The human sorrow the heart feels on the loss of a Father, a founder and, for many, a great friend and confidant cannot overshadow the joy of the blessing of his person, the example of his missionary journey, the strength of the passion with which he lived his vocation. He wanted to take on the role of servant in the biblical sense, that is, an authentic lover of God. We can apply to him the title that he himself wanted to serve as the compass that would guide the way of living the Gospel of the Missionary Servants of the Poor: servant of God, servant of the Church, and servant of the poor.
Making real the charism through:
Father Giovanni Salerno was born in Gel (in the Sicilian province of Caltanisetta, Italy. His parents were Nicolá Salerno and Angela Legname.
Giovanni is little more than a year old when Italy enters Word War II on the side of Hitler’s Germany.
Father Giovanni Salerno dreams of Holy Mary Mother of the Poor who is accompanied by children from different continents.
He makes his First Holy Communion at 8 years old. “I asked for three things that day: to be a priest, to be a doctor, and to be a missionary. And the Lord heard me.”
At 11 years old, Giovanni enters the Augustinian seminary in Palermo. “I was happy! I felt the Lord was calling me to be a priest.”
Three ophthalmologists agree in the diagnosis that he would be blind within a few years. “But I believed firmly in my vocation.”
He studies theology in the archdiocesan seminary in Monreale, Palermo.
On December 23, Fr. Giovanni is ordained a priest. “On kissing my hands, my mother said, ‘May these hands save many children!’”
Wanting to serve the poor, Father Giovanni began his studies in missionary medicine.
Father Giovanni, at the request of his superior, volunteers to go to the Chuquibambilla mission in Peru along with seven others.
Having arrived in the missionary territory of Peru and observing the sad situation of the sick, Father Salerno begins to establish clinics.
The children of the mountains lived a real via crucis. Then I heard within me, “Didn’t I make you to help these children?”
He travleed on horseback through the Andean mountains evangelizing the many poor people who came to him thirsty to hear the Word of God.
Inauguration of the Saint Teresa Home. I was afraid for that foundation, but I had a vision of the Child Jesus Who told me, “Receive Me in these children.”
He met with Sr. Lucia (the little shepherd of Fatima) and with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who encouraged him to continue forward with his foundation.
He met the Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, Card. Marcelo González, who opened the doors of his diocese and encouraged him to form future priests.
Fr. Giovanni was received in a private audience by Pope Saint John Paul II who told him, “This is really the ‘Opus Christi Salvatoris Mundi’!”
Father fully dedicated himself to giving life to the charism that God had inspired in him, remaining always faithful to the Church.
Father Giovanni Salerno decided to resign as Superior General and volunteered to go to Cuba.
Father left Cuba and returned to Lima. Of this time Father said, “I spend the entire day in prayer.”
“Come and take me with you, my Mother!” The Blessed Virgin took him in her arms on the first Saturday of the month.
To lead this young MSP family forward, I am willing to make any sacrifice, to suffer all kinds of humiliations, to give even my life.
You can’t serve the poor if you are not already full of God.
I would like to have a thousand lives and always as a priest, to save as many orphaned and abandoned children as possible.
We must give the poor ourselves, our time, our lives.
The Missionary Servants of the Poor, first of all, must know how to recognize Christ in the poor. We welcome, heal and assist only one child: Jesus.
Never leave the Rosary to the end of the day. The Virgin deserves the best minutes of our day!