BLESSED THOMAS MARIA FUSCO (1831-1891), priest, founder and missionary
Today, the Church honors Blessed Thomas (Tommaso) Maria Fusco, who dedicated his life to tirelessly serving the Body of Christ, always placing the glory of God first in his life.
Thomas was the seventh of eight children, born on December 1, 1831, in Pagani, Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno, Italy, and baptized the same day in the parish of San Felice e Corpo di Cristo.
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. Father Giuseppe, an uncle on his father’s side and a primary school teacher, then took charge of Thomas’ education.
Since 1839, the year of the canonization of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Thomas had dreamed of the priesthood. He entered the seminary in 1847 and was ordained in 1855. Thomas developed a deep devotion to the Crucified Christ and the Sorrowful Heart of Mary which he cherished throughout his life.
Right from the very beginning of his priestly ministry, he saw to the formation of boys for whom he opened a morning school in his own home, while for young people and adults, concerned with increasing their Christian formation, Father Thomas organized evening prayers at the parish church of San Felice e Corpo di Cristo. Many saw this as a true place of conversion and prayer.
In 1857, he was admitted to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Nocera and became an itinerant [traveling] 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 also built up the Men’s and Women’s Catholic Associations and set up the “Altar of the Crucified Christ” and the “Pious Union for the Adoration of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus”.
In 1862, Father Thomas opened a school of moral theology in his own home to train priests for the ministry of confession, enkindling devotion and love for the Blood of Christ; that same year, he founded the “(Priestly) Society of the Catholic Apostolate” for missions among the common people, which received the approval of Pope Pius IX in 1874. He also founded the Congregation of the “Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood”, which became an orphanage for poor orphan girls in the area, which also received papal approval.
Father Thomas continued to dedicate himself to his priestly ministry, preaching spiritual retreats and popular missions; and, from his various apostolic travels, there sprang the many foundations of houses and orphanages that were a monument to his heroic charity, a charity which was even more fervent in the last twenty years of his life.
Envied for the good he achieved in his ministries and for his life as an exemplary priest, it was not long before Father Thomas was faced with humiliation and persecution, which is often the case when Satan is permitted to attack an individual because of his sanctity, a time of purification in which God’s glory is made even more manifest.
During the worst times of his trials, Father Thomas would pray, “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.”
At the age of 59, and wasting away from liver-disease, Father Thomas (Tommaso Maria) died a holy death on February 24, 1891, praying the words which we find in the Gospel of Luke, “Lord, now let your servant go in peace, according to your word” (Lk 2:29). Thomas was beatified on October 7, 2001, by Pope St. John Paul II.
We commemorate his feastday on February 24.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com and vatican.va)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Pastors ~ missionary)
“God of Mercy, You gave us Blessed Tommaso Maria to proclaim the riches of Christ. By the help of his prayers, may we grow in knowledge of You, be eager to do good, and learn to walk before You by living the truth of the Gospel.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”