Holiness: A Path Travelled Together
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:3)
I would like to begin by thanking the General Secretariat of the Union for the opportunity given to me and God for the gift of life which He gives me day by day and for having given me Christian parents who from my infancy have guided me on my way and through the precepts of the Lord.
How I became part of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
Since every call is a vocation from the Lord with a specific purpose, and we only have to say to the Lord, “See, I have come to do your will, O God”, my call to the Union of Catholic Apostolate began in Luanda on September 24th 2008, when I made my first journey to Rome on a Sabena/Brussels flight via Brussels to begin my studies in Rome. At that time, my family had just come to know a priest friend from the missions who was in Rome, Fr. Paul Bacchelett; who was able to host me for just two months in Via dei Falegnami and enrol me in the Angelicum University.
However, when I arrived in Rome, the university itinerary had changed, and I went instead to the Salesian University where I spent one year. And I was in Via dei Falegnami for just two months because the priest who received me had to return to the land of his birth, Lisbon in Portugal.
For some time, Fr. Paul had known the John XXIII Centre in via del Conservatorio nº 1, where foreign students coming from developing countries lived, along with the priest who looked after them, Fr. Remigio Mozzaragno, and so requested that I be allowed to live at the Centre. On my arrival there, the choir of Angolan students was formed, which sang at the 10am Sunday Mass. My room in the Centre looked out on the Pallottine church, SS. Salvatore in Onda, and when I opened my window every morning, I had a desire to visit that little church. In the end, I found myself visiting it one Thursday afternoon.
- As soon as I entered, an elderly priest, Fr. Corrado, the custodian, welcomed me warmly and gave me a guided tour with his “Spanish-style Portuguese”, also telling me about his holy founder St. Vincent Pallotti, whose body it was kept under the main altar. Simply because of the fact of having been received so courteously by that elderly man, I returned the next day and Fr. Corrado asked me to help him by serving Mass, inviting me to sit next to him at the altar.
- There were also two elderly women attending the Mass, who took care of the readings. As I was greeting Fr. Corrado after Mass and preparing to leave, the two women came and introduced themselves: Myriam Cecilia and Dina with her husband Elio. They asked me where I lived and if I could read, immediately inviting me to be part of their group of readers, entrusting me with the 2nd reading for that Saturday evening. We then sat down together and wrote out a weekly reading schedule.
- Three things about that Church had struck me immediately: 1. recollection and tranquillity, 2. the painting of Our Lady in the midst of Jesus' disciples in the Cenacle, 3. the welcome of the priest for every single person who entered.
When I left that small church, these three characteristics made me feel that there was also a place for me there, which I would further subsequently discover in the family of Saint Vincent Pallotti. It was Jesus who had chosen and called me from distant Angola to Rome, to thereby help me to get to know the Union of Catholic Apostolate, UAC, and send me as a missionary to the country of my birth, precisely according to the vision of Pallotti to “enkindle and revive faith in the most distant people and places” and, if possible, also in Angola. After one week, Myriam Cecilia spoke to me about the Pallottines and told me that the Pallottine family included not only those who were reading during Mass, but was much more numerous. She asked me to join the UAC choir in the church of SS. Salvatore in Onda: in this way I saw my life in the midst of a family grow a little. I was the youngest of the group, and now I had new friends, a community to which I belonged on which I could count. In this way I began to attend the choir, giving me experiences of spiritual and apostolic life. After four years, the desire grew to become a Pallottine member. There were difficulties however in finding someone to conduct my formation. Then Fr. Rory, the General Secretary of the Union, organised with the Quinta Dimensione Community and Corrado Montaldo, a lay man, coordinator of the Union choir and then President of the Italian UAC, made himself available as my formator. My formation had to be intensive as I was preparing to return to Angola, and so for 6 months we met twice a week. I recall that my formation with Corrado was not simply about Pallottine spirituality, but also of sharing regarding lived experience and daily life. And on February 2nd 2015, I formally made the Act of Apostolic Commitment, in this way becoming a member of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
What does the Union of Catholic Apostolate mean for me?
There are two important aspects for me in responding to this question:
- Being part of the UAC choir made me rediscover my sense of being a Christian. I think that singing, using the human voice during the celebration of Mass is not just about sound and harmony, but is a giving of oneself to God using what ultimately belongs to Him, and that He makes Himself present in the celebration. And it is the most beautiful feeling, the gift to offer to Jesus who is present, alive and very close to us all, gathered as a people who are singing in adoration.
- To the same question, I can also reply that the Union of Catholic Apostolate founded by Saint Vincent Pallotti, is a group of people who love God, to Whom each one turns in their own social situation, who however have a particular “very rare and precious perfume” which suffuses everything and everyone, “Jesus”, who Pallotti himself called the Beloved Apostle of the Father. And the Union or those who belong to it carry this “rare and good perfume” in themselves and spread it everywhere they go. And whoever smells it falls in love with it.
The Sacred Scriptures, in Lk 7:36-50, tells us: “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak”. [...]
Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”.
This story wants to teach us that for Jesus everything can be spent. The woman took the jar with the perfumed oil, perhaps it being the most precious thing she had, but she didn't measure the consequences, she cried and wiped the Master's feet with her hair. And Jesus does not judge the woman; he accepts her as she is and lets himself be touched by her in a gesture of love and veneration. Meeting for the first time the rare perfume of the Union in people was a revelation of the secret of that Jesus who was hiding in people, and of Pallotti, who wants to spread Jesus in the world: I have the example of Myriam who, looking at me after a few months said: “I see you as a good member of the Pallottine Family”, even though she was not formally part of the Union. Like Myriam, there have also been many other people I have met but who I will not mention and who after a few months trusted me by letting me enter their homes without prejudice, indifference and social conditions or hesitation, because we were united in the same ideal of love and charity, because we looked for the same rare perfume everywhere: that of Jesus who wears it and who wants to bring everyone to salvation”.
I thank everyone and I confirm my complete unity with all members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
Antònio João Tchissingui
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico