News from San Antonio Church – March 3, 2024

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Weekly Bulletin March 3, 2024

by Terrie Evans

On this 3rd Sunday in Lent, we introduce the Station Church celebrated in Rome, the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, the Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls.  Lawrence was of Spanish origin and martyred under Emperor Valerius with the Papal Minor Basilica named in his honor was one of the first seven deacons of Rome martyred in 258.  It is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, once an estate built over a small oratory erected by Emperor Constatine that also keeps relics of St. Stefano.  This Station Church is a combination of two churches, the first built in the 6th Century dedicated to the Deacon Lawrence and the other constructed around the 13th Century by Pope Honorius III who commissioned a church to be built in front of the older one.  The Basilica is known for the frescoes and mosaics that depict scenes from the lives of the young deacons Lawrence and Stephen.   The Basilica was assigned to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem during the years of 1373-1847 and sits next to a major cemetery with notables in the history of the Catholic Church buried there.  Some of those from the early Church are Deacon of Rome and Martyr, Lawrence, Deacon of Jerusalem, and 1st Martyr, Stephen, Pope Hilarius, Pope Pius IX, Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi, a founding father of the European Union, Pope Pius XII’s parents, Filippo who died in 1916 and Virginia (Graziosi) Pacelli who died in 1920, Pope Zosimus, Pope Sixtus III, and Pope Damasus II.  The Basilica was bombed in 1943 by American planes during the second World War doing much damage.  The restoration continued until 1948 as all the frescoes on the façade were destroyed and had to be completely rebuilt after the bombings.  High  360 degree  panoramas and images of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura Art Atlas ( ).  

On Monday, March 4th we celebrate St. Casimir, son of King Casimir IV and a Prince of the Kingdom of Poland who abandoned public life for a monastic life devoted to God. As a young Prince, he knew Lithuanian, Polish, German, and Latin languages and was considered an exceptional, intelligent young man of humility who strove for justice and fairness.  He chose not to marry and practiced a life of celibacy, exceedingly rare for a young man of his standing at that time. He died in 1484 on his way to Lithuania from consumption at the age of 26 and was buried with a copy of his favorite Marian Hymn, Omni die Mariae “Daily Sing to Mary”.  It   became associated to Casimir and known as the “Hymn of St. Casimir” as an official cult spread with a devotion to him after his death.  Pope Adrian VI canonized him in 1522 with special indulgences granted to those who prayed in the chapel where he was buried. Many of those pilgrims made special contributions for the upkeep of the chapel in honor of St. Casimir.  The likeness of St. Casimir can be found in Livorno, Italy and in Mexico City at the Metropolitan Cathedral with stained glass windows of Casimir located in San Jose, California at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph and in Chevaigne, France at the Church of St. Peter. There are settlements of Saint-Casimir in Canada, founded in 1836 and in San Casimiro in Venezuela that was founded in 1785.  A nursing home founded   by the Polish community in Paris, Maison Saint-Casimir was founded in 1846 and is run by the Polish Nuns, Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.  St. Casimir is considered the Patron Saint of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. 

On Thursday, March 7th we honor Christian Martyrs from the 3rd Century, Perpetua and Felicity who were arrested and executed for offering themselves as candidates for Baptism to become Christians and they would not denounce their faith.  They lived during the period of early persecutions in Africa by the Emperor Severus and along others were put to death at Carthage in the Roman Province of Africa in 203.  The four men martyred with the two women were catechumens, Saturninus, Secundulus, Saturus, and Revocatus.  During their arrest, none of the prisoners weakened before their judges as they said, “You judge us now, God will judge you”. Perpetua, a young, widowed mother is the Patron saint of expectant mothers, ranchers, and builders.  A Basilica was erected in Carthage, the Basilica Maiorum over the tombs of the Martyrs with an inscription bearing the names of Perpetua and Felicitas who were canonized pre-congregation.  A Prayer to Sts. Perpetua and Felicity: “Heavenly Father, Your love enabled the Saints Perpetua and Felicity courage to endure a cruel martyrdom.  By their prayers, help us to develop a love for You.  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.”

Friday, March 8th we celebrate the life of John of God, who left home before his teens to become a foot soldier at the age of 22.  His company fought for the Holy Roman Emperor and was wrongly accused of theft as a young man before being pardoned and returning to a farm in Oropesa where he had once worked herding sheep.  After four years working as a farm hand, he enlisted to fight in Hungary as a soldier during the Franco-Spanish War fighting against the Turks. During the next 18 years, he would serve as a trooper in many parts of Europe. He was still unsettled and wanted to see Africa and work to free Christians who were enslaved there.  On his way there, John befriended an exiled Portuguese Knight traveling with his wife and daughters who were now ill and penniless from their possessions being lost during their journey.  After their arrival, Joao Duarte Cidade, John of God nursed them back to health while supplying them with food even though they were all treated poorly by the rulers of the colony.  During this difficult time in his life, he sought out the Franciscan Friary for an answer to what his life’s work might be and what God might want from him.  With the vision of the Infant Jesus in front of him, he was now to be called John of God and directed to travel to Granada, Spain.  On St. Sebastians’ Day, in 1537, he experienced a major religious conversion while listening to a sermon by John of Avila who would later visit him and urge John to tend to the needs of others, gaining peace within himself as he began to work among the poor.  He had help from the Archbishop of Granada and many ladies of wealth who wanted to assist in his work.   He went on to organize the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God in 1572 to care for the sick in countries around the world.  He cared for those with paralysis, the deaf and dumb, the lepers, the crippled, the mentally ill and those with diseases of the skin.   The Order of Hospitallers was approved by the Holy See and the Order would go on to be entrusted with the medical care of the Pope.  John of God died at age 55 on March 8, 1550, after developing pneumonia from saving a young man from drowning in the River Genil.  He was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690, and named the Patron Saint of hospitals and the sick.  A church was erected in 1757 to house his remains that is now a Basilica protected by the Knights of Saint John of God.  His Order has a presence in 53 countries operating 300 hospitals to serve all types of medical needs along with those needing mental health and psychiatry care.  The Family of Saint John of God who work to keep his vision alive are made up of more than 45,000 members, Brothers and Co-Workers who are funded by many thousands of benefactors and friends who support his work to help the sick and needy around the world.

On March 9th, Saturday we celebrate the life of Frances of Rome.  Born Francesca Bussa de Leoni in 1384, an Italian Mystic and Organizer of Charitable Services.  She was Christened in the Church of St. Agnes located on the famous Piazza Navona.  At age of 11, Frances desired to become a nun, but was promised to marry the Commander of the Papal Troops of Rome, Lorenzo Ponziani when she reached the suitable age to wed.  In 1408 when the troops of Ladislaus of Naples occupied Rome, they pillaged their family home, and her family left to go into exile.  Returning in 1414, they lost two of their children to the plague that ravaged the city.  During these hard times, Frances never lost her faith or determination to serve others in need from the devastation of recurrent plagues that swept through the area or the civil war.  In 1425, she set up a group of women committed to the service of those less fortunate than themselves.  She inspired women from noble families to care for the poor and sick during times of famines and floods.  She turned some of the family estate into a hospital and distributed much needed food and clothing to the poor.  They were affiliated to the Benedictine Monks of Monte Oliveto, and with Frances’s example, the ladies sold their jewelry and fine possessions to help the needy.  They offered themselves in service to God for the poor known as the Oblates of Mary who were later called Oblates of Tor de Specchi (Towers of the Mirrors), the name originating from the house where they resided.  Frances chose not to live in the community but rather with her husband until his death 7 years later.  When Lorenzo died in 1436, Frances moved to the monastery and spent the last four years of her life as the Superior until her death in 1440 at the age of 56.  Pope Paul V canonized Frances on May 9, 1608, and in the next decades, a search was made to find her remains.  Her grave was found on April 2, 1638, and her remains were reburied in the Church of Santa Maria Nova on March 9, 1649.  St. Frances body was exhumed in 1869 and has been displayed in a glass coffin for the veneration of the faithful at the Church of Santa Maria Nova.  Since then the church is now dedicated to her as the Church of St. Frances.  Pope Pius XI in 1925 declared St. Frances the patron saint of automobile drivers with the legend of an angel using a lantern to light the road when Frances traveled to keep her safe.  In the Benedictine Order, she is honored as a patron saint of all oblates.  Oblates are those religious communities of men and women whose members are not solemnly professed but are dedicated to God under poverty, chastity, and obedience in their particular state in life. 

