The Doctrinarians in Italy
a brief history… of five centuries

On June 28, 1664, the Doctrinarians of the Province of Avignon, France, opened a college with schools of grammar, rhetoric and philosophy in Sospello, a mountain village in the diocese of Ventimiglia. Thus the Congregation expands in Italy and in 1683 they open two houses in Ivrea. In 1701 it was the turn of a small college in Ferentillo, near Terni, followed by the opening of other colleges in Ronciglione (Viterbo) and San Marino, and the seminaries of Spoleto and Bevagna in Umbria.

In 1706, the Municipality of Civitavecchia invited the Doctrinarians Fathers to settle in the city, while in 1710, at the request of Prince Pamphili, the Congregation took over the direction of the seminary of Sant’Agnese, in Piazza Navona in Rome. The seminary and the parish of San Nicola degli Incoronati are the first activities in the Eternal City. In 1726 Benedict XIII entrusts the Doctrinarians with the church of Santa Maria in Monticelli, in the heart of Rome. In fact, the Pope knows that in the “Regola” neighborhood, where the church is located, there are people who need moral and religious instruction.
Thus was born the fourth Province of the Congregation, called Roman, formed by all the houses in the Italian States of that time: the Kingdom of Savoy, that of Naples and the Papal States. In 1725 Benedict XIII, in order to foster the development of the institutions of Christian Doctrine, on his own initiative and authority, with the consent of those concerned, united the Congregation of Naples with that of Avignon. The Pope detached from the Province of Avignon all the colleges located on this side of the Alps: the houses of Ferentino (Vt), Ronciglione (Vt), Civitavecchia (Rm), San Martino, Sospello (today in France), Ivrea (To), the seminaries of Bevagna and Spoleto in Umbria and, in 1726, the house of Santa Maria in Monticelli in Rome and unites them with the houses of the Congregation of Naples that were located in Laurito (Sa), Laureana (Sa), Sorbo (Av), San Giovanni in Galdo (Cb) and Caserta, thus forming the Roman Province. The Pope established that Father César had to be recognized as the sole founder of the Congregation, called the “Secular Clerics of the Christian Doctrine of Avignon”.
In 1747 the Congregation grew to include the houses of Sant’Agata in Trastevere, Velletri (Rm), Palestrina (Rm), Orvieto (Tr), Segni (Rm), Rocca Massima (Lt) and Ariccia (Rm).

Arrival in Pontecorvo

The church of San Marco

On the evening of June 22, 1739, two fathers and a brother departed from the house of Santa Maria in Monticelli in Rome, bound for Pontecorvo (Fr). The bishop of Aquino and Pontecorvo, Monsignor Giuseppe De Carolis, after having asked for information from the bishop of Spoleto, in whose diocese the Doctors are in charge of two seminaries, decided to entrust the Fathers with the episcopal seminary. Soon, they accepted the proposal to open a public school and, for this reason, the community was enriched with two more fathers and a brother.
In 1740 they introduced the devotion to Maria Santissima Addolorata and erected the relative Confraternity that the bishop approved four months later. In 1745 they were also entrusted with the parish of San Marco, to which the nearby parish of San Michele Arcangelo was united. The Fathers undertook to build a new church and a college. The new church is completed in 1785, and in it is dedicated an altar to Maria Santissima Addolorata in whose honor is celebrated every Friday and, solemnly, the septenary every year in September, with a procession. Bishop Lucibello, after visiting the community in 1819, wrote to the Provincial Superior of the Doctrinarians: «I am edified by the conduct of these excellent ecclesiastics. They form the finest part of this clergy of mine». In the church of San Marco, St. Leonard of Porto Maurizio is invited to preach and, in 1849, Pius IX is welcomed with great joy by the Doctrinarians. During the Second World War, bombings destroyed the church and the college. The Fathers decided to remain in the midst of the people, exposed to the danger of collapses, the pitfalls of wind, rain and malaria, bringing comfort to the survivors. Father Cesare Centanni, parish priest, and Fathers Quattrino, Conte and Centi, immediately began to clear the rubble and start the reconstruction of the church, the college and the parish house.
The bombing caused the rediscovery of a stone on which is written “PPPPP 1754”, that is “Primi Patres Primam Petram Posuerunt. 1754”, as well as another stone on which is written “PP.DC. 1754”, namely “Patres Doctrinae Christianae 1754”.

