On Thursday 16 May about a hundred Rogationist religious, their co-workers and students of their educational institutions in Italy met at our Church of St. Mary Magdalene for a celebratory meeting with the saying of prayers, in the light of the charism and spirituality of their founder, St. Hannibal Mary Di Francia (Messina, 5 July 1851 – Messina, 1 June 1927).
St. Hannibal was the founder in Messina of the Congregation of the Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus and of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Divine Zeal with the charism of prayer to the Lord to make his Church fertile with holy priests. Born into an aristocratic family of Messina, this saint renounced all his possessions and became especially dedicated to orphans, placing on all poor people the merciful hands of God. He spent a great deal of time in the impoverished neighbourhood of Avignone, helping the poor and the sick. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II on 16 May 2004.
St. Hannibal’s links with the Camillians was rather deep and were bound up in an indissoluble way with the providential history of the relic of the heart of St. Camillus. In Messina St. Hannibal carried forward the memory of the crucifer fathers (Camillians) of that city, acquiring the orphanage founded by the Camillian, Father Sollima. He also jealously kept the reliquary with a part of the heart of St. Camillus which, after the return of the Camillians to this Sicilian city, he returned to the Order of Camillians.