Blessed Giovanni Maria Boccardo
Bl. Giovanni Maria Boccardo was born in Testona di Moncalieri (Turin), Italy, in 1848 and was ordained a priest in Turin in 1871. After his ordination, he was appointed assistant and then spiritual director of the seminaries in Chieri and Turin. In this office he was a guide and father to his seminarians and gave them the best of his heart and his priestly knowledge.
In 1882 Fr Giovanni M. Boccardo was appointed parish priest of Pancalieri. He obediently accepted this post, which was to be his last on earth. The separation from his seminarians must have deeply pained his sensitive heart. For Fr Boccardo, who maintained and increased his early apostolic enthusiasm despite the stress of daily life, his parish was a true "mission land". On the day set for his solemn entry into the parish, at the sight of the church's bell tower in the distance, Fr Boccardo offered himself as a victim for the good of his parishioners, so that the Lord would not allow a single one of the souls entrusted to his pastoral care to stray.
After serving as parish priest in Pancalieri for two years, the village was stricken with cholera. Bl. Boccardo threw himself into caring for the sick, even at the risk of his own life, spending on them all his physical and moral energies and means. When the epidemic was over, the village was left with abandoned elderly, orphaned children and poor people who no longer had a roof over their heads or any resources. This situation made a deep impression on his fatherly heart. He prayed, sought advice and, when he was certain of God's will, he laid the foundations of the Hospice of Charity and later, of a congregation of sisters called the Poor Daughters of St Cajetan, who in a few years spread throughout Piedmont and Italy.
He knew that a parish priest's first duty was evangelization: he preached Jesus Christ and his Gospel in its entirety. Other important tasks were the celebration of the Eucharist, the administration of the sacraments, catechesis and diligence in the ministry of confession. He was the "good father", the father of all, especially of the sick and the poor. His life was filled with arduous penances hidden beneath a constant smile. When it was a question of doing good, he never refused. As a faithful pastor, he served his parish with paternal affection until his death on 30 December 1913. His secret? He did not seek himself, but sacrificed himself to strengthen in his faithful the life of the spirit as well as the body.
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