Blessed Joseph Allamano, a missionary for the whole world
This year for the 81st time the penultimate Sunday of October (Oct. 21) will be celebrated as World Mission Day. A little calculation leads us to the conclusion that the first World Mission Day was celebrated in October 1926, eight months after the death of Blessed Joseph Allamano. This is not a simple coincidence because Joseph Allamano dedicated a great deal of his time and influence during the last years of his life to the effort of creating awareness in the Church about the need for a World Mission Day to be celebrated once a year by all catholics.
This was in line with his vision that Missions and missionary work were the duty of every baptized believer, each one according to his abilities and possibilities but none exempted. Allamano did not see here on earth the fulfilment of his efforts for the creation of this day of prayer and commitment, but witnessed it from heaven.
He can be compared to Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a saint he especially admired and proposed as patron to his missionaries, who in his time insisted tirelessly on the need to create in Rome a Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples and died a martyr of the faith in April 1622, three months before the creation of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide (for the Propagation of the Faith).
For Allamano it was not simply a question of awakening the missionary zeal in others; he always looked at his faith, whatever the circumstances, as a faith to be shared with the entire world. Ordained a priest of the diocese of Turin he began by applying to himself the definition he later presented to his followers: “Every priest is, by his very nature, a missionary. The apostolate among non-christians is the highest degree of the priesthood”. And he would add that even if not everyone is be able to go personally in mission abroad, the eagerness to make the Lord known to all peoples everywhere remains of the essence of any priest’s calling. This is why in the impossibility of going himself to the missions, – his health and his bishop would not allow it – he looked for ways and means of preparing and sending others.
The first two Consolata Missionary priests sent to Kenya in 1902 were in fact diocesan priests who had learned from Allamano that every priest by virtue of his ordination has the whole world as his diocese, thus preceding by 55 years the great encyclical letter Fidei Donum of Pope Pius XII written in 1957 to the diocesan clergy of the whole Church with the insistence on the need and the duty to go beyond the borders of one’s diocese as heralds of God’s saving love made visible in Jesus Christ.
In 2007, 105 years after the arrival in Kenya of those two members of the diocesan clergy, Pope Benedict XVI writes to the whole Church a message entitled “all the Churches for all the world” a theme which was quite familiar to Joseph Allamano for whom indeed it is the duty of all the members of the Church to pray and act with the aim of making sure that, as Paul says, “everyone is saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Allamano would indeed happily subscribe to this message for Mission Sunday 2007, thus setting himself above the views and choices of his time when it was considered that the evangelization of the whole world was a special feud of a few holy adventurers of the faith.
He would subscribe especially to the message’s statement that “every Christian community is born missionary, and it is exactly on the basis of the courage to evangelize that the love of believers for their Lord is measured”.
Blessed Allamano lived by the standards of this tenet and in fact one day in Rome when a Cardinal praised him and his missionaries for their enthusiasm he simply answered “It’s a duty! One shouldn’t be a priest if he doesn’t want to feel zeal for souls!” As a diocesan priest, appointed Rector of a Shrine dedicated to Our Lady Consolata in Turin, he rendered his “zeal for souls” quite evident in every possible way, including the foundation and consolidation of two missionary families with Kenya and Africa as their first mission field but also open to the wider world because, as he put it: “I won’t be here then, but maybe you’ll also go to Japan, China and Tibet … You should imitate St. Francis Xavier who wanted to convert the whole world”. His missionary families are not yet in China or Tibet, but they are already in South Korea and Mongolia.
My prayer is that Blessed Joseph Allamano, priest and missionary for the entire world, may bless our parish community during this month of October and increase our zeal and determination to make our treasure, the Gospel, available to all.
Fr. Tobias de Oliveira