Last January 2nd the centenary of the death of Don Eustachio Montemurro was celebrated. Mindful of this anniversary, we want to remember the event with this biographical card, as part of this weekly column. Eustachio was born in Gravina in Puglia on 1 January 1857 to the notary Giuseppe Montemurro, from Matera, and Giulia Barbarossa. After classical studies in Matera, he obtained a special diploma in mathematics and natural sciences from the University of Naples (July 23, 1879) and a degree in medicine and surgery (August 23, 1881). He practices the profession of doctor in Gravina with a great sense of responsibility and Christian charity, demonstrating special competence, love for the sick, growing self-denial, disinterested daily commitment, capacity for dialogue and spirit of collaboration.
Furthermore, always with great professionalism and humanity, he takes care of family needs, often personally providing, in addition to medicines, basic necessities and sums of money. Engaged in politics, as a municipal councilor, he takes the “social question of the South” to heart, courageously supporting the interests of the peasants’ children and paying particular attention to the requests of young people. He also works as a teacher, head teacher and president of charitable and welfare organizations. In 1892, while in full swing, Dr. Montemurro, assisting his patients, contracts typhus.
His condition having become serious, he makes a vow to the Sorrowful Virgin that, healed, he will respond to the divine call to the priesthood, which has been looming for a long time. In 1902 his life took a decisive turn: at the age of 45 he asked his bishop Cristoforo Maiello to be allowed to enter the priestly state. His request was accepted and, having completed his theological preparation, on 24 September 1904 he was ordained a priest. On 26 October he received the appointment of vice parish priest of the churches of S. Nicola and S. Cecilia, dedicating himself particularly to the formation of children, young people and assistance to the dying, often somewhat neglected.
In order to devote himself more freely to the apostolate, under the obedience of an immediate superior, Don Eustachio, at first, thought of embracing the religious state. Moved by an inner impulse and with the advice of his spiritual director, Fr. Antonio M. Losito, founded the Congregation of the Little Brothers of the Blessed Sacrament (November 21, 1907) for the Eucharistic cult and the formation of good parish priests and of the Daughters of the Sacred Side (May 1, 1908) for the reparation of offenses they bring to the Heart of Jesus and for the Christian and civil education of the girls of the people. For about three years Don Eustachio looked after the foundation and development of the two Congregations. Some cleric of Gravina, however, considering his work “excess of zeal”, prevented the bishop of Gravina, Nicola Zimarino. The latter, who also appreciates Montemurro for its culture, piety and integrity of life, does not consider the Works he started feasible and, therefore, provokes the Decree of 21 February 1911 from the Holy See for the suppression of the Institutes and , on 23 June 1911 he applied it in his diocese.
Don Eustachio, who has always shown firm decision especially in the field of justice, in the defense of the poor, in the tenacity of resolutions, in the face of unfounded accusations, submits to the will of God and following in all the example of Jesus Christ he obeys unconditionally to his bishop and to all the ecclesiastical superiors, who deprived him of the direction of the Works he founded. Particular circumstances led to the entrustment of the two Institutes to Saint Hannibal Maria Di Francia, a friend of Montemurro and defender of him before the bishop and before the Congregation of Religious. Pius X, with his previous telegram dated December 8, 1911, allows the continuation of women’s work.
In the hope of being able to restore men’s work in 1913 Don Eustachio and Don Saverio ask Pius X to be able to move to Valle di Pompei and carry out their ministry there, living a common life. On June 28, 1913, the Pope asked the bishop of Gravina to allow Don Eustachio and Don Saverio to move to the diocese of Nola, which at the time depended on the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary.
Don Eustachio moved to Pompeii in January 1914, welcomed with affection by the papal delegate HE Augusto Silj and by his blessed friend Bartolo Longo. In Pompeii the doctor-priest carries out tireless apostolate: teaching catechism to children and adults, spiritual direction of the sons and daughters of prisoners, long hours in the confessional of the Basilica, even in the coldest and hottest hours, visits to families scattered around the farmhouses, pastoral and physical care of the sick and dying, especially during the famous “Spanish” fever epidemic, which claimed so many victims in those years. He follows with paternal solicitude the fate of the Daughters of the Sacred Side who, since 1918, run the risk of a split. The Founder works to avert it, but all hope of him and of others is in vain. He closes his days at dawn on January 2, 1923, leaving to his spiritual Sons and Daughters the message of «making men know the love that God brings them, so that everyone loves him and no one offends him».
Writings on don Eustachio Montemurro ALFREDO MARRANZINI SJ, Eustachio Montemurro, Biographical Profile, Rome, 1986, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side and of Maria SS. Sorrows; ALFREDO MARRANZINI SJ, Eustachio Montemurro- Epistolario, I- II Vol., Rome, 1986, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side and of Maria SS. Sorrows; MARRANZINI ALFREDO- TRIANNI DELIA (edited by) Eustachio Montemurro, Spiritual Diary 1904 – 1905, Rome, 1988; •MARRANZINI ALFREDO-TRIANNI DELIA, Eustachio Montemurro, Preaching of the Word of God, Rome, 1990, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side and of Maria SS. Sorrows; MARRANZINI ALFREDO- TRIANNI DELIA (edited) Eustachio Montemurro, Spiritual Diary (edited) Eustachio Montemurro, Spiritual Diary 1908- 1912, Città Nuova