Father Graziano, Rest in Peace
It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of my friend and our friend, Father Graziano a PIME missionary who for years was the pastor of our sister parish St. Augustine in Cuana, Mexico. As perhaps only a missionary can, he made the most astounding changes in the lives of the people of his community. Not only did his preaching and his example lead the town to truer worship and beyond the witchcraft which had so often crippled the Cuana in violence, but his innovations like a medical clinic and water purification system saved lives and dramatically improved the infant mortality rate. It is hard to believe that a priesthood could be more productive and fruitful than the one lived by Fr. Graziano.
Of course I got to know him best when we went on our pilgrimage to our sister parish a couple of years ago. I only have one regret about those magical five days. When we left, I was the coolest priest the four young people who came with us knew. When we came back I was not, for they had met Fr. Graziano. Let me put it to you this way. When we were casting the movie we would make about our trip, Bill Murray was playing me but George Clooney was playing Fr. Graziano. He was the only person I have ever known who made a choice between becoming a missionary priest and a professional motocross rider. He did have a motorcycle in Mexico though, and the sight of him careening through the massive potholes and around the stray animals of Cuana was awesome and inspirational.
But the true measure of the man was how he spent his life in service to the Lord. The accomplishments of a safer and healthier and fairer town were truly impressive. But everything good emanated from a spirit of fervent prayer. He truly believed in what Jesus Christ, not Fr. Graziano could accomplish and he gave his all to see Christ reign in Cuana, Yolo and Cumiapa Arroyo. While back in his native Italy he contracted heart disease that required a transplant. He would never return to Mexico again. It is as if he had given his heart to his ministry, his parish and of course, his beloved PIME missionaries.
A fascinating fact, Fr. Graziano was from the same small village as Angelo Roncalli, better known as Pope John XXIII and had been recently working at the John XXIII center in that small town. He died in Sicily, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his colleague and friend (our friend as well) Fr. Deodato on the first feast day of St. John XXIII. Good Pope John inspired Good Fr. Graziano. Now may they share the same neighborhood again. May perpetual shine upon you, Fr. Graziano.