Arrival in San Damiano d’Asti

The Jacobin laws, the confiscation of religious property by the State and religious suppression led the surviving Fathers of the Piedmontese Province to use their last savings to purchase a house in San Damiano d’Asti. In this house, owned by the Conti Nuvoli, in 1870 Don Giovanni Bosco met the future Cardinal Gamba, whom the Saint had welcomed as a boy in his oratory in Valdocco. In 1885, Father Giuseppe Giacobbe was appointed vice-rector of this new college, which became the starting point for a flowering of vocations not only for the benefit of the Piedmontese Province but for the entire Congregation. At San Damiano, a church dedicated to Vergine Addolorata the principal patroness of the Congregation, is also built. Inside the church, an altar to St. Michael is placed to keep alive the memory of the Congregation’s foundation. Next to the church, the building was renovated to serve as the novitiate house.

Craviano, hamlet of Govone, Asti

In 1895, the Fathers purchase a Capuchin friary in Craviano and Father Giacobbe does his best to make the house the seat of the Province’s postulancy.

Early twentieth century. From San Damiano to Turin

Parish of Gesù Nazareno, Turin

Father Jacob thinks that, in order to better care for intellectual formation, it is desirable to have a house in Turin…and Providence helps him in this work as well. A few years earlier, an extraordinary event had taken place in the church of Santa Maria in Monticelli in Rome: a painting depicting Jesus Nazarene had repeatedly opened his eyes. This happened in 1854. The painting had been transferred to the high altar of the church for solemn celebrations. After a regular trial at the Vicariate of Rome, on October 17, 1854, Cardinal Costantino Patrizi, Vicar of the City of Rome, issued the following decree: «We have decreed and decreed and judge to be true the movement of the eyes in the remembered image of Jesus Nazarene venerated in the church of Santa Maria in Monticelli, a movement proven and to be counted among the wondrous works of Almighty God and therefore above the order of nature, and therefore for the greater glory of God and for the greater increase of devotion to the Most Holy Redeemer Our Lord Jesus Christ. we give the faculty to give to the press the report of this religious fact and to divulge it».

It is for this reason that Father Tommaso Lanza, Superior General of the Congregation, suggested to Father Giacobbe that the church to be erected in Turin should have been dedicated to Jesus Nazarene…and so it was done. On November 24, 1904 there was the solemn laying of the foundation stone and, a year later, Father Jacob was appointed pastor of the new parish, the only one in Italy with the name Jesus Nazarene. During the Second World War, the house of the fathers and the parish church were repeatedly hit by incendiary bombs during the air raids. The bombs destroyed doors and windows, damaged walls and ceiling, but the church remained standing.

Arrival in Varallo Sesia in the 1930’s

In the 1930s the Fathers began their presence in Val Sesia. In 1928 Father Francesco Raspino, invited by the Podestà De Marchi, accepted, together with Canon Belletti, the direction of the Civico Collegio D’Adda. The gymnasium had been closed for lack of students and the college had followed the same fate. With great faith, Father Raspino reopens the Gymnasium and the college, which gradually repopulate. In 1935, Father Raspino asked for the direct collaboration of the Doctrinarians. Two years later, the Gymnasium was granted parity, a rather rare state recognition at the time, and in 1937, the Doctrinarians officially entered Varallo Sesia, with the signing of the contract for the management of the college. The Fathers immediately began an educational work that involved the entire Val Sesia: they established middle schools and high schools and obtained legal recognition; in 1947 they started other schools in Borgosesia. The middle schools and the two high schools, the classical one in Varallo and the scientific one in Borgosesia, in their establishment and development, remain a testimony to the industrious faith of the Doctors, with the active collaboration of the civil authorities.
In addition to these schools, in 1948, at the invitation of the municipality, the college established the Commercial Technical School, which in 1953 was transformed into a State Technical School and was the basis of the Professional Hotel Institute. The prospect of a long stay in Varallo allowed the Fathers to use the land in the locality of Orelli, donated by Father Raspino, as a seminary, where generations of Doctors were formed. Two Fathers, in particular, expended a great deal of energy in these works: Felice Morero, who for his support of the Resistance was reported to the Fascist occupation troops and subjected to mistreatment, and Father Enrico Allovio who, at a time when the press was forced by the regime to remain silent or to engage in servile pleading, enduring incredible intimidation, persecution and threats, always kept the light of truth shining from the columns of the Catholic newspaper of Valsesia, in order to illuminate the path to freedom. But also other Fathers remain and are for generations of young people points of reference, it is enough to mention Fathers Mazzucco, Gallino, Tonin, Zacquini.

In Salerno, Chiesa Santa Famiglia (the Holy Family Church) designed by Portoghesi and Dottrinari Editions

The Santa Famiglia Church

On May 20, 1935, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Salerno, don Antonio Balducci, on behalf of Archbishop Nicola Monterisi, wrote to the Superior of the Doctrinarians and invited him to «open a religious house in this city, and precisely in the hamlet of Fratte… The Archbishop would offer the religious a small convent in good condition and capable enough to accommodate several religious, with the adjoining church which is currently also the parish rectory». On August 5, 1935, the archbishop signed the deed of cession of the «Holy Family Church in Fratte di Salerno with its appurtenances and annexed convent with the burden of a monthly Mass, according to the right instrument of foundation of the church, placed by the donor of the land on which the church was built… the parish priest will be appointed by the Archbishop on designation of the Most Reverend Provost General». For the Doctrinarians, the Superior General, Giuseppe Rori, signed the letter. From the first day of their presence in the parish, the Fathers have worked with enthusiasm and dedication to the spiritual growth of the faithful, with particular attention to children and young people, through the teaching of catechism and the many initiatives and activities of a religious, social and educational nature, as evidenced by the winning, for several years, of the diocesan pennant at the end of the catechetical year. In the parish of Salerno, on December 11, 1950, the parish kindergarten was opened in the parish hall to welcome children from the age of four upwards, under the guidance of a teacher and assistants with meals, thanks to the contribution of a minimum fee from some wealthier families, an extraordinary annual subsidy from the Ministry of Education and, above all, the generosity of the population. It remained in the premises of the parish until the end of October 1957, when it moved to the new location in Via Calata San Vito, built in four years, between interruptions and resumption of work. At the beginning of the 60’s, in the rooms on the ground floor of the kindergarten in via Calata San Vito, the activity of the parish cinema was opened, which was attended by many families.

The Second World War brings destruction and victims: the house and the parish church of Salerno are bombed several times during the days of battle, but the most serious damage is caused by mines that blow up the bridge adjacent to the house.
In 1964, Edizioni Dottrinariwas also born in Salerno. The soul and pioneer of this catechetical apostolate is Father Alessandro Iadecola. The work begins in the premises of the old church, with the printing, by mimeograph, of the weekly sheet La Domenica, which contains chronicles of parish life. Once the first machinery was purchased, the printing activity continued with printed matter and teaching aids for the catechism, whose modest cost and practicality contributed to directing many parish priests towards the Doctrinarians Fathers, who found in the publications a valid aid for the parish catechism. The result is that «the name of the Congregation in the region is no longer unknown« – writes Father Roberti – «priests and laity are familiar with our work, the bishops of the area praise and bless the work».
Publishing initiatives are multiplying: in addition to books, pamphlets, active notebooks, biblical vigils, pictures and other printed material, the monthly student magazine Vele al vento is born; a wall calendar with views of the land of Jesus is printed and sent to all the bishops, curias and catechetical offices of Italy, as well as to the Holy Father, who sends his blessing; a school diary is printed, unique in its kind, with photos of the province of Salerno, with the approval of the Minister of Tourism and other authorities; finally, the magazine Modelli e Sport, distributed nationwide is sent for exchange with other magazines and for subscription in many countries of the world. Another important work carried out in Salerno is the construction of the Church of the Holy Family, at the beginning of the 1970s. The project was entrusted to the engineer Vittorio Gigliotti, who carried it out in 1969 in collaboration with the architect Paolo Portoghesi. On 8th December 1971, the Archbishop of Salerno, Gaetano Pollio, blessed the first stone of the new church tenaciously desired by Father Nicola Roberti, who opened it to worship on 1st June 1974, although without the floor, made in 1984. Since 1988 Edizioni Dottrinari moved to the new location in Pellezzano, and continues to be a publishing reality at the service of pastoral and catechism. The direction was entrusted to Father Francesco Gatto and then to Father Franco Mangili.
In 2005, Mons. Gerardo Pierro, Archbishop of Salerno, during the Concelebration for the celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of the presence of the Doctrinarians in the Diocese, of the fortieth anniversary of the birth of the Edizioni Dottrinari and of the thirtieth anniversary of the inauguration of the new church of Fratte: «Many of our parishes have been able to enjoy the fruits of their commitment, of this catechetical mediation, which they did at the beginning, when the first catechisms of the CEI came out and not everyone was at ease. The mediation that Father Alessandro carried out through his editions served our communities, and for this too, on behalf of the entire diocese, I want to say: thank you!». To complement the editorial work, the Fathers in 2013 expanded the spaces of presence in Pellezzano and opened a store for the distribution of books and religious articles.

The college of Saluzzo

Church of San Bernardo. Saluzzo

In 1936 the boarding school of Saluzzo was entrusted to the Doctrinarians at the invitation of the Marquis Carlo del Carretto, Podestà, and of the Bishop of Saluzzo, Mons. Oberti, who also entrusted the annexed church of San Bernardo to the Fathers. The purpose of the college is to assist young people, to offer them a family environment and to accustom them to study in order to start them off in middle school, high school, technical, managerial and commercial schools. Young people from the countryside, the city centers and Turin itself flocked to the college. Under the direction of the “Doctrinarians ” (Fathers Raspino, Allovio, Battaglino, Morero, Francone, Amerio, Rolando, Sticca, Squillari and Tonin), a, Christian and intellectual mission was launched.

The parish in Rome, at Nero’s Tomb

Parish Sant’Andrea Apostolo (St. Andrew the Apostle)In 1939, the Vicariate of Rome proposed to the Doctrinarians the spiritual care of the hamlet called Tomba di Nerone, then still not a parish but a vice-cure. Once the proposal was accepted, the religious community was formed by Father Giovanni Delpero, vicar bursar, Father Carmine Conte and brothers Raffaele Piccolo and Carlo Rey. Father Orlando Visconti, arrived after a few months, as vice-parish priest. In 1940, the construction of the church and the parish house began. The inauguration takes place on October 11, 1941. L’Osservatore Romano of the following October 17 reports the event as follows: «H.E. Monsignor Francesco Pascucci blesses the new parish church of St. Andrew the Apostle, received at the entrance of the temple by the local civil authorities and the Doctrinarians Fathers with their Superior General Father Giuseppe Rori. After the speech of the Celebrant, the Eucharistic procession from the church of the Ursuline Sisters of Gandino to the new church took place and the blessing of the Blessed Sacrament followed. The new church is built in a rustic style appropriate to the character of the village, composed mainly of farmhouses and seeded farms in the wide expanse of the countryside». The first parish priest was appointed on February 17, 1944 and was Father Agnello Simonelli. The Second World War, in addition to having caused the departure of some Doctrinarians for the front, brings a lot of damage to the houses. The parish church of Sant’Andrea was hit by several cannon shots.

Vigevano, Negrone College and the parish Cristo Re (Christ the King)

On 12 August 1954 the Doctrinaries entered the college of the Pio Istituto Negrone in Vigevano (PV), called by Bishop Luigi Barbero to “take care of the religious, civil and technical formation of young people, orienting themselves towards the footwear branch”. In June 1959, to offer children activities even during the summer, a large swimming pool was added to the playgrounds which in forty years will collect 15,000 visitors.

Starting in 1963, the right wing was converted to accommodate sections of the new Besozzi state middle school, 9 classes with over 270 pupils, while the left wing houses the Regina Margherita elementary schools (250 pupils). In the 1970s the semi-boarding house was established with hospitality from 7.30 to 18, with payment of a modest fee. The institute is open to the city: one of the 5 football fields is available to the population for tournaments and events, including regional ones.

In November 1973, the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist was restored and the remains of the founder of the Institute, Giovanni Battista Negrone, his wife Francesca Manara, their three daughters, and Anna Maria Colli Cantone, mother of Francesca were moved. In 1979, Father Battista Previtali, Provincial Superior, asked the administration of the Pio Istituto Negrone to use the premises previously occupied by the nuns to create a formation house for children and young people for vocational guidance. The activity was carried out until 1997, the young people also committed themselves to helping the Fathers in the recreational activities of the students of the Negrone. In 1980 the Summer Center began, with activities on weekdays from morning to evening, including lunch, in July and August. The Doctrinaries are supported by the Pianzoline nuns and by lay people. The first year there are 150 members, in the following years the experience grows involving young people from parishes throughout the city. In 1983, the Past Pupils Association was born to maintain friendly relations between former students and teachers; every year the Association organizes, on the first Sunday in April, a day for past pupils with their families and the Doctrinarie Fathers.

The demographic decline in the 1980s led to a decrease in enrollments and classes in Vigevano’s schools. It was then decided to open sections of a recognized school: the position of Headmaster and the teaching of religion and literary subjects were entrusted to the qualified Doctrinarie Fathers, for the other subjects lay teachers were entrusted: but the increasing costs for the maintenance of the school pushed the Doctrinarie Fathers to close the Negrone Institute on July 31, 1997.

In the same city, in 1962, on the feast of Christ the King, the presence of the Fathers also began in the parish of the same name.

In Sanremo the College of Villa Magnolie

In 1957, on June 28, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, the Superior General of the Doctrinarians Fathers went to San Remo to take over the beautiful “Villa Magnolie”, with the aim of opening a new college with a secondary school. Thus the Bishop of Ventimiglia, Msgr. Agostino Rousset, writes to the Father General: «We willingly express our consent to the opening in San Remo of a men’s boarding school with a legally recognized middle school, for the benefit of young students, by the meritorious Congregation of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, to whom we wish a prosperous spiritual future».

In Sicily, in Vittoria, Santa Maria Goretti, Madonna Assunta and Spirito Santo

In 1967, the Congregation opened a new house in Sicily, in the Diocese of Ragusa, benevolently welcomed by Bishop Francesco Pennisi, by the population and clergy, in particular by Msgr. Carmelo Ferraro, archpriest of Vittoria, and by Msgr. Giuseppe Calì, parish priest of the Most Holy Rosary, who generously gave them their first welcome. Fathers Carmelo La Bella and Lodovico Santoro were entrusted with the pastoral care of the parish Madonna delle Lacrime (Our Lady of Tears)

Parish Church Madonna Assunta

Subsequently, Father Santoro was entrusted with the parish of Santa Maria Goretti and Father La Bella with the parish of Madonna Assunta. Later, after leaving the parish of Santa Maria Goretti, Bishop Angelo Rizzo entrusted the Congregation with the new parish of the Holy Spirit.
In a spirit of service, the Fathers dedicate themselves with passion and dedication to the proclamation of the Gospel and to the priestly ministry. To this is added a scholastic commitment to teaching and accompanying religious formation in the cultural context of the city. Various confreres carry out their service to Vittoria, among which above all, Father Dario Liscio, Father Carmelo La Bella and Father Lodovico Santoro, to whom the Municipality has conferred honorary citizenship, for their great commitment in favor of citizenship. During Father Dario’s service in the presence of General Rinaldo Gasparotto, the municipal administration named a square after Blessed Cesare de Bus, Founder of the Doctrinarie Fathers. In addition, after his sudden death, the Municipality itself wanted to name a square after Father Liscio. Two doctrinal vocations were born from the catechetical work of these holy priests.

Grosseto and the Santissimo Crocifisso (Holy Crucifix)

In 1974, the Piedmont Province opened a new work camp in Grosseto, taking over the management of the parish of Santissimo Crocifisso, a semi-boarding school, a youth center and teaching in the state school. For this initiative, the Council of the Province appoints Father Pasquale Amerio, superior and parish priest, Father Ugo Costa, Father Francesco Gatto and Professor Lorenzo Rossit.

The Oratory in Mazzarino

In 1978, the Doctrinarians began a new activity in Mazzarino, in the province of Caltanissetta. The Salesians, who ran an Oratory in that town, decided to close. The same Inspector of Sicily of the Sons of Don Bosco, on April 2, 1978, went to welcome at the station of Catania the Doctrinarians Ernesto Ferrero and Gino Bertan. After a brief breakfast, the Fathers left for Mazzarino where, at noon, they concelebrated with the Bishop of the Diocese of Piazza Armerina, Msgr Sebastiano Rosso. Then they went to visit the new house. It is a large Oratory, with halls, porticoes and a cinema-theater with over six hundred seats. The people welcomed them with great joy and generosity and they immediately began their apostolate. Towards the end of April they were joined by Father Gian Mario Redaelli, Father Carmelo La Bella and Brother Vicenzo Arcadipane.

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