FRATERNITY OF SAINT CHARLES
The Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo is a Society of Apostolic Life founded by Fr. Massimo Camisasca in 1985. Today it is present in seventeen countries in the world and has about 130 definitive members and 35 seminarians.
The pillars on which the Fraternity of St. Charles is based are expressed by its very name: Fraternity, Priestly, and Missionary.
Fraternity. The priests live together in houses of three or more. The communion that they live does not simply support them in their daily work on mission, but it is the path of conversion and holiness. “The Fraternity is a companionship formed by people who are put together by Another, and by the merciful gesture of Another that reaches their lives. It is a potent sign of the mercy of God. Each is welcomed and constantly accompanied by Christ through his brothers. Thus the Fraternity is the place that, through our conversion, renders the memory of Christ simpler and continuous.
Priestly. Responding to their priestly vocation, the members of the Fraternity desire to bring Christ to the world above all through the witness of a life changed by the encounter with Him. They are also called to accompany each person, sharing his hardships, joys, and questions. They are to be an instrument of God’s mercy through the celebration of the sacraments and the proclamation of His Word. To live this task more profoundly, each priest’s day is centered around silence, prayer, and daily Mass. “The priestly vocation is one of the highest and most beautiful callings. It thrives on a constant communion with God and with people. Naturally, as with all vocations, one can be prone to fatigue, routine, scandal, and human weakness. If properly sustained and helped, the priesthood can constitute a bridge between heaven and earth, representing an important bond in the history of holiness, and also play a pivotal role in the journey towards the unity of men.”
Missionary. Those who enter the Fraternity are available to be sent where the Church needs them. According to the bishop in the diocese where they are located, they give their service to parishes, schools, prisons, and hospitals. “Mission is not our invention or the expression of our particular talents or passions, although it can be nourished by all of the gifts God has given us. Mission consists simply in entering inside the same mission for which God sent His Only Son to the world and for which the Son sent his apostles until the visible echo of that event touched us.”
The Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo was founded on September 14, 1985 out of an intuition of Fr. Massimo Camisasca, who would be the superior general from its beginning until 2012. In the beginning, the Fraternity consisted of seven priests and ten seminarians. In the early 1980s, Camisasca and a small group of priests asked Cardinal Ugo Poletti if he could found a priestly association to form young men for mission and to respond to the mandate that John Paul II gave to Communion and Liberation in September of 1984 during an audience. “Go into all the world,” said the great Pope, “to bring the truth, the beauty, and the peace which are found in Christ the Redeemer.”
There are multiple reasons why the Fraternity, explicitly inspired by the person and charism of Fr. Luigi Giussani, is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo.
Camisasca, in the book “Il vento di Dio”, said that, beyond the awareness of “an affectionate protection from St. Charles” and the similarity between the great Milanese saint and Fr. Giussani (“the continuity of prayer, the untiring openness to mission, the boundless passion for Christ and people, and the concreteness of temperament”), there was from the beginning “the idea to contribute to the reform of the Church.” Reform, explains Camisasca, means something similar to what then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger defined as “a renewal that goes forward precisely because it teaches to live permanent values in a new way, keeping in mind the totality of the Christian fact and the totality of man.” Along with the Fraternity, a seminary was established on via Liberiana, near the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The house of formation at that time was the seed of the form that the Fraternity would take, emphasizing the gestures that still characterize its educational method: “the liturgy, singing, study,” monthly house meetings, presence at the university, charitable work, and welcoming people who pass by Rome. In 1996, the Fraternity moved to Via Boccea where it remains today. In September 2003, it opened a Latin-American seminary in Mexico City. Today, the seminary is located in Santiago, Chile.
In 1989 the Fraternity was recognized as a Society of Apostolic Life of Diocesan right and the Fraternity began to spread both throughout Italy and around the world. Houses were built where three or more priests moved to live together, living the communion according to the spirit and rule of the mother house in Rome. “Since the beginning,” says Fr. Massimo, “the idea of mission was closely connected to the idea of the house.” There were a lot of requests to send priests alone throughout the world so that in theory needs could be met easily and more efficiently, but Fr. Massimo was opposed to this idea. “I was convinced by the experience of the Memores Domini that I saw grow and, more profoundly, the teaching of Giussani on communion as a guided companionship.” Pope John Paul II recognized the Fraternity as a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right on March 19, 1999.
In 2007, the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo was founded. The bishop of Porto-Santa Rufina, Gino Reali, recognized them as a Private Association of the Faithful with Fr. Paolo Sottopietra as their Superior General. A few months later, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of His Holiness for the City of Rome, offered them a house in the Roman suburb of Magliana. In 2011, the Missionary Sisters were recognized as a Public Association of the Faithful. Today, Sr. Rachele Paiusco, the first to take her solemn vows, is the Superior General of the community.
On the 29th of September 2012, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI nominated Msgr. Massimo Camisasca as Bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. On the 1st of February of the next year, the General Assembly of the Fraternity elected Fr. Paolo Sottopietra as the Superior General of the Fraternity of St. Charles.
from the left: fr Luigi Giussani, Saint John Paul II and fr Massimo Camisasca