Tratto da Beato Luigi Tezza. Apostolo dell’amore di Dio, di Antonio Casera, edizioni Velar
Father Luigi Tezza carried out his task of a reformer with extreme prudence, starting with an effective formation of the young novices, while with meekness and humility he won over the oldest religious and led them back to their original fervour and faithfulness. Tezza’s project of reform was not only directed to inside the community: it also aimed at winning back that moral prestige that the community had enjoyed in the past with the local population.
Strengthened by his experiences in Italy and in France, Tezza became involved in strengthening the already praiseworthy service provided by the religious of care for the sick in private homes – the sphere of ministry that St. Camillus called the mare magnum, a boundless field of activity – and promoting ministry exercised in hospitals. He thus drew up an ambitious plan that involved the institution of a chaplaincy that would be able to meet the spiritual needs of the five hospitals and the health-care centres of the city. This would allow a retrieval of the prestige of the Order in Lima. The civil and ecclesiastical authorities liked this idea.
In the meantime, Father Tezza, sent as a visitator, became the Superior of the house of Lima (1905-1908) and from 1909 onwards he was the Provincial Delegate.
A general look at the work carried out by the Camillians under the impulse of Father Tezza is offered to us by a letter by the chargé d’affaires of the Holy See, Msgr. Davide Quattrocchi, that was given to the Prefect of the Congregation of Religious. In this letter he observed that the Camillians ‘constitute a real blessing’ for the city of Lima and declared that Father Tezza ‘has saved in a few years the community of the Buenamuerte where I was able to personally observe that these religious are animated by a good spirit, by meekness, and by love for sacrifice, and they work with true self-denial and zeal worthy of commendation in the various chaplaincies’.
This was a flattering and comforting report that touched the principal points of the activity of Tezza in his work of reforming the religious house of the Buenamuerte. Behind these results we can imagine his constant commitment, given substance by patience, trust, amiability, resolution and abandonment to the loving will of God.
Tezza in his letters also emphasised the return to its ancient splendour of the community of the Buenamuerte. He was pleased by ‘the compliments of the people, for the good that our fathers do, observing that our institute is now the most popular and most loved in Lima’.
The Apostolate of Fr. Luigi Tezza in the City of Lima
In 1910, after his commitments as head of the religious house of the Buenamuerte had finished, Tezza felt free to continue and to strengthen, now having a greater availability of time, his apostolic activities.
Thus he could exercise his ministry not only in the hospitals but also in the religious houses, in the seminary, in the episcopal curia, in the houses of the poor and the houses of the rich, and in schools, making an active contribution to the reform of the Church of Lima.
The truth of his ministry placed him in contact with different categories of people and one may read in the Bulletin of the Order of Camillians: ‘the venerable Father Tezza is greatly esteemed by the great of the capital city of Peru, for his outstanding qualities in science and virtue. His care for the sick and the poor make him a friend of the indigent and the abandoned’.
He put into the practice the fourth vow by which Camillians were obliged to serve the sick even if this put their lives at risk: he cared for the victims of smallpox and yellow fever who had been placed together in the quarantine hospital of the city. His charity transformed that place, which was avoided by the great mass of people, into his preferred garden where he could bring relief to everyone.
He also held dear his visits to people in their homes. Father Umberto Thelen, who would be his Superior from 1913 to 1919, observed: ‘until the end of his life, that is to say over the age of eighty, our dear Father Luigi continued every day to visit people in their homes’.
The other apostolic activity that increased with the end of his responsibilities at the religious house of the Buenamuerte was accom panying people through the sacrament of reconciliation and spiritual direction.
Many religious and lay people sought him out for spiritual direction. His gentle and affable character, together with the sure nature of his principles and the prudence of his advice, gained for him the esteem and the trust of people. As regards his ministry of confession and spiritual direction, praiseworthy assessments of many people have come down to us. He was defined as a ‘man of great virtue, of great experience in the direction of souls, overall, worthy of great esteem’. For this reason, ‘as director of the spirit and confessor he was known about, sought after and loved throughout the city of Lima’.
His discreet, persevering and luminous activity, which was impregnated with love of God and mercy, together with resolution and goodness, ended up by making him an authoritative man in the eyes of the people, a personage known and loved by everyone. Cardinal Gasparri defined him as being a ‘man inspired by God who was providential for Lima’. He was known by people as the apostle of Lima or the saint of Lima.