Memorial : February 24
Tommaso Maria Fusco, the seventh of eight children, was born on 1 December 1831 in Pagani, Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno, Italy, to Dr Antonio, a pharmacist, and Stella Giordano, of noble descent. They were known for their upright moral and religious conduct, and taught their son Christian piety and charity to the poor.
In 1837, when he was only six years old, his mother died of cholera and a few years later, in 1841, he also lost his father. Fr Giuseppe, an uncle on his father's side and a primary school teacher, took charge of his education.
On 1 April 1851, Tommaso Maria received the sacrament of Confirmation. On 22 December 1855 he was ordained a priest by Bishop Agnello Giuseppe D'Auria.
In those years, which were saddened by the loss of those who were close to him along with his uncle (1847) and his brother, Rafaelle (1852), he found support in the devotion to the Patient Christ and to his Sorrowful Mother, as his biographers recall: "He had a deep devotion to the crucified Christ which he cherished throughout his life".
From the start of his priestly ministry, he educated the young, opening a school for them in his house and at the parish restored evening devotions that included prayer, religious and vocational formation.
In 1857, he was admitted to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Nocera under the title of St Vincent de Paul and became an itinerant missionary, especially in the regions of Southern Italy.
In 1860 he was appointed chaplain at the Shrine of our Lady of Carmel in Pagani, where he built up the Catholic associations and set up the altar of the Crucified Christ and the Pious Union for devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.
In 1862 he opened a school of moral theology in his own home to train priests for the ministry of confession, kindling enthusiasm for the love of Christ's Blood; that same year, he founded the "(Priestly) Society of the Catholic Apostolate" for missions among the common people; in 1874 he received the approval of Blessed Pius IX.
Deeply moved by the sorry plight of an orphan girl, a victim of the street, after careful prayer of discernment, Fr Tommaso Maria founded the Congregation of the "Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood" on 6 January, the Solemnity of Epiphany in 1873. This institute began the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the presence of Bishop Raffaele Ammirante, who, with the clothing with the habit of the first three sisters, blessed the first orphanage for seven poor orphan girls. The religious family and the orphanage also received the Pope's blessing.
It was not long before Fr Tommaso Maria, envied for the good he achieved in his ministry and for his life as an exemplary priest, had to face persecution and even calumny from his confreres. He recalled what Bishop Ammirante had said, "Did you choose the title of the Precious Blood? Prepare to drink the bitter chalice". During the harshest trials, which he bore in silence, he would repeat: "May work and suffering for God always be your glory and in your work and suffering, may God be your consolation on this earth, and your recompense in heaven. Patience is the safeguard and pillar of all the virtues".
Wasting away with a liver-disease, Fr Tommaso Maria died, 59 years old, on 24 February 1891, praying with Simeon: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word" (Lk 2,29).
His life was directed to the highest devotion of Christian virtues by the priestly life, lived intensely in constant meditation on the mystery of the Father's love, contemplated in the crucified Son whose Blood is "the expression, measure and pledge" of divine and heroic charity to the poor and needy, in whom Fr Tommaso Maria saw the bleeding Face of Jesus.
His writings, preaching and popular missions marked his vast experience of faith and the light of Christian hope that shone from his vocation and actions. He had a vital, burning love for God; it enflamed his words and his apostolate, made fruitful by love for God and neighbour, by union with the crucified Jesus, by trust in Mary, Immaculate and Sorrowful, and above all by the Eucharist.
The cause for the beatification of Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco was initiated in 1955. With his beatification, Pope John Paul II presents Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco as an example and a guide to holiness for priests, for the people of God and for his spiritual daughters, the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood.