The body of Father Salvatore Greco has returned to the church he founded and built, dedicated to the “Sacred Heart of Jesus”. On this occasion the parish organized a celebration presided over by Archbishop Luigi Renna, which was also attended by all the members of the Biancavillese clergy, his successor parish priests and those who have matured their vocation during Don Greco’s 40 years of parish. .
To be present in a church packed with people were the family members of the priest, the first citizen Antonio Bonanno, the prime minister Eleonora Sarvà and theonorevoloe Nino Dasero. The administration has donated to the parish a bronze bust depicting the Greek father which will be placed in the tomb, obtained in the right aisle of the church.
«I believe that his presence and his sepulcher in the Church of the Sacred Heart – the bishop emphasized – are a reminder, to everyone, to the goodness of the pastor who continues to lead his flock with prayer. And I hope that his tomb will be a destination for prayer and remembrance. But also of intercession so that other men, other young people may follow the path of the priesthood ”.
Promoter of the initiative, which had a long authorization process that began in 2019, was the parish priest Don Ambrogio Monforte, who currently leads the parish, and who in the previous days accompanied this initiative with vocational vigils, to emphasize the value and importance of the priesthood in our day. Following the memory of Don Ambrogio:
The life of Father Salvatore Greco
Entirely linked to the history of this parish community, which was born, grew and flourished with him: talking about one would mean telling the story of the other and vice versa.
He was born in Biancavilla in the maternal house in via Genova on 11 May 1928 to Antonino and Maria Greco (his mother died of a domestic accident on 22 September 1959, a few years after his priestly ordination). His first spiritual guides are the canon Salvatore Gioco and the catechist Donna Pitrina in the church of Sant’Orsola: the latter, seeing the preparation of the little Savior, invites his parents to entrust him to Father Caselli, to have him study at the small seminary, already in third grade. From here, in 1938, he moved to the major seminary of Catania under the rectorate of Msgr. Francesco Pennisi. Ordained a priest on July 2, 1951 in the Basilica of Biancavilla, while carrying out the ministry of parochial vicar in the same mother church and rector of the church of Sant’Orsola for the work of catechism, he began to take care of the formation of young people in SCUTARI, of the FUCI and the spirituality of the Ursulines. In 1955 he began to devote himself to the parish suburban district and, in a rented house in via Genova (a few steps from his family home), he gathered the families of the area in a group called “Christian families”, celebrating for them the ‘Eucharist, first monthly and then Sunday. The first nucleus of Catholic Action and the first training activities for children in catechesis originate in that small site.
In 1956, offering a land owned by his family, thanks to his paternal aunt Maria Greco, widow Garufi, he committed himself to the construction of the new “Sacred Heart Oratory” – in the style of the Salesian ones – to collect the disbanded youth of supra l ‘ ortu. The oratorian work was inaugurated on 14 September 1957 by the vicar general Msgr. Nicolò Ciancio, who was his advisor for this new enterprise. On 25 March 1958, the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the new “Parish of SS. Heart of Jesus ”which on May 13, 1970 has its new headquarters in the current building.
His tireless and tireless giving of himself to everyone made this priest a point of reference for those who knew him. Until the end, he was aware that being a priest is sharing in the cup of Christ, even before being a dispenser of graces. Don Greco’s legacy is not linked only to the church and parish structures; those who knew him can attest to his apostolic zeal, his love for young people, his tenacity in wanting to reach all age groups from adolescents to families, through catechesis and the work of Catholic Action, the care of vocations priestly and religious. He was a connoisseur and defender of the Second Vatican Council and for this reason he joined the FAC Movement with which he organizes meetings, participates in conferences and spiritual exercises together with the young people of the parish, to always keep up with the times. He had the wisdom to understand, to thank God in the various situations of life in which he had been given to find himself, and with his right hand inserted between the buttons of the cassock, at chest height, he loved to repeat: “Thanks u Signuri “And, in adventitious circumstances:” think of God, then he turns “. And with these expressions, in the mold of popular missions, he was seen preaching around in the first peregrinatio mariae among families, leading the external way of the cross carrying a large crucifix in his hands. And so you saw him still and absolved in the sacred, laughing and rejoicing in the campsites with the boys, actor and director in the countless theaters organized with Catholic action or while he maneuvered the camera and the projector to broadcast the films of the only existing television. in the area.
Simple and shy in speaking of himself and reluctant to any compliment for what he had done, he refused any compliment, lowered his head and, perhaps with some gruff expression, changed the subject. His passionate, intense and pervasive work has ensured that the whole parish and the large neighborhood that has sprung up around it are still identified today as the church and the “Father Greco” area, even for those who – for personal reasons – did not know him. I am certain, however, that Father Greco, looking again in his eyes, would rather say with Saint Paul: “Aren’t you my work, in the Lord?” (1 Cor 9: 1).
