Priests to remember
The pastoral dream of father
He was able to
realize the project of founding in Bronte a small seminary in which
many priests were formed to enrich the local church
The schoolboys often ask me: why did you
become a priest? And I answer: I couldn’t have done otherwise after having met some
priests during my childhood. The priests of Bronte, that has become my second country since my
departure from my family in Tortorici.
Of all of them, the celebration of mess for me was a boost. But above
all they were a window from which I breathed the air of the
supernatural, of the transcendental.
Priests with different faces but all reassuring ones for a timid child,
that I was, and taut in the effort to integrate myself in the new
community that accommodated me. That is how the face of father Giuseppe Salanitri appeared to me, of a
man rather tall, stout and sometime hieratic, when he, in his last
years of life, seated under the wisteria that branched out on the
walls of the seminary’s small yard, observed smiling and oscillating
his head, its small seminarists that were running and making noise,
How many times I approached him, in those moments, to give vent to my
small pains provoked from insults I received from some companion
because of my different origin.
Then I noticed as all my pain was moved to the face of that old man,
indeed in him it seemed to enlarge itself to the same measure of its
gigantic stature and Father Salanitri appeared to my eyes of a small
adolescent, an avenging knight of justice.
I do not have other personal memories.
I knew him, in fact, when, already in poor health, he limited its
apparitions in seminary and although remaining their “Father
chancellor” he had entrusted its boys, to the cures of father Nino
Calanna, its successor, who organized turns between us, small
seminarists, so that we could go and offer him a little company that
he appreciated more than anything else.
The biographical news in my possession are few, never the less
essential and rather interesting.
At sixteen, it was the19th of August 1874, after having completed the
grammar school studies in the Capizzi College, pressed by his parents
to decide which future studies to take up, he manifested to the family
its secret: the intention to enter in the seminary.
The father was surprised. The mother burst in tears. But not of being
sorry about it. Even she, in that circumstance, had a secret to reveal:
from the day of her wedding she had prayed and fasted every Saturday,
in order to obtain from the Madonna the gift of a son clergyman! Its sabbatical fast continued until the 18th December 1897 when she
could kiss the consecrated hands of her son.
The new clergyman was swept up, like in a vortex, by three great loves:
the love towards a living, silent God in the Eucharist; the love
towards the Church; the love, the “misereor super turbam”, towards,
above all, the poor, weak people.
From this last love emerged all its numerous activities in charitable
works. In times of scarcity, near the premises of the church Saint
Maria of the Chain, assured, every day, one hot meal and enough bread
to the indigent ones of the country town.
Together with other brothers,
in favour of the poor ranks he undertook the fight against the usury,
contrasting it effectively with the foundation of a “popular mutual
Bank”, of which in 1920 he was president.
This love pushed him also to engage in social and political activity.
Also with others two brothers he was communal councilman of minority
in the Municipality. But the work of the three clergymen was so efficient that the
population in the new elections gave to their “Popular” party, the
In this field, however, the role of father Salanitri was only
temporary. His pastoral dream was something else. It was what it gushed out from its two great loves towards the
Eucharist and the Church: the foundation in Bronte of a small seminary,
work desired also, by the Card. Francica Nava. Seminary dreamed in those moments of distresses by the thought that
Bronte from 1906, and for 25 long years, did not know more a
Seminary wanted for a crescent love towards the Church picked on, then,
even in its city, by the spite of the masonry and the regurgitations
of the anticlericalism.
Seminary constructed and supported mainly with the proceeds of its
Therefore in place of the many existing hovels, in
the shadow of the Church Maria SS. of the Chain, on his return from
war 1915-18, rose the premises of the small seminary of Bronte that,
in August of 1919, opened its doors to the first boys.
Small because destined to receive small boys, but equally small as a
construction. Humble little Seminary, architectonically poor. Nevertheless...
wonderful and fecund breeding ground of sacerdotal lives.
Up to his death, the 30th of July 1953, at the age of 79 years, in
fact, father Salanitri, with the last sacred ordinations given little
more than a month before, the 11.06.53, had already given to the
Church fifty clergymen, comprising the 14 boys passed from the festive
oratory, opened by him before the small seminary, to the religious
And after his death, with the same rhythm, more than fifty
ordinations had matured in succeeding years.
To remember father Giuseppe Salanitri in the fiftieth year of its
death is like acquitting a debit towards the historical patrimony of
But it is also to obey an evangelic invitation to throw
light over the lamp to enlighten everybody in the house (Mt 5, 15).
Mons. Nunzio Galati, 14th December 2003
[The article, written by Msgr. Nunzio Galati, born in Tortorici,
parish priest of Maniace since 1967, was taken from the current
regional Catholic weekly "Perspectives" of December 14, 2003]
is how professor
Antonino Minissale remembers him on the centenary
of his birth:
In memory of Padre Salanitri
«I met father Salanitri when he was old, during his last ten years,
and so from about 1943 to 1953.
In fact I started going to the
Small Seminary soon after the bombing of Bronte, during the school
year 1943-44, to attend the 4th class of primary school.
I remember him now as I knew him when I was a boy but I like to
frame his memory in the sphere of my successive experience, and of
our time so different from the one in which he lived.
showed already his character. He was tall, steady, vigorous, solid,
but, on the same time, sweet and flexible.
His face’s expression, and specially his eyes, belonged to a
concentrated and decisive man, and again peaceful and relaxed.
He had a trait of ingrained distinction and of spontaneous
kindliness, of solemnity and simplicity. His furrowed face was
abundant, full up to his chin, so to give the idea of a man
feeling at easy and capable of making anybody feel at easy.
Sometime he asked to have his white hair cut leaving a bristly and
unruly forelock that gave him an indomitable, lively and even
perky air. He used to carry a shiny and ancient silver plated
snuffbox, from which he used to extract, with extreme naturalness
and pleasure, and at a rather regular intermittence, a little
dark-yellow powder that sometime made him sneeze, (…).
Often he stopped to talk to us about his past vicissitudes.
And it is in these simple chats that I can see father Salanitri in
his principal role of educator and teacher. (…)
He lived permanently in Bronte, except the period of study at the
Catania’s Seminary, the military service and some rare journey of
which he retained some vivid memories.
Bronte’s history, more or less trivial, he lived it for himself,
with dedication and with such a presence and belonging that would
allow him to understand the various family situations of his boys.
Maybe we cannot call him an intellectual, and certainly not a
scholar, but he was a man who knew how to read his books that
could perceive his time’s ferments and care for any ideas
constantly related to life».