Blessed Thomas Mary Fusco, the “Don Bosco of Southern Italy”
Today the Church honors Blessed Thomas Mary Fusco, who was beatified in 2001 as a model of holiness for priests. He was dedicated to his priestly ministry, preaching spiritual retreats and missions, teaching catechism to youth and organizing prayer evenings for young people and adults at the parish. Pope John Paul II referred to him as the “Don Bosco of Southern Italy” due to his heroic charity and concern for the plight of poor orphaned children. He had a deep devotion to the crucified Christ throughout his life and worked to build the devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus among the faithful.
He was born December 1, 1831, in Pagani, Italy, the seventh of eight children. Orphaned by the age of 10, his uncle, a priest and a teacher, who took charge of his education.
Since 1839, the year of the canonization of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Thomas Mary had dreamed of the priesthood. He entered the seminary in 1847 and was ordained in 1855. In 1862 he opened a school of moral theology in his home to train priests for the ministry of confession. That same year he founded the priestly Society of the Catholic Apostolate for missions among the faithful.
In 1873, deeply moved by the plight of an orphaned street girl, Fr. Thomas Mary founded a religious order for women, the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, a congregation devoted to the care of orphans. He was a traveling missionary in southern Italy and through his apostolic travels, many new houses and orphanages were built. This was a result of his heroic charity, which developed dramatically during the last twenty years of his life.
Fr. Thomas Maria died of liver disease Feb. 24, 1891 at the age of 59.
His life was directed to the highest devotion of Christian virtues by the priestly life, lived intensely in constant meditation on the mystery of the Father’s love, contemplated in the crucified Son whose Blood is “the expression, measure and pledge” of divine Charity and heroic charity to the poor and needy, in whom Fr Thomas Mary saw the bleeding Face of Jesus.
His writings, preaching and popular missions marked his vast experience of faith and the light of Christian hope that shone from his vocation and actions. He had a vital, burning love for God; it enflamed his words and his apostolate, made fruitful by love for God and neighbor, by union with the crucified Jesus, by trust in Mary, Immaculate and Sorrowful, and above all by the Eucharist.
The cause for the beatification of Fr Thomas Mary Fusco was initiated in 1955 and the decree of his heroic Christian virtues was published on April 24, 2001. The miraculous healing of Mrs. Maria Battaglia on August 20, 1964 in Sciacca, Agrigento, Sicily, through the intercession of Fr Thomas Mary Fusco was recognized on July 7, 2001.