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Giuseppe Salanitri

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He dedicated his whole life to his mission as teacher and educator

Father Giuseppe Salanitri

Father Giuseppe Salanitri was born in Bronte the 19th of August 1874. He started his studies in the College founded by Ignazio Capizzi and afterwards in the Catania’s Seminary where he was ordered priest in 1897 by the cardinal Nava.

True educator and very generous man, he dedicated his life to the Christian formation of the young (soon after becoming a priest he founded a Sunday Oratory for them) and, for the poor, he started a circle that, in periods of particular economic difficulties used to distribute hot meals to the needy.

In 1915 he left Bronte to join the army (he even gained a bronze medal for military valour).

At the end of the war, in 1919 he goes back to his country town and having such fighting spirit, he gets involved in social and political activities.

He was repeatedly a minority town councilor (from 1906 to 1922); he was also the founder, along with others, of the section of the Popular Party of Bronte.

In 1920 he was president of the Cassa Agricola Nicola Spedalieri, a small credit institute founded in 1913 to help particularly Bronte’s peasants who used to be outrageously oppressed by usurers.

But his political interest did not last very long. His main mission was teaching and to this he dedicated all his life.

In fact his most prestigious achievement was the foundation of the small Seminary that he wanted, on Cardinal Nava’s solicitation, in 1919 and that he built practically using his own money.

In the small institute, that remains his major work, very many Bronte’s youngsters, in times in which only few could afford to go to school, had the possibility of studying and many of them became priests and missionaries.

Father Salanitri died the 30th of July 1953 and rests in the Catena’s church, that he directed conti­nuously for 50 years and where his mortal remains were moved in 1960.

Father Salanitri, in the centre, stands in the courtyard of the Semi­nary with the Superiors, the professors and the pupils (photo of 1938)In the photo of the 1944 are recognizable, from left, father Zingale, father Giuseppe Calan­na, mons. Pennisi, father Salanitri and, last to right, father Modica.Father Salanitri is here surrounded (on the left) by father Platania, mons. Nino Calanna and (to right) father Marcantonio and father Sanfilippo.

Father Salanitri in the memory of two of his students


Priests to remember

The pastoral dream of father Salanitri

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, during recreation.

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 majority.

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 sacerdotal ordination.

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 familiar patrimony.

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 seminary. 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 orders.

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 the Diocese.

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]

This 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.

His build 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».

Professor Antonino Minissale

ITALIAN VERSIONTranslated by Sam Di Bella


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