PRIEST (JANUARY 20, 2017)
HE KNEW HOW TO BE A FATHER, BROTHER AND FRIEND
Francis Convertini was born in Marinelli close to Cisternino, in the province of Brindisi, on August 29, 1898. His family was very poor, and from his earliest years he was forced to go to work. As soon as he turned 18 he was called to arms to fight in the First World War. He was captured by the Austrians and sent to a concentration camp. He was freed only at the end of the war. After recovering from meningitis,, he decided to join the Guardia di Finanza.
He followed the Captain, whose aide he was, to Turin; and, devoted to Mary, went to confession in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. Providence saw that his confessor was Fr. Angelo Amadei, the second great biographer of Don Bosco. Fr. Angelo became his spiritual director.
After inviting him to attend the handing over of the missionary cross to 11 missionaries leaving for India he said to him, “Why don’t you also become a missionary?” Francis took on studies with much effort at the Salesian missionary institute in Ivrea and, after receiving his mission cross from Don Rinaldi, on December 7, 1927 he embarked for India.
He was formed by holy Salesians. He did his novitiate at Shillong with Fr. Ferrando and was a disciple of Fr. Costantino Vendrame. Francis learned of Don Bosco’s life from Fr. Amadei and in India learned how to incarnate his apostolic missionary spirit. He felt close to the people with Fr. Vendrame: they covered many miles visiting villages, going into homes to talk about Jesus. He finished his philosophy and theology with some difficulty. And was ordained a priest in 1935. The new bishop, Bishop Ferrando sent him to the Salesian mission in Krishnagar.
Even if he never got to know the Bengali language so well, nobody in Krishnagar had as many friends as he did, or as many spiritual children amongst the ignorant and the wise, the rich and the poor. He was one of the few missionaries who was able to enter a Hindu home and get further than the entrance.
He was constantly on the go between village and village. Fr. Francis was good, and his Salesian loving-kindness opened the people’s hearts. He knew how to be a Father, brother and friend. He gave himself to everyone without distinction: Muslim, Hindu, Christian…, and was loved and venerated by everyone as a master of the interior life, who abundantly possessed the “sapientia cordis.”
Already in life he was known for his holiness, not only because of his heroic self-giving for souls, but also for the mysterious events told about him. He was an apostle of Mary Help of Christians.
He died on February 11, 1976 murmuring, “Mother Mary, I never displeased you during my life. Now help me!” His body was laid out in the cathedral, and there was a constant crowd of people of every race and religion. Now he lies in the garden adjacent to the Cathedral of Krishnagar.