Bl. Alfonso Maria Fusco

Memorial : 6 February

Alfonso Maria Fusco, the oldest of five children, was born on 23 March 1839 in Angri, in the province of Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno, Italy. His parents, Aniello Fusco and Josephine Schiavone, were both of peasant stock but were raised from their infancy with strong Christian principles and with a holy fear of God.

The Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated
 in the Collegiata of San Giovanni Battista, the
patron saint of Angri.  This is the church where
after his ordination Fr. Fusco served as a parish
priest, cantor and moderator of many
of the parish sodalities. 
They were married in the Collegiata of St John the Baptist on 31 January 1834, and for four long years the cradle they had lovingly prepared remained painfully empty. In Pagani, only a short distance from Angri, the relics of St Alfonso Maria de Liguori were preserved. It was to his tomb that Aniello and Josephine went in 1838 to pray. While they were there, the Redemptorist Francesco Saverio Pecorelli told them: "You will have a son; you will name him Alfonso; he will become a priest and will live the life of Bl. Alfonso".

The little boy quickly revealed a mild, gentle, lovable character, responsive to prayer and to the poor. His teachers in his father's house were learned and holy priests who instructed him and prepared him for his first meeting with Jesus. When he was seven, he received his First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

He told his parents when he was eleven that he wanted to become a priest and, on 5 November 1850, "freely and with the sole desire to serve God and the Church", as he himself declared many years later, he entered the episcopal Seminary of Nocera dei Pagani. On 29 May 1863, he was ordained by the Archbishop of Salerno, Mons. Anthony Salomone, amid the joy of his family and the enthusiasm of the people.

On Saturday afternoon, Feb 6, 2010, the mortal
remains of  Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco were
brought into the Collegiata. 
Quickly he distinguished himself among the clergy of the Collegiata of St John the Baptist in Angri for his zeal, his regular attendance at liturgical services and for his diligence in the administration of the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation where he revealed his paternal understanding of his penitents. He devoted himself to the evangelization of the people through his simple and incisive style of preaching.

The daily life of Fr Alfonso was that of a zealous priest, but he carried in his heart an old dream. In his last years at the seminary, one night he had dreamt that Jesus of Nazareth was calling him to found an institute of sisters and an orphanage for boys and girls as soon as he was ordained.

It was a meeting with Maddalena Caputo of Angri, a strong-willed woman aspiring to enter religious life, which impelled Fr Alfonso to move more quickly in the foundation of the institute. On 25 September 1878, Miss Caputo and three other young women met at night in the dilapidated Scarcella house in the Ardinghi district of Angri. The young women wanted to dedicate themselves to their own sanctification through a life of poverty, of union with God, and of charity in the care and instruction of poor orphans.

The Congregation of the Baptistine Sisters of the Nazarene was thus begun; the seed had fallen into the good earth of the hearts of these four zealous and generous women. Privations, struggles, opposition, and trials were their lot, and the Lord made that seed grow abundantly. The Scarcella House was quickly named the Little House of Providence.

Other postulants and the first orphans began to arrive, and with them the first problems. The Lord, who allows those whom he loves much to suffer much, did not spare the founder and his daughters. Fr Alfonso accepted these trials, at times very difficult ones, demonstrating an absolute conformity to the will of God, an heroic obedience to his superiors, and an unbounded trust in Divine Providence.

The unjustified attempt by the diocesan Bishop Saverio Vitagliano to remove Fr Alfonso as director of the institute was based on false accusations; the refusal by his own daughters to open the door for him of the house on Via Germanico in Rome because of their desire for a division; the words of Cardinal Respighi, the Vicar of Rome: "You have founded this community of good sisters who are doing their best. Now withdraw!" were for him moments of great suffering. He was seen praying in anguish, like Jesus in the Garden, in the small chapel in the Mother House in Angri and in the church of St Joachim in Rome.

He directed the institute wisely and prudently. Like a loving father, he watched over the sisters and the orphans. He showed an almost maternal tenderness for all, especially for the most needy of the orphans. For them there was always space in the Little House of Providence, even when there was a scarcity of food or absolutely nothing. Then Fr Alfonso would reassure his worried daughters saying: "Don't worry, my daughters. I am going to Jesus now and he will worry about us!". And Jesus answered quickly and with great generosity. To him who believes, everything is possible!

At a time when an education was the privilege of the few, denied to the poor and to women, Fr Alfonso did not mind sacrificing to give the children a peaceful life, an education and a trade for the older ones so that once they were grown up, they could live as honest citizens and as committed Christians. He wanted the sisters to begin their studies as soon as possible so that they could teach the poor and, through their instruction and evangelization, prepare the way for Jesus especially in the hearts of the children and of youth.

The Founder's mortal remains now rest beneath
the  altar in the new Chapel in the Motherhouse.
Located  on the first floor it provides the Sisters
 and towns people easy access to
reflection and prayer in the  Founder's presence.
His tenacious will, totally anchored in Divine Providence, the wise and prudent collaboration of Maddalena Caputo, known as Sr Crocifissa, who was the first superior of the growing institute, the ongoing spur of the love of God and neighbour, contributed to the extraordinary development of the work in a very short time. The growing requests for assistance for an ever greater number of orphans and children urged Fr Alfonso to open new houses, first in Campania, and then in other regions of Italy.

During the night of 5 February 1910, he felt unwell. He requested and then received the sacraments on the morning of 6 February; after having blessed with trembling hands his own daughters weeping around his bed, he exclaimed: "Lord, I thank you. I have been a useless servant". Then, turning to the sisters: "From heaven I will not forget you. I will pray for you always". And then slept peacefully in the Lord.

The Mortal remains to the new Chapel in the Baptistine Foundation Convent in Angri.

"My daughters, in heaven I shall not forget you. I shall pray for you always."

Among the last words of Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco to his Baptistine Sisters.

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