4-9 MAY 2001
M A L T A
Republic of Malta
The Venerable George Preca (1880-1962)
George Preca was born in Valletta on 12 February 1880. He was the seventh of nine children born to a deeply Christian Maltese family. He grew as a sickly child. He studied at the Lyceum and at the Seminary.
A few weeks before George Preca was to be ordained priest, he fell seriously ill and his doctor lost all hope of recovery. However, Fr. George did recover, and was ordained on 22 December 1906. He would later attribute his recovery to the intercession of St Joseph.
Even before his priestly ordination, Fr Preca felt that God was calling him to teach His people who were in dire need of Catholic instruction. About 1906, Fr Preca had already started writing a rule in Latin which he intended to send to Pope St Pius X asking for the setting up of a society of Permanent Deacons who would be able to help the Bishops in the peoples Christian formation.
Shortly afterwards he modified this project by starting to form a group of young men who would then be able to instruct others. He gave special formation to one particular young Dockyard worker, the Servant of God Eugenio Borg. Fr Preca explained to him at length the sacred passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of St John. Eugenio Borg was to be the first Superior General of Fr Precas Society.
The beginning of the Society was at Hamrun during the early months of 1907 in a small room deprived of everything but rich in brotherly love and in instruction. The Society of Christian Doctrine (SDC) started with the motto of M.U.S.E.U.M., an acrostic for the sentence in Latin Magister, Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus - Lord, would that all the world follow the Gospel.
Not everybody understood this vision of Fr Preca. Some even turned his intentions upside down. Bringing the Bible and theology down to the grasp of workers and lay people was truly a novelty at the beginning of the 20th century. Much more startling was Fr Precas vision of forming lay men and women and then sending them to proclaim Gods word to everybody in public. On April 12, 1932, after 25 years from the beginning of the Society the Bishop of Malta Dom Maurus Caruana OSB approved Fr Precas Society and its Rule.
When government schools were few and attendance was not compulsory, the SDC Centres for Catholic instruction started opening from one parish to another.
Peoples religious instruction was widely needed, for their Christian living centered mostly on the sacraments and popular devotions without not much depth in the teachings of the Church. Children and youths came daily to the Centres of Fr Preca whose catechists, apart from instructing, took them for outings and games together.
From the very beginning Fr Preca wanted to instruct both young and adults; but first and foremost he planned the formation of his dedicated and celibate catechists. After instructing children, youths and adults, Fr Precas catechists are to follow a daily one-hour formation together in every SDC Centre.
Fr Preca also taught through his writings. In spite of the language rivalry going on in Malta involving Italian and English, Fr Preca taught and wrote in Maltese, the language of the common people, so that everyone could understand. Fr Preca has about 150 publications in books or pamphlets to his credit.
His prayers are also numerous, and they reveal Fr Preca as a mystic constantly seeking God in everything. Fr Preca was also a confessor much sought for his consoling words. It seems that God even used Fr Precas ministry for some instances of healing.
Today Fr Precas charism is still alive and vocations in his Society are also numerous. In the 1950s Fr Preca himself sent six Members to evangelise in Australia. At present the SDC has Centres in the Sudan, Kenya, Peru, London and Albania.
Fr George Preca died at St Venera (Malta) on 26 July 1962. His mortal remains are preserved close to the Societys Motherhouse at Blata l-Bajda. The Cause for his Beatification was initiated in 1975, and he was declared Venerable in June 2000. Fr Preca will be declared Blessed during the Popes scheduled visit to Malta.
[Archdiocese of Malta - Public Relations Office]