To bring the Gospel to those who had yet to hear it was a fundamental feature of the apostolic activity of Archbishop Guido Maria Conforti, founder of the Xaverian Missionaries.
Guido Maria Conforti was born on March 30th, 1865, at Ravadese, in the Diocese of Parma, in the north Italy. While still attending primary school in Parma, the young Conforti had his first intimation that he might have a special vocation. He used to recall that it was the crucifix in the local church that had focused this possibility in his heart. At the age of 17, Guido Conforti entered the diocesan seminary in Parma and after his studies he was ordained priest on September 22nd, 1888.
In turns he then became a professor, Vice Rector of the seminary, and finally vicar for the local clergy. It was Conforti’s vision that the Gospel be preached urgently to non-Christians and to this end he established the Xaverian Missionaries on December 3rd 1895. He saw this new institute as part of a wider pastoral plan and insisted on the validity of the missionary option as a vocation for life.
In 1902 Guido Maria Conforti was appointed Archbishop of Ravenna, Italy. His health, however, obliged him to resign this office in October 1904 only to be invited by the Pope to take charge of the Diocese of Parma in 1906.
Conforti dedicated himself to the pastoral needs of his Diocese and throughout his 25 years as Bishop of Parma he abided by the motto “Christ is all things”. In his efforts to make Christ known and loved, he spent much time visiting parishes and involving himself in matters concerning religious formation: he took special care of his clergy, promoted the religious education of the laity, supported the establishment and development of lay involvement in the Church, paid particular attention to the spiritual well-being and formation of the youth, made at least five lengthy pastoral visits to each of his parishes, organized two diocesan Synods, and involved himself personally in the missionary activity of his Diocese to non-Christians.
In September 1928, notwithstanding his illness and age, Bishop Conforti visited the Xaverian missions in China. He died in Parma, on November 5th, 1931. Pope John Paul II declared Guido Maria Conforti “Blessed” in the eyes of the whole church on March 17th, 1996.
The bringing of the Gospel to those who had yet to hear it was a fundamental feature of the apostolic activity of Guido Maria Conforti. As Bishop and pastor, he always kept sight of the three situations in which the Church’s one evangelizing mission is carried out: pastoral care of the local church, commitment to the mission abroad and the evangelization of those who have lost their sense of the faith. He was convinced that one of the most effective ways to reinvigorate the faith in lands already evangelized was to proclaim the Gospel to those who did not yet know it.
The bedrock of Conforti’s dedication was his understanding of Christ’s Cross which he saw as an inexhaustible font of a love nourishing those who give themselves to others. For this reason, whenever difficulties arose Guido Maria Conforti rejoiced in God’s love, “Put out into the deep … Do not be afraid” (11c. 5:4-10). It is confidence of this kind that joins all Christians when they pray the Lord’s own prayer.
Today the Xaverian Missionaries — around 1,800 Priests, Brothers and Sisters —work in some 20 different countries around the world.