Andrew Hyacinth Longhin (1863-1936)
Bishop Andrew Hyacinth Longhin, a Capuchin religious of deep spirituality and solid doctrine, was a gift of Pope Pius X to the Diocese of Treviso, his place of origin. Together with the Church entrusted to him he lived heroically in one of the most difficult and exciting times of Catholicism in Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries.
He was born on 23rd November 1863 in Fiumicello di Campodarsego (Province and Diocese of Padua) into the family of the poor and very religious tenant farmers Matthew and Judith Marin and given the names Hyacinth Bonaventure in baptism. Early on he showed signs of a vocation to the priesthood and religious life. At the age of 16 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Order under the name of Andrew of Campodarsego and then completed his humanistic studies in Padua and the theological studies in Venice. On 19th June 1886, only 23 years old, he was ordained a priest. For 18 years he held the office of spiritual director and instructor of the young religious and proved himself a firm guide and an enlightened teacher. In 1902 he was elected Provincial Minister of the Capuchins of Venice. In this period at Venice the Patriarch Sarto "discovered" him and charged him with the ministry of preaching and a variety of delicate tasks in the service of the diocese.
Just a few months after becoming Pope, Pius X on 13th April 1904, personally appointed Fr. Andrew Bishop of Treviso and wanted him to be consecrated in Rome. The consecration by Card. Merry del Val took place a few days later in the Church of Trinità dei Monti in Rome. Before the new pastor moved into his diocese on the following 6th August he had issued two pastoral letters that outlined his reform programme. The following year he began his first pastoral visit which lasted almost five years: he wanted to know his church, which belongs to the largest and most peopled of the Venetian region; he wanted to establish a personal contact with his clergy, who would take first place in his pastoral care; he also intended to be close to the lay associations, which at the time were exposed to severe trials in the field of the Catholic social movement. He concluded the visit with the celebration of the Synod, which had as its aim to implement in the diocese the reforms initiated by Pius X, to equip the local church to be "militant" and to call all, clergy and lay people, to a life in holiness.
He reformed the diocesan seminary by improving the quality of studies and the spiritual formation. He promoted spiritual retreats for the clergy and prepared every year personally a programme of ongoing formation. He guided the priests in their pastoral activity with precise guidelines and verified their application in three further pastoral visits.
At the outbreak of the First World War (1915-1918) Treviso was on the frontline; it suffered invasions and the first aerial attacks, wich destroyed the town and over 50 parishes. Bishop Longhin remained at his post even when the civilian authorities escaped to safer places. He wanted his priests to do the same unless they had to accompany their people on flight. He led the destiny of the town with heroic courage, was the point of reference in religious, moral and civilian matters for a whole community in turmoil. He organised assistance for the soldiers, the sick and the poor. Encouraging everybody he never fell prey to partisanship or war rhetoric, yet he was accused of defeatism and some of his priests were tried in court and sentenced.
In the difficult years of the material and spiritual reconstruction the bishop resumed the second pastoral visit which had been interrupted. He was a firm leader at a time of grave social tensions that divided the Catholics among themselves. He insisted with evangelical firmness that justice and social peace demanded the straight road of non-violence and the unity of all Catholics. The fascist movement was growing at the time and had its instances of violence in Treviso, especially against Catholic organizations. From 1926 to 1934 Bishop Longhin made his third pastoral visit to strengthen the faith of the parish communities: in his understanding the militant Church was a Church fully geared towards holiness and prepared for martyrdom.
Pope Pius XI held Bishop Longhin in great esteem; he entrusted him with the delicate task of Apostolic Visitor, first in Padua, then in Udine, in order to bring back peace to those dioceses suffering from divisions between the priests and their bishop.
God wanted to purify his faithful servant and afflicted him with an illness that deprived him progressively of his mental faculties. Longhin endured his suffering with extraordinary faith and total abandonment into the will of God. He died on 26th June 1936.
He had been known for his holiness, his heroic charity and his wise evangelical guidance when still alive. With his death the devotion to the saintly pastor grew stronger and quickly spread, especially in the Dioceses of Treviso and Padua, and also in the Capuchin Order. The devotion exalted his virtues and implored his intercession. The process of beatification was introduced in 1964. In the same year the young Dino Stella was cured of diffuse peritonitis on the intercession of Longhin. It is this miracle that was recognised for his beatification.
His spiritual Heritage
The unique connection of bishop Andrew Hyacinth Longhin with Pope S. Pius X was fundamentally of spiritual nature: the holiness of one reminds and in a way produces the holiness of the other. Both have lived for the Church and with the Church, conceiving the pastoral ministry as a formation to holiness and the whole life of the Church as a call to be "holy and immaculate". Both were driven to make themselves "models of the flock" in the footsteps of Christ the Good Shepherd. Bishop Longhin identified himself with his Church to the point of taking up the burden of all vicissitudes of history, living them in the first person and paying the price for so doing. Franciscan spirituality, in the rigorous form of the Capuchin Order, always guided Bishop Longhin, not only in a his life that was ascetical, exacting and faithfully observant (prayer and penitence), but also in an evangelical commitment without compromise: God as the Supreme, "religious" obedience towards the Church, poverty lived as freedom, respect for all things of the world. His reform efforts brought him also cross and suffering, from the part of the clergy that was not willing to follow him on the path of renewal as well as from the laity that was either fixed on their material interests or taking sides with partisan positions. He was opposed by Fascism, which preferred to avenge itself on the priests and the organized laity, thus inflicting on the pastor greater pain than if it had turned against his person. Right to his end he remained the leader of a militant church that did not give in, neither to violence nor to flattery. In his charity, which he exercised with extraordinary dedication, he showed no weakness, being convinced that charity always called for truth. In him firmness and humility appeared wonderfully united. The fruit of his testimony of holiness and of his courageous pastoral leadership is the fact that the church of Treviso, in that period of its history, has produced numerous saints among the priests, religious and laity.