By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
It was 26 November 1971 when Pope Paul VI, a long-time friend of the Pauline Family, left the Vatican to make a rare private visit. His destination was the bedside of Father James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family, who died later that day at 6:30pm. The words Pope Paul had spoken just over two years earlier, on 28 June 1969, when he conferred on Alberione the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice cross, say everything that can be said about this great man.
“There he is: humble, silent, tireless, always vigilant, recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to action; always intent on scrutinizing the ‘signs of the times,' that is, the most creative ways to reach souls. Our Fr. Alberione has given the Church new instruments with which to express herself, new means to give vigor and breadth to her apostolate, new capacities and a new awareness of the validity and possibilities of his mission in the modern world with modern means. Dear Fr. Alberione, allow the Pope to rejoice in your long, faithful and tireless work and in the fruits it has produced for the glory of God and the good of the Church.”
Media apostle vocation in the making
As a sixteen-year-old seminarian in 1900, James Alberione found himself on probation in the seminary in Alba, Italy, after having been kicked out of the minor seminary of Bra. The night between December 31, 1900 and January 1, 1901 was the turning point of his life. As this teenage son of peasant farmers prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral of Alba:
What this “something” was became gradually clearer to him shortly after he was ordained in 1907. He himself attested that he originally thought of founding “a Catholic organization of writers, technical people, book-sellers and retailers; Catholics to whom he would give direction, work and a spirit of apostolate…”. But in 1910, he was convinced that the Lord wanted these “professionals” to be men and women religious.
Modern world…modern means
After that, Father Alberione’s life was characterized by a series of foundations that would eventually stretch beyond Italy and encompass the entire world. As Pope Paul VI said, Father Alberione’s vision was rooted in the present. His life was spent forming “new apostles” in order to give the Church “fresh impetus to mission”. Where others in the Church saw the modern means of communication as a threat, he would adopt them, one after the other as they were invented, for the purpose of evangelization.
Gradually, members of the institutes of priests, brothers and women religious he founded spread throughout the world: Europe, South America, North America, Asia, Africa. Members of the Society of Saint Paul and Daughters of Saint Paul would eventually establish publishing houses, recording companies, chains of book stores, film agencies, offering their media products to people in their homes, in schools, in parishes. The Pious Disciples of the Divine Master would adopt every means to communicate the riches of the Church’s liturgy through the making of vestments, statuary, mosaics, icons, and designing churches. Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd would soon be found in parishes, providing evangelization, catechesis, liturgical animation, formation of pastoral associates, and other forms of service, according to the needs of the times and places. The Sisters of the Queen of Apostles would eventually take their place in the Church, accompanying young people on their vocational search.
But Alberione was not content with focusing on forming priests, and men and women religious. His vision incorporated diocesan priests and laity as well through four secular institutes and an association for lay collaborators. Uniting the thousands of men and women who today belong to the various institutes of the Pauline Family is the desire to proclaim Christ through the most modern means of communication. Together, they strive to realize the vision of Blessed Alberione who wanted them to be Saint Paul alive again.
Celebrating Alberione’s life and legacy
Throughout the month of November, the Pauline Family and the Church is celebrating the life and legacy the Lord has given the Church through Blessed James Alberione. A series of events planned during the month gets underway on 1 November. Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, will celebrate Mass during which Blessed James Alberione’s remains will be transferred from the crypt of the Queen of Apostles Shrine to the main floor of the church. Cardinal Marcello Semeraro will join the Pauline Family in bringing the celebrations to an end on the liturgical feast of Blessed Alberione, 26 November. All events will be live streamed on YouTube. The concluding event can also be seen live right here at Vatican News.