In fact, even before the building with its large spaces, he built Christ and the love of God in the hearts of the many people he met. The parish archive is still full of leaflets and pages with his ideas, his pastoral ways, his invectives, the multiple activities, the numerical accounts behind the pictures or between the sheets of the sermon: a sign of availability and detachment even from affections dearer when it comes to working for the Kingdom of God, ready to learn from every experience of life, able to call things for what they are with the rawness and narrow-mindedness, with the readiness and strength of a leader to be faithful to the Gospel, without betraying it. For this reason, in the morning before mass there was the recitation of the entire breviary and the first rosary, then his day began among the sick to visit or the school to be completed. And in the afternoon already at 15.00 sitting in the courtyard, pendulums on the chair, to act as a “ruthless” controller for the boys who play football or basketball in the VIRTUS. And in those days there was everything: his was a free eloquence because he spoke clearly, he made a mistake in speaking, he said everything to his face and back, and he bore you a grudge. For this reason many times he was not understood and made people suffer. He also suffered a lot. Yet we are all here. If the Church is a great mother, it is like an ancient and solid tree whose trunk is full of incisions and wounds, but on which new buds and fresh leaves always sprout in spring. Certainly what Fr Greco proposed with his life is like a fresh leaf that has increasingly become a leafy branch of the great trunk of the Church. For this reason he is very attentive to social realities: he creates jobs with building sites for the construction of parish premises; he offers teachers the opportunity to do school in the parish, through his role as a member of the council of the city hospital he enhances the health professions, he spends himself on teaching the Catholic religion in the public school “Luigi Sturzo”.
His is a nature like that of fire, terribly passing from that of love to that which incinerates you! A fire that warms you because it is friendly and tender if you stay away from it, a fire whose sparks can be abrupt and set you on fire if you don’t go away. In fact, so was his “do not greet you” and his clamor. But it was a fire that you desired, because if he did not see you, because he had thrown you out, he would immediately send you the messengers to bring you closer; for this he was defined by the brothers as the grumpy beneficiary! Who does not remember that disheveled head in that austere face: “Did you see us at Missa a duminica?” or that annual invitation: “Ta facisti a card?”
Or that stern warning if you behaved badly at school, suspension from the oratory for bad deeds or if you ran away from the premises at the time of the evening walk for the recitation of the Rosary. She screamed at you from the altar for the too short sleeves you were wearing or if she understood that you were looking at a little girl and then met her outside the church. This is because it was a fire that looked at you, spied on, smiled and softened with a vibration that you did not understand what it was, but you felt that there was something greater than him: inside the flesh of a man was the Divine.
Since 1981, his strong scrupulous nature leads him to seriously question himself about the work he did in the ministry, he does not know if he has done well in his life and if the Lord is happy with him, he tells the most intimate to feel alone despite having everything begins to isolate himself, he often forgets things because the thought of the debts that assail him is serious, he wonders if the worker on duty has paid well, he is in the throes of a nervous breakdown, in the evening after closing the church he comes back to see if the lamp of the Most Holy One has remained lit … He wishes to live his priestly apostolate in a more radical way and becomes part of the Family of Merciful Love of Mother Speranza, in Collevalenza and, subsequently, precisely because “he needs to understand if he has done everything well in his life and if he has truly acted for the glory of God ”- so he writes – he adheres to the priestly branch of the Work of Regality.
Unfortunately, his pastoral action was tragically curbed, and then interrupted, by the diabetes disease which in the meantime was eroding him. And from the autumn of 1994 he was seen with difficulty in walking, tired, dragging his feet, badly supported by his almost useless wooden stick; he leaned between the pews of the church to go to the sacristy, his step marked by the clicking of his sole shoes. An impression to see that man in the short robe of his cassock inside that splendor of lights of the church windows, as in a favor! In 2000 he left the parish after 42 years. At home, between one dialysis cycle and another, he always holds the breviary and holds the rosary in his hands as he has worn it around his neck during the night for his whole life. He died in the hospital, in Catania, on June 4, 2004, the first Friday of the month of the Sacred Heart to which he had given his life.
From 11 November 2022, the presence of the mortal remains of Fr Greco in our church reminds us of his zeal, his passion and his commitment to building the Kingdom of God and both as an example and model to imitate. Because, as Foscolo writes:
A strong soul ignites excellent things
the urn of the strong, or Pindemonte;
and beautiful and holy they do to the peregrin
the land that recipes them.