Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963)
Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents were wealthy landowners and exemplary Christians.
Gaetano was ordained a priest in 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidattilo.
Fr Catanoso had a great devotion to The Holy Face of Jesus, and began "The Holy Face" Bulletin and established the "Confraternity of the Holy Face" in 1920. He once wrote: "The Holy Face is my life. He is my strength".
Versatility, openness to God's will
On 2 February 1921, he was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria, where he remained until 1940. He was very versatile and his ability to peacefully and diligently serve in such contradictory parish realities earned him the reputation of holiness.
Because he was not conditioned by exterior factors, positive or negative, Fr Gaetano worked well in all situations and settings, striving always to deepen his union with Christ and to do God's will for the good of those entrusted to his pastoral care. He desired nothing more than to serve at the country parish of Pentidattilo, and his appointment to Candelaria did not make him "puffed up".
As parish priest of Candelaria, he drew people to Christ by reviving Eucharistic and Marian devotions. He opened institutions, promoted catechetical instruction and crusaded against blasphemy and the profanation of feast days.
Fr Gaetano felt it his duty as a priest to help children and youth who lacked role models and risked being corrupted, as well as abandoned older persons and priests who were isolated and without support. He even helped restore churches and Tabernacles left to decay.
In short, he saw the Face of Christ in all who suffered and would say: "Let us all work to defend and save the orphans, those who are abandoned. There are too many dangers and there is too much misery. With Jesus let us turn our gaze to the abandoned children and youth: today, humanity is more morally sick than ever".
Fr Catanoso often spent hours or entire days in prayer before the Tabernacle, and in the parish and beyond he promoted Eucharistic Adoration. He also set up so-called "flying-squads", teams of priests willing to cooperate in the parishes by giving homilies and hearing confession on these occasions.
Spiritual assistance, Founder
From 1921 to 1950 he served as confessor at religious institutes and in the Reggio Calabria prison. He was also hospital chaplain and spiritual director of the Archiepiscopal Seminary.
In 1934, Fr Catanoso founded the "Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face"; its mission: constant prayer of reparation, humble service in worship, catechesis, assistance to children, youth, priests and the elderly. The first convent was opened in Riparo, Reggio Calabria.
When the Archbishop curtailed the activities of the Congregation, Fr Catanoso showed great docility in accepting this decision.
Finally, however, on 25 March 1958, the Constitutions he had written received diocesan approval.