Saint of the Day – 7 September – Blessed Giovanni Battista Mazzucconi (1826-1855) aged 29, Martyr, Priest, Missionary of The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME – from the Latin Pontificium Institutum Missionum Exterarum) – born on 1 March 1826 in Rancio di Lecco, Italy and died on 7 September 1855 in Woodlark Island, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Patronages – Persecuted Christian, Missionaries and the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission. Blessed Giovanni has a second Memorial on 10 September in the Ambrosian rite in Milan.
The ninth of the 12 children of Giacomo and Anna Maria Scuri Mazzucconi studied in the seminaries of Monza and Milan. He commenced his studies for the priesthood in 1845 and with several seminarians he underwent a course of spiritual exercises. It was at one such retreat that he met the Father Superior who served in India. This encounter had a profound effect on Mazzucconi who started to cultivate a desire to become a member of a group of missionaries. His desire was intensified in 1850 when Pope Pius IX asked the Milanese bishops to establish a workshop for the preparation of people for the missions.
In the meantime Giovanni was ordained on 25 May 1850 and the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) was established with apostolic approval. Two months later in July 1850, Mazzucconi received an invitation from Msgr Angelo Ramazzotti to become a charter member of the PIME, together with Father Salerio, three other clergymen (Timoleone Raimondi, Angelo Ambrosoli and Paolo Reina) and two catechists (Giuseppe Corti and Luigi Tacchini).
They embarked for Australia in March 1852. There two groups were established, one for the Island of Rook and the other to Woodlark Island. They intended to go first to Oceania. Following a three-month journey, the missionaries arrived on 25 July 1852, in Australia, where they studied the language and customs of New Guinea under the tutelage of a Marist for two months.
Upon their arrival at Woodlark Island on 28 October 1852, the mission was divided into three groups with Mazzucconi, Reina, a catechist and their Marist mentor continuing to Rook Island, where they worked for two years under difficult conditions. It was there that Giovanni immersed himself in the culture of the natives but the weather cut his studies short and he became ill and was sent to Sydney for treatment.
Upon his recovery, he sailed on 18 August 1855, back to Woodlark not knowing that his companions had abandoned the mission stations at Woodlark and Rook. When his schooner ran aground on a coral reef, the natives ambushed him and he was killed with an axe by one of the locals. He had approached them but the native nearest him struck him on the head with an axe. He died of his wounds. Eight months later Father Raimondi led an expedition to find Mazzucconi and learned of his martyrdom.
The beatification process commenced in Milan and finally, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints discussed the cause and came to the belief that Giovanniwas killed in hatred of the faith. St Pope John Paul II approved these findings and Beatified him on 19 February 1984.
Blessed Giovanni, writing just before his last missionary journey:
Tomorrow I will embark and Saturday, the day after tomorrow, I will already be on the high seas on my way to Woodlark. This year, when I sailing to Sydney, on Wednesday of Holy Week, we were overtaken by a hurricane that ripped our sails and snapped our ropes and the top half of a mast. It then drove us hither and thither all over the sea without direction and with little hope, for four days, until the Easter sun shone again like some new thing above us and we were truly like people raised from the dead.
Well, that God who saved me then will be with me again in this journey and if I do not abandon Him, He will be with me always and while He is with me everything that can happen to me will always be a grace, a blessing for which I should thank Him. If in danger He wants to withdraw, or pretends to be asleep on the bow of the ship, like the Apostle, I will go to wake Him and let Him see my danger. And then, if He does not want to listen, I will say – Lord, command me to come to You and my soul will walk on the waters, it will go to His feet and be content forever.
I do not know what He is preparing for me in the journey I begin tomorrow. I know one thing only, if He is good and loves me immensely, everything else – calm or storm, danger or safety, life or death, are merely changeable and passing expressions of the beloved immutable, eternal Love. Yes, my beloved brethren, we have another country, another home, a kingdom where we must all meet, where there will no longer be separations or departures, where past sorrows and danger will merely serve to increase our consolation and glory.