11 June 2023: “Corpus Christi” with the bishop
Yesterday this was a seminary whose purpose was the formation of young people. Today it is a place intended for the reception of elderly confreres requiring assistance and for hosting groups. The Blessed Sacrament community of Ponteranica is celebrating its hundred years of life. Yesterday, like today, the guiding star in his apostolate has always been attention to the Eucharist – lived, communicated, shared.
The century of the Blessed Sacrament community’s presence in Ponteranica was honoured by Bishop Francesco Beschi celebrating Mass on the solemnity of Corpus Christi. “I have great affection and gratitude for this community” - the bishop said addressing those present, including the children who had just received their First Communion. “One hundred years is a long time, but it is only a beginning. It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I am celebrating this Mass together with the parish priests of the pastoral unit of Ponteranica and in the presence of so many people.”
The members of the community are called Blessed Sacrament religious, because of the centrality this Sacrament has for them. As the bishop explained, this Sacrament is the reference point of three dimensions: signal, symbol and sign. “A signal” – he continued – “is something that indicates, like the traffic light, when to stop and when to go instead. A symbol represents, or makes something present, while a sign expresses something. These three dimensions indicate the significance of the Sacrament, which is something that communicates, that is, it bestows and transmits life to us and in this consists its originality. These dimensions have always been lived by the Blessed Sacrament religious during these hundred years, a period measured not in terms of minutes, but in the love to give and share.”
This is a feature that has accompanied them since their first arrival in Italy, in Rome, in 1882. Then followed: the foundation in Santa Maria di Piazza in Turin, the arrival in Castelvecchio di Moncalieri in 1902, the experience of Vigarolo di Borghetto Lodigiano and, finally, the coming to Ponteranica in 1923. The memory of these places “sparkled” during the Eucharistic celebration in a monstrance that "comes from Vigarolo – as the Blessed Sacrament religious pointed out - and reminds us of our hundred years and the presence of Christ Jesus every day.”
In the course of the outdoor celebration there was a light shower of rain. This seemed to be a symbol of the freshness with which the Blessed Sacrament religious have always lived their apostolate of love. The procession scheduled to follow the Mass, because of the uncertain weather, was replaced by a brief period of adoration which ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The community of Ponteranica is a significant presence within the Institute, which has about 850 religious around the world, including 7 bishops, spread across 28 countries of the 5 continents. The seed planted in the 19th century by their founder St. Peter-Julian Eymard, formerly a priest of the diocese of Grenoble, has generated abundant fruit of neighbourly love. It was he who underlined that the Institute’s mission consists in bringing the people of God back to the table of the Eucharist.
Mr Cristiano Comelli
L’Eco di Bergamo, 12 June 2023
29 June 2023: gratitude to the Blessed Sacrament Sisters
For 100 years not only the Blessed Sacrament Fathers have been present in Ponteranica, but also the Blessed Sacrament Sisters of Bergamo. On June 29, the solemnity of the Saints Peter and Paul, there was an occasion of sharing and thanksgiving with a representation of the Sisters who, after 100 years, will be leaving Ponteranica.
In the morning, we met in the hall of the house to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Seminary and the presence of the Sisters with a succession of photos about which Fr Fiorenzo Salvi commented. This was followed by speeches given by our Provincial, Fr Gabriele Di Nicolò and the Provincial of the Blessed Sacrament Sisters, Sr Gabriella (in the photo).
After a short break, there was community adoration in the church, animated by Fr. Gianni Giassi and during which some passages from the writings of St Peter-Julian and also Sr Geltrude Comensoli were read. This was followed by lunch, during which some gifts were given to the Sisters, as a visible sign of our gratitude.
Also present were the ladies who, for several years, have been collaborating with the sisters in the laundry and linenroom. Our gratitude also goes to them, together with the memory of Carla Fantoni.
Below, we report large excerpts from Fr. Gabriel’s speech.
I am truly pleased and it is fitting, in the context of the centenary of the Seminary, to express today my heartfelt thanks to the Blessed Sacrament Sisters who have provided their collaboration and their valuable service in this community from the very beginning. I do so, of course, in the name of all my confreres in our Province. It is - I said - fitting to remember gratefully this journey of sharing and collaboration between our Institutes. This collaboration already began before the seminary’s permanent headquarters was in Ponteranica, when, in the temporary headquarters of Vigarolo di Borghetto Lodigiano (after the transfer from Castelvecchio-TO, on 2 December 1920), the then Superior General offered help to the seminary for services in the kitchen and laundry, by sending three Sisters. Since then, the collaboration would continue uninterrupted here in Ponteranica until today.
In October 1922, Fr. Carlo Maria Poletti, Vice President of the Standing Committee of the National Eucharistic Congresses, preached the retreat to the Blessed Sacrament Sisters in their Mother House. On that same occasion there was a meeting with the Bishop of Bergamo, Mons. Luigi Maria Marelli, and Fr. Poletti took the opportunity to speak about the Seminary, for which his approval was required. Among those present, there was also Mother Zaveria Cassia, the fourth Superior General of the Blessed Sacrament Sisters, who knelt before the Bishop and begged him, saying: “Excellency, be charitable. It will be a blessing. They pray a lot.” The bishop’s agreeing to the foundation of the Eucharistic Seminary, after overcoming his hesitations, was undoubtedly influenced by Mother Zaveria’s intercession.
Therefore, on June 26, 1923, the Blessed Sacrament Sisters also arrived from Vigarolo with the Fathers, Brothers and seminarians in Ponteranica to take care of the kitchen and laundry. On 29 June the story of the Eucharistic Seminary of Ponteranica officially began. Therefore, there the Sisters are also among the “pioneers” of the Seminary, that is, among those who paved the way, who preceded those who would arrive later, up to the present.
I certainly do not intend to name all the nuns who have succeeded one another over the years both in the service of the kitchen and laundry (many of whom now live in the Lord, in eternal adoration) so as not to risk leaving out some: the Lord does not forget any of them and certainly He is their greatest reward. A special thanks, however, is due to the sisters present in the current community: the superior, Sister Ernestina, Sister Maria Stella, Sister Serena.
Dear sisters, advancement of age and declining strength has led your Institute, after due discernment, to decide to end this experience and close the current community, certainly with regret. Sorrow also touches us in a vivid way; but, in accepting these events, the grateful memory remains alive for all that we have experienced together in these 100 years: faces and events are indelible and are part of the history of the Eucharistic Seminary and of this house. Often in the Bible we find the Lord’s invitation to remember: “Remember!” Yes, because it is a matter of not forgetting what the Lord himself has done, through people who have entrusted their lives to him and have placed themselves in a humble attitude of the gift of self.
In the Eucharist we still and always find the inspiration and strength to make our lives a generous gift, lived to the end of our existence, even within the limits of human, physical and psychological strength. May the merciful Lord be the true reward for all those who have loved and served in this Seminary, and may he still be able to grant vocations to your and our Institutes. But may He also bestow on us the grace to value the fragility of people and communities above all in being able to bear witness always with joy, even if with difficulty, to his fidelity that never fails.
Notiziario n. 6 - 10 July 2023
Province of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament