Bl. Paolo Manna

Memorial : 23 March

He was born in Avellino, Italy, on 16 January 1872, the fifth of six children. Two of his uncles were priests and so was his older brother. Fr Manna studied Latin and Greek in Naples and philosophy in Rome. In 1891 he entered the seminary of the Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan. In 1894 he was ordained in the Cathedral of Milan. In 1895 he departed for the mission of Toungoo in Burma where he worked until 1907. He had to return to Italy three times because he suffered from tuberculosis. At 35 he said he was an unsuccessful missionary. But, in fact, in Burma he was appreciated for his writings. In 1909 he was appointed editor of Le Missioni Cattoliche and published reflections on the vocation to the foreign missions, entitled The Workers Are Few, which were the source of hundreds of missionary vocations. In Italy he relaunched the Mission Societies for the Propagation of the Faith and Holy Childhood and promoted other initiatives for missionary cooperation. In 1916 he started the Missionary Union of the Clergy, today the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU) which Pius XII called "the jewel of Fr Manna's whole life". In 1919 he started the Italia Missionaria magazine to encourage vocations. In 1924 he was elected superior general of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions, and later superior general of PIME, established on 26 May 1926, by the will of Piux XI, who unified the two foreign-mission seminaries in Milan and Rome. Many letters to missionaries that he wrote are collected in a book Apostolic Virtues which was translated into English. In December 1936, he was asked to establish the PIME Missionary Sisters of Immaculate Mary. In the last years of his life, Fr Manna was superior of the PIME southern region. In 1950 he published Our Churches and the Spread of the Gospel, in which he says that the bishop and his clergy are responsible for spreading the Gospel among non-Christians and that diocesan priests must take part in the universal missionary activity of the Church. Pius XII took up the proposal in the 1957 Encyclical Fidei Donum, which opened the way for direct missionary service by dioceses and diocesan clergy. Fr Manna's greatest legacy is the example he left behind: he was driven by a passion for the missions that sickness, suffering and setbacks could never diminish. His motto was "All the Church for All the World". Fr Manna died on 15 September 1952 in a hospital in Naples. The diocesan process was begun in Naples in 1974.

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