises; the taverns were more or less closed for the duration; confessions began on the fourth day of the mission, and there were so many penitents that 17 confessors, hearing continuously, could not meet the need and many people had to go to neighbouring parishes […] On 9 February Fr. Durando preached on perseverance; it is impossible for us to describe the emotion which was seen in the huge crowd at the preacher’s farewell. No one present could restrain the weeping; tears and choking sobs broke out to such an extent…” Painting: En Misa (detail), by José Gallegos y Arnosa
  5. 5. Early Work Fr. Durando spent six years at this work of missions and retreats. In 1830 he was appointed superior of the house in Turin. He turned the Turin house into a building used for one of the ministries most dear to St. Vincent and most typical of his Community: clergy conferences and retreats for both clergy and laity. He was in great demand throughout Turin as a counsellor and director of conscience. The archbishop, King Carlo Alberto and other prominent persons went to him for advice and guidance.
  6. 6. Influencer The Vincentian house in Turin became a focal point for the clergy of the city and all of Piedmont. The best known persons in that remarkable period of Turin saints, knew it and came often to it for prayerful recollection, to obtain advice, to come to decisions: St. Benedetto Cottolengo, St. Giuseppe Cafasso, St. John Bosco, St. Leonardo Murialdo, Bl. Giuseppe Allamano, and numberless others, who have enriched the diocese, and beyond, by a huge number of useful and holy undertakings.
  7. 7. Director of the Daughters of Charity He worked hard to bring the Daughters of Charity to Italy. On 16 May 1833 the first two French Daughters arrived in Turin. There was a rapid increase in vocations. Fr. Durando identified with St. Vincent’s spirit in directing the Daughters; he refused no venture, no matter how risky: military field hospitals, etc. King Carlo Alberto handed the keys of the huge San Salvario convent over to the Daughters of Charity. It became their Provincial House, large enough for all their works. Today it is still a testament to the appreciation of the King for the Vincentian Community and Fr. Durando.
  8. 8. The Mercy Units The Mercy Units (Le Misericordie), in Turin, were a network of works of charity to which the poor could freely come, knowing that they would be welcomed and helped. They were the main work of the Ladies of Charity, who supported them financially. The Daughters of Charity were the arm which pushed them forward, but Blessed Durando was the mind behind it. At the Mercy Units, poor persons found not only hot soup in winter, a wardrobe of clothes to choose from, and basic medical treatment, but also often a job. Above all, though, what they encountered was so much Christian friendliness and charity.
  9. 9. The Children of Mary in Italy In the Miraculous Medal apparitions in Paris in 1830 Our Lady asked St. Catherine Labouré for this Association. Its purpose was not precisely charity towards the poor, but rather the Christian and Marian formation of youth. It was introduced into Italy by Fr. Durando in 1856. Fr. Durando had powerful help from his confreres in this ministry. In every centre for young people run by the Daughters of Charity, an association of the Children of Mary was set up. The associations had a profound effect on the spiritual formation of the young. They were real seedbeds of religious vocations, of devout mothers of families, and of women apostles in everyday life. JMV Italia (Puglia). Source:
  10. 10. Visitor of Province of Upper Italy In 1837 he was appointed Visitor of the Province of Upper Italy (Lombardy). In those days, such an appointment, and for someone so young, was definitely unusual. It showed the reputation he had built as superior of the house in Turin. Fr. Durando had to travel a worrying and painful Way of the Cross because of the upheaval caused by the suppression of religious communities on 3 July 1866. The anti-Catholic, Freemasonic government of Italy seized all their property, houses, and possessions. This meant that Durando had to buy back, in various ways, each confiscated house, one by one.
  11. 11. During the “Troubles” of the Italian Risorgimento The events of the Risorgimento (political and social movement that consolidated states of the Italian peninsula into a single Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century) involved Fr. Durando, because his brother was General Giovanni Durando, a dissenter who heroically led the Pontifical Army in the first war of independence… his other brother was General Giacomo Durando, a journalist and minister in the Rattazzi government who supported repressive laws on church property and the operation of religious communities. Fr. Durando never gave up on admonishing his brothers when they took extreme positions He wished for a restoration of Italy’s greatness La battaglia di Calatafimi (detail), by R. Legat
  12. 12. Founder of the Nazarene Sisters Church law at that time forbade anyone born outside of a Catholic marriage to enter religious life. Fr. Durando was in contact with many institutions for orphan girls, or girls of illegitimate birth— excellent young women, educated by the sisters, who felt called to the religious life. Many times he tried, without success, to have them accepted into various communities. He resolved this situation with the same courage and initiative which he had shown in sending sisters onto the battlefield: he founded a new community together with Mother Luigia Borgiotti— the Daughters of the Passion of Jesus the Nazarene. They are still existing and active, now known more simply as the Nazarene Sisters.
  13. 13. Ministry of the Nazarene Sisters Following St. Vincent’s way of acting, Fr. Durando waited for signs of divine Providence. At that time poor people ended their lives in hospital, where they were given dedicated spiritual help. On the other hand, better off people were cared for at home, and normally did not meet either priests or nuns. The ministry of the Nazarene Sisters, helping the sick in their homes, night and day, greatly helped save many souls. There were various famous and legendary conversions of important persons, who ended their days totally changed. As well as ministry to the sick, and to abandoned babies, Fr. Durando also introduced the Sisters to devotion to the Passion of Jesus. He also spread this devotion among the general public. Mother Luigia Borgiotti, leader of the Nazarene Sisters
  14. 14. Commitment to Missionaries It was not God’s will that Fr. Durando should go to China, as he had hoped, but he supported, and got his confreres and others to support, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Once he succeeded in raising 20.000 lire. He agreed to send priests to Ethiopia. Many missionaries from his province left for Syria, Abyssinia, North America, Brazil and China, with excellent results. The missionaries from Turin, with Felix de Andreis, were among the founders of the Vincentian Provinces in the USA.
  15. 15. The “little St. Vincent of Italy” Fr. Marcantonio Durando was: an initiator of a great number of projects a person to whom people went, or should have gone, to seek advice, to learn what path to take a role model to be imitated a person of innate ability and deep spirituality a person who found himself caught up in an endless round of entanglements to be unravelled, due to his family’s involvement in the political scene, his large circle of friends, his own community, the diocesan structures, other religious communities and difficult relations with the civil authorities.
  16. 16. The “little St. Vincent of Italy” Thus Fr. Durando needed to have the virtues of courtesy, gentleness and humility, but also strength and firmness, and it is well known that the latter two virtues are less welcomed by people than the former ones. And there were times when he was not appreciated. Like so many other people he had to put up with the bitter taste of not being understood and of unsympathetic opinions. There were, also, times when he felt discouraged.
  17. 17. The “little St. Vincent of Italy” His health showed all the signs of frailty, yet he reached his 80th year. Stooped though age, seated in an armchair, he still retained his cheerful and kind expression. His desk was still strewn with letters to be dealt with. He died around one-thirty on 10 December, 1880.
  18. 18. The “little St. Vincent of Italy” Fr. Giovanni Rinaldi, superior of the Casa della Pace in Chieri, remarked: “We have lost another St Vincent.” This notion was well received by all the Vincentians, and it became widely accepted that Fr. Marcantonio Durando should be seen as another St. Vincent. In actual fact, if one looks well at his personality, his style of intervention, his way of dealing with affairs, his skill in interpreting St. Vincent’s thought and putting it into practice, one can only endorse this idea.
  19. 19. Source: Vincentiana, 2009. Written by a group of Nazarene Sisters, Turin, Italy. Translator: Thomas Davitt, C.M. Full article at