Most of this material was published by ANS. Excerpts from a letter of the Rector Major, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, also are used. The blogger has added a touch here and there.
On January 20, Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. During the audience the Holy Father authorized the CSC to promulgate decrees concerning the heroic virtues of seven Servants of God, including Salesian priests Fr. Francesco Convertini and Fr. José Wech Vandor and Salesian parishioner Jan Tyranowski.
In declaring someone Venerable, the Church confirms that a Servant of God practiced to a heroic degree the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity toward God and neighbor, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, as well as the other virtues essential to a Christian life, and that he or she enjoyed a reputation for holiness.
The cardinal and bishop members of the CSC had reached such a conclusion concerning the seven new Venerables at its ordinary session on January 10.
Venerable Fr. Francesco Convertini, SDB (1898-1976)
Francesco Convertini was born in Locorotondo (Bari), Italy, on August 29, 1898. He was drafted for military service during World War I, during which he was wounded, taken prisoner, and interned in Poland. When he returned home, he answered to the Lord’s call by entering the Salesian missionary formation community at Ivrea.
He set out from Genoa to India after receiving the missionary crucifix from the hands of Blessed Philip Rinaldi. On his arrival in Assam, he was a novice of Venerable Stephen Ferrando and after his profession became a disciple of Archbishop Louis Mathias and the Servant of God Fr. Constantine Vendrame, and was distinguished for his exceptional apostolic zeal.
His mission field was Bengal in northeastern India, where he made a huge number of friends and spiritual children, both unschooled and learned, both rich and poor. He was the only missionary who could enter the homes of both Hindus or Muslims. He was continually on the move from village to village on horseback, by bicycle, or on foot with nothing but his knapsack. In this way, he could meet many people and talk to them about Christ.
He gave himself without distinction to all: Muslims, Hindus, Christians; and everyone loved and revered him as a master of the interior life for his human and spiritual wisdom, which he possessed abundantly. A loving devotee of the Blessed Virgin, he died at Krishnagar, India, on the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 1976, whispering: “My Mother, I never displeased you in my lifetime. And now, you help me!”
Fr. Convertini came from a family marked by bereavement and hardship. His father died when Francesco was less than three months old. His mother was a woman of profound Christian faith, entirely dedicated to the family. To Francesco, who helped in the fields, watched the turkeys, or did other chores fit for his young age, she used to repeat: “Do it with love! Do it with love!” In the evening the family gathered to pray the Rosary.
Death visited Francesco’s home again when he was 11; in 1909 his mother died in childbirth. Soon afterwards, with his brother Samuele, he was taken to the fair where children were hired as shepherd boys. Their masters were good and very faith-filled people who got to love the two orphans. In their turn, the boys called them Mom and Dad.
This family history marked the missionary style of Fr. Convertini, who evangelized by visiting the homes of the people – Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists – to speak to them of God in a comprehensible way and try to bring to their families a message of peace and reconciliation. Because of his transparency and simplicity of life, homes opened to him, and Hindus and Muslims, too, welcomed him as a man of God.
The life of Fr. Convertini is rich with heroic expressions linked to his charity, his penances, and his charm as a man of God who brought “the water of Jesus who saves.” He conferred Baptism upon thousands. He deprived himself of everything to give to the poor: even his clothes, shoes, bed, and food. He always slept on the ground. He fasted at length. He was poor to an incredible degree. There are so many episodes, enriched also by supernatural gifts, which gained him a reputation for sanctity even during his lifetime. He belonged to all without any distinction of religion, caste, or social condition. Everyone loved him. Fr. Francesco Convertini is undoubtedly a model of Salesian missionary life, an example of true enculturation of the Gospel, a master of the interior life and of exceptional self-denial in a pastoral key, one who made his own life an adventure in the Spirit with the apostolic heart of Don Bosco.
All during life he was able to accept others and to meet people with his heart, his goodness, and his humanity. This is the legacy he has handed on to us and especially to the new generations.
Fr. Convertini was not a man for theory. He was very practical and was able to branch out in many directions with the values and ideals of the Gospel. He understood mercy not as a vague sentimental emotion but in the concrete practice of all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The diocesan inquiry for Fr. Convertini was carried out at the chancery of Krishnagar, India, from 1997 to 2005. After the Positio was prepared according to the usual procedure, members of the CSC discussed whether the Servant of God had practiced the virtues in a heroic degree. A positive conclusion reached in 2015 was affirmed by the CSC’s theological consultors in 2016.
Venerable José Vandor, SDB (1909-1979)
Venerable Fr. José Vandor was born to a farming family in Dorog, Hungary, on October 29, 1909, and died in Santa Clara, Cuba, on October 8, 1979.
His birth name was Jozsef Wech. He made his Salesian novitiate in 1927-1928, and in 1932 he went to Turin for his theological studies. At that time he changed his surname from Wech to Vandor, which means “pilgrim.” This name proved prophetic: for many years, his life turned out to be a wandering journey, marked by stages, stops, and new starts.
He was ordained in 1936 and soon afterwards was sent as a missionary to the Antilles. From 1936 to 1954, Fr. Vandor’s life was characterized by constant movements: at Guanabacoa, Moca, Matanzas, and Camagüey he exercised his ministry in the midst of trials and hardships. From 1954 to the end of his life, he lived in Santa Clara, Cuba, sent thither for the pastoral care of the church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and for the construction of the Rosa Perez Velasio School of Arts and Trades.
