A TURNING POINT ON OUR JOURNEY
(A Tribute to Fr. Stefano Gobbi)
July 29, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the MMP,
The news of Fr. Gobbi’s death took us by surprise and put us in utter sadness. For many of us who hardly knew him (except in the Blue Book), his death last June 29 was unexpected. It has been known long before, though, that he has been suffering from a serious heart disease. In 1998, he underwent a bypass operation, giving him a lease in life of thirteen more years. The fatal attack occurred last June 19, just ten days before his death, causing severe damage in his heart that doctors could no longer operate on.
Death for Fr. Gobbi seemed to be at the doorstep. In his Circular Letter for 2011, which would be his last, it was as if he was writing his parting words. We can surmise on this as we read the following paragraphs where he mentioned about “accomplishing the mission” entrusted by Our Lady and about the “end” of his task and journey.
In the homily that I gave at Fatima on October 25, 2010, during the concelebration that concluded the long journey that I made in Europe for the cenacles of the MMP, I said: Here at Fatima, You called me to this work and You entrusted to me the task of going everywhere, to invite all priests to consecrate themselves to Your Immaculate Heart. I have accomplished this mission of Yours in these years, having made 1,500 flights and many other trips by car and by train. I have gone many times to the five continents, to lead my brother priests to make the consecration to Your Immaculate Heart. The majority of them are already in Heaven and many others are still on this earth.
But, this year, an extraordinary event occurred. On May 12, here in this Cova da Iria, before You, the Holy Father Benedict XVI consecrated all of the priests of the world to your Immaculate Heart. Therefore, with this consecration, it seems as if my task might be finished and that my journey would have come to an end. Maybe yes for one part – the task of leading everyone to the consecration.
Prior to this, his previous Circular Letters for 2009 and 2010 already indicated serious concerns about his failing health. As if sensing the inevitable, though still remote, he was seemingly laden with some anxiety.
Even if the burden of my age is increasing and my state of health is precarious, I trust in our Blessed Mother’s help to fulfill the obligations that I have undertaken. (2009 Circular Letter)
This year I will turn 80. Human prudence would dictate that I lessen greatly my intense cenacle schedules. But, as long as the Heavenly Mother gives me the health and the strength, I think that it is my duty to continue the already exhausting mission of leading bishops, priests, religious and faithful to the Consecration to her Immaculate Heart. (2010 Circular Letter)
This was Fr. Gobbi before his death. He was certainly weakened. Yet, he was determined “to fulfill the obligations” and “to continue the already exhausting mission.” In such condition of suffering and helplessness, he was utterly abandoned to Our Lady; like a child assured and comforted in the loving arms of its mother. And, although he was physically limited and unable to be with us, he kept us all close to his heart with his fraternal affection and prayers, assuring us of the deep bond of spiritual unity within the Marian Movement of Priests and leading us to face the future with confidence and hope.
At the beginning of this New Year, I am close to you with my brotherly affection and with my prayer, so that together we can look at the times that await us with trust and with great hope. (2011 Circular Letter)
True to his calling as Our Lady’s “least apt instrument” (Message 5 c), Fr. Gobbi passed away in silence and in hiddenness. Literally nothing was heard of him after the news of his death. He faded away so quietly, reminding us that the Marian Movement of Priests is “not his but Our Lady’s work alone (Message 5 d). He had only one last thing to say: that the Immaculate Heart is our only refuge.
In the face of the events through which we are living, that each day has become more painful and menacing, our safe refuge becomes solely the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (2011 Circular Letter)
Certainly, with his death, his mission likewise ends. But, surmising from what he wrote, he seemed to indicate that he wanted it to continue with a new itinerary.
It seems as if my task might be finished and that my journey would have come to an end. Maybe yes for one part - the task of leading everyone to the consecration. Today, however, we need to begin a new and more important itinerary: that of living our consecration. If we live the consecration, our life becomes transformed by your maternal love; we ourselves become rays of your love, which spreads ever more in every part of the world. We become enlightened, sanctified and transformed by Love. (2011 Circular Letter)
By this, he clearly answers the most asked question: What would the MMP be without Fr. Gobbi? As indicated in his letter, the Marian Movement of Priests continues in its mission with a new and more important itinerary: that of living our consecration. After leading us to consecration, he has now passed on to us the task of living it daily in our lives. This is, for him, the most desirable and necessary course of action. By living our consecration, the message of Fatima is being fulfilled. (Message 594)
Indeed, Father Gobbi’s passing is a turning point in our journey. Now that the ball is in our hands, let us continue the work that he began. He is with our Blessed Mother in heaven; and this belief gives me great confidence that the Marian Movement of Priests now has more strength and a clearer direction towards which it will carry out its new mission.
Here now are some updates.
1. Lay Formation in Paranaque
I would like to congratulate the cenacle groups in the Diocese of Paranaque for their successful Lay Formation seminar held last July 16 at the St. Anthony Parish in Sucat. Around 145 participants came. Their next formation will be on October 8 at the Mother of Unity Parish to coincide with their annual Diocesan Cenacle. The Diocese of Paranaque has the most number of cenacle groups in Metro Manila. With the regular schedule of Lay Formations in the diocese, I hope to meet the other cenacle groups in the area as they avail of the formation.
2. Special Mission in Ilo-ilo
MMP Philippines will go on a special mission to Ilo-ilo on August 13 - 14. Arranged by Sis. Rose Abilo, a cenacle promoter in Manila, an orientation on the cenacle will be given to two specific groups: families of seafarers and parents of seminarians. Please pray for the success of this mission.
3. Retreat for Lay Promoters in Davao
The Mindanao cenacle groups will have their retreat on August 19 - 21. Groups from Davao City, Digos, Mati, General Santos and Cotabato are expected to attend. This will be held at the Benedictine Retreat House in Digos, Davao del Sur. Please pray also for the success of this retreat.
I cannot help but think of Fr. Gobbi guiding us in the many undertakings we have for the MMP. From this moment on, let us keep him in our prayers and offer him all our works. May he inspire us to live our consecration, the new itinerary that he has laid down for us.
We thank our beloved Mother for Fr. Gobbi. God bless you all.
Yours in the Immaculate Heart,
REV. FR. ROMERICO A. PRIETO
Marian Movement of Priests – Philippines