On Saturday. March 9th San Antonio and our church community held a memorial Mass in memory of Rev. Frederick Serraino, C.S.C. for his family and friends who were not able to attend his Funeral on February 9, 2024, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame.  He was born on August 16, 1930, to parents Antonio and Philomenia (Mania) Serraino and grew up in the Little Italy section of South Fairmount.  After graduating from Western Hills High School Fred served with the 31st Infantry during the Korean War.  On his return, Fred enrolled at Xavier University and earned a bachelor’s degree in English before moving to Los Angeles where he took a job working for the Douglas Aircraft Company.  He desired to teach and took a job in Wrangell, Arkansas teaching for the U.S. Civil Service Commission and was sent to Germany teaching school at a U.S. Army Base before returning to Los Angeles taking night classes at UCLA and offering his services as a substitute teacher.  His calling came in 1963 when he entered the Holy Cross Seminary with his Ordination as a Holy Cross Priest taking place on December 21, 1968.  He was then assigned in 1969 to the faculty at St. Peters High School in Gloucester, Massachusetts as one of the Holy Cross Priests at the school that was established in 1965 and drew boys from not only Gloucester, but Salem, Lynn, and other areas of the state.  The graduating class of 1969 had 105 seniors.  He was then assigned as a member of the faculty of Notre Dame High School in Biloxi, Mississippi where he taught until 1972, he then he served in Peru as an Assistant in Cartavio, where sugar cane is grown until 1975.  On his return he became a member of the faculty at Bishop McNamara High School for four years in Forestville, Maryland before relocating to California to assist at the Holy Cross Family Theater until 1985.  In 1985-1986 Fr. Fred continued his studies at the Nova University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and assisted at St. Julianas Parish in West Palm Beach, Florida 1990-1991.  He was then assigned as an Assistant Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Brooklyn, New York for four years before taking a sabbatical for one year to become a National Director for the Holy Cross Family Theatre in California in 1996 that produced impactful, faith-based family entertainment to inspire and educate and provide programs to television and radio broadcast outlets.   He was sent back to Peru to become the Assistant District Superior in Lima from 1998-2003 before serving as Assistant Superior at Christopher Lodge in Cocoa Beach, Florida until 2006.  Fr. Fred went on to serve as a Holy Cross Father as Director of Health and Aging for the Provincial House in Bridgeport, Connecticut from 2006-2008 and then assigned as Superior of the Dartmouth Community in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts home for retired priests in the Congregation of Holy Cross that sat on 59 acres and once housed 12-14 priests.   He then returned to reside at the Christopher Lodge named after Fr. Christopher O’ Toole former Superior and the 1st Provincial of the Southern Province until 2019.   When he retired, Fr. Fred Serraino moved to the Holy Cross House in Notre Dame Indiana.  His burial was in the Holy Cross Community Cemetery at Notre Dame.  There are about 1,000 religious’ members in 16 countries and on 5 continents.  The United States Province of Holy Cross Priests and Brothers is made up of 500 priests, brothers and seminarians that are headquartered at Notre Dame.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Antonio and Philomena Serraino, sisters Louise (Serraino) Jackson and Rose Serraino and close friend from the neighborhood, Ralph Minella.  He is survived by Sister, Carmella (Serraino) Berger, Brothers Frank and Wayne Serraino and best friend Donald “Buddy” LaRosa.  He also leaves many nieces, nephews, extended family members and close friends to mourn his passing.

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