“Being a priest is awesome”. This is what Don Salvatore had been repeating to his many visitors over the last months. Despite his illness, he always helped the others. He listened, comforted, loved.
The priest was won by the cancer at 15:15 on June 29. At the age of 38, he reached the Father’s house, but his testimony of serenity and self-denial, of acceptance of the disease as a gift meant to get you closer to the ones who suffer, remains an example for all.
But who was Don Salvatore? And why is he so important? He was born in Barletta, on March 7, 1977. He received a Christian education thanks to a solid and religious family. He was always involved in church life, and continued his forming first in the parish of S. Maria degli Angeli, and, subsequently in the parish of SS. Crocifisso. He then formed other young people, with tireless dedication.
In October 2011 he began his “journey of vocational discernment”, attending the preparatory year at the Pontifical Regional Seminary in Molfetta. The following year he joined the community of the Regional Seminary in Molfetta.
He had always been a great communicator, as well as a great man of prayer, with deep spirituality and great cultural openness. Not surprisingly – besides taking care of the direct relationship with the faithful – he collaborated with the monthly newspaper of the parish SS. Crocifisso, “La Stadera”, thanks to which he was admitted to the Order of publicists and journalists in Apulia.
But in June 2014, at the conclusion of the two years of philosophy, it came the “sentence”: esophagus cancer. Despite the devastating therapies, Don Salvatore did not interrupt his path of forming his priesthood. He obtained the authorization for admission to the order of the deaconate and the priesthood, which was celebrated on December 26, 2014 in the parish SS. Crocifisso in Barletta.
But then, inevitably, his health got worse. Don Salvatore asked first to his pastor, don Ruggiero Caporusso, and then to the Bishop Msgr. Pichierri, to complete his forming, thus responding to the vocation of priest, for which he felt called and for which the Church had considered him suitable.
After consultation with the Congregation of the Clergy, he became deacon and priest. Suffering made him feel a deep link to the mystery of Christ, to a charity in the service of people who suffer. “Today I feel carried on the shoulders of Christ – he said – as a priest I will bring the stole with Christ, for the salvation of the world. Also celebrating just one Eucharist for me will be a real participation in the priesthood of Christ”.
In the statement from the Archdiocese of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie and from the Pontifical Regional Seminary in Molfetta we can read: “The reasons that led Mgr. Pichierri to ordain him, were: the culmination of a serious and consistent path, even in his sickness, and the forming of God’s people and of the priests and seminarians, that can come from this particular vocational witness”. During the ordainment, also Pope Francis made a call to comfort and support him.
During the last year Don Salvatore spent much time in hospitals and in spite of his suffering, in the wards he always found the time and the right words to hearten and inspire hope. From this strong experience in him grew the desire to help the sick, the poor, those who live in pain, loneliness, in physical, spiritual and material poverty. A slap to the selfishness that often causes diseases.
Every day he joined his suffering to the Eucharistic Sacrifice he celebrated, entrusting to God through Jesus Christ, many people that from all over the world asked him to pray and intercede for them.
Serene and welcoming, with his peaceful heart, he had become a reference point for many people to whom he conveyed words of courage and hope. “Beyond the bad, the penultimate word, deprived of its atrocious mean by Jesus Crucified, wounded and risen, on Easter, a day for which we are heirs, the day of eternal vocation in glory”. In this way Don Salvatore expressed himself in his a reflection on his personal situation “as priest sick in his body”, published entirely on the monthly “La Stadera”.
And referring to Easter, in his last days, he repeatedly expressed his wish of having his funeral celebrated in the light of the risen Christ, so with songs of hope and with the liturgical white color, which recalls joy, celebration, life.
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo