Memorial : 4 June
BL. FILIPPO SMALDONE was born in Naples on 27 July 1848 at a time of political and social turmoil in Italy, as well as in the Church; feeling that the Church needed him, he decided to become a priest. While he was still a student, he became involved in helping the enormous number of deaf-mutes in Naples at the time. He barely passed the examination for Minor Orders, and after a period in the Archdiocese of Rossano Calabro, he was re-incardinated in the Archdiocese Of in 1876. He continued to study and to work with deaf-mutes, and was ordained a priest in 1871.
He held evening catechism classes and assiduously visited the sick, especially during a plague epidemic, when he succumbed to the disease. At death's door, he was miraculously cured by Our Lady of Pompei, for whom he cherished a special devotion all his life.
Seeing the frustration of his mutes despite his efforts, at one point he wanted to leave for the foreign missions, but his confessor convinced him that his true mission was in Naples among them. Thus he gave himself without reserve to this apostolate and went to live permanently with a group of priests and laity.
In March 1885 he went to Lecce, where he founded an institute for deaf-mutes with Fr Lorenzo Apicelia and sisters whom he had specially trained. This was the basis for the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, which rapidly took root and rapidly flourished.
After founding the Lecce institute, which became the mother-house, in 1897 Fr Smaldone founded another institute in Bari.
Fr Smaldone soon expanded his work to include in his institutes blind children, orphans and the abandoned. He overcame the trial of defending himself against the anti-Church municipal council and later, in the congregation, the departure of the first superior, and strove with fatherly affection to educate his deaf-mutes and to give the Salesian Sisters a complete religious formation.
He also served as confessor and spiritual director to priests, seminarians and various religious communities, founded the Eucharistic League of Priest Adorers and Women Adorers, and was superior of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales. He was appointed a canon of the Lecce cathedral and awarded a commendation by the civil authorities.
He died at the age of 75 of a serious diabetic condition with heart complications on 4 June 1923.