A Hungarian, he proved he was able to understand the Cuban people, sharing their hopes, fears, and expectations. He was a “messenger of truth and hope” and a worker for peace. During the battle of Santa Clara in December 1958, the final, decisive military engagement of the Cuban revolution that ended on January 1, 1959, with Castro’s victory, he endangered his own life to mediate a truce that saved many lives.
Fr. Vandor suffered from numerous ailments, such as tuberculosis, ictus, hepatitis, and arthrosis, but he never complained. He accepted these with a great spirit of abandonment to with the will of God. Because of his manifold pastoral and educational initiatives, he is a model of a priest for the New Evangelization. The faithful appreciated in him the zealous parish priest, the greatly sought-after confessor, and the sick person who without regard for himself visited the sick.
Doing good and working for the salvation of souls was his only concern during his 43 years of pastoral labor on Cuban soil. His personality, spirituality, and pastoral creativity left profound effects in the diocese of Santa Clara. Fr. Vandor can be compared with St. Francis de Sales for his patient docility, prudent commitment, and enlightened wisdom in spiritual direction; he can also be compared with St. John Bosco for his apostolic dynamism, his love for the poorest, his spirit of faith, his serene cheerfulness, and his cordiality.
On October 4, 1978, the 50th anniversary of his religious profession was celebrated in the presence of the Rector Major, Fr. Egidio Viganò. Fr. Vandor was by now renowned all over the city as a peacemaker, an exemplary priest, a man of profound union with God, a very sought-after spiritual director. He showed that he was a true parish priest with the heart of the Good Shepherd, with the style of the Preventive System of St. John Bosco.
His Salesian life, spent in difficult conditions, was made yet more difficult in the 1960s by the Castro regime’s growing opposition to the Church. But today it remains a sign for the Cuban population, where the fame of his sanctity is alive, particularly in the diocese of Santa Clara.
The diocesan investigation for Fr. Vandor was carried out at the chancery of Santa Clara, Cuba, from 2003 to 2008. After the Positio and discussion, according to the usual procedure, as to whether the Servant of God had exerted virtues in a heroic degree, a positive finding was given in 2016 and confirmed at a meeting of theological consultors.
Venerable Jan Tyranowski (1901-1947)
Jan Tyranowski (February 9, 1901-March 15, 1947), a parishioner of the Salesian parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Krakow, was an important figure for that Salesian setting in very difficult times, viz., World War II and the German occupation of Poland. A tailor by profession, Mr. Tyranowski distinguished himself for his gifts of human balance, piety, and apostolic zeal.
Mr. Tyranowski was the spiritual guide of Karol Wojtyla when the future Pope, a fellow parishioner while doing forced labor under the Nazis, was discerning his vocation to the priesthood. They met in February 1940 when the older man was leading some religious youth meetings promoted by the Salesians, who anticipated Nazi interruption of their own ministry. After the arrest and deportation to Auschwitz of the pastor, Fr. Jan Swierc, and most of the other Salesians – one of them, Fr. Joseph Kowalski, has already been beatified as a martyr, and the others are undergoing the inquiry for the cause of beatification – Mr. Tyranowski was given the responsibility of the pastoral care of the young men of the parish. Thus he became a mentor for young Karol. He created the Living Rosary Circles, which Karol joined and became a youth leader in. He guided his young charges toward a Carmelite spirituality, in which he was steeped himself, introducing them to St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. Years later, Pope John Paul II described him as “educator-theologian, apostle of the greatness of God, of the beauty of God.”
The diocesan inquiry of Mr. Tyranowski was carried out at Krakow’s chancery from 1997 to 2000. Initially his cause was entrusted to the Salesian Family’s postulator general. The vice postulator of the cause, Fr. Adam Nyk, SDB, drew up the Positio, which was delivered to the CSC in 2011. The archdiocese of Krakow has assumed responsibility for the further advancement of the cause.
Following the usual procedure, the CSC discussed whether the Servant of God practiced virtue to a heroic degree. The positive assessment was confirmed by CSC’s theological consultors.
Today Mr. Tyranowski’s remains rest in St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Krakow, a few steps away from the chapel dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, where Karol Wojtyla often prayed.
St. John Paul II’s distinguished biographer George Weigel paid tribute to the new Venerable in his weekly newspaper column (February 1): http://denvercatholic.org/papal-tutor-heroic-virtue/
Following the decree of January 20, Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, the Salesian Family’s postulator general for saints causes, commented, “Let us express our gratitude for these new Venerables of the Salesian Family, who remind us the missionary passion of the Salesian charism lived with fidelity and heroism also in situations of difficulty and hardship.”
If and when a miracle is attributed to a Venerable and the miracle is verified by the CSC, the person may be beatified.
The other Venerable members of the Salesian Family are
§ Fr. August Arribat, SDB
§ Fr. Andrew Beltrami, SDB
§ Margaret Occhiena Bosco, Don Bosco’s mother
§ Dorothy Chopitea, Cooperator
§ Fr. Vincent Cimatti, SDB
§ Bishop Stephen Ferrando, SDB
§ Attilio Giordani, Cooperator
§ Fr. Rudolf Komorek, SDB
§ Sr. Laura Meozzi, FMA
§ Bishop Louis Olivares, SDB
§ Sr. Teresa Valsé Pantellini, FMA
§ Fr. Joseph Quadrio, SDB
§ Bro. Simon Srugi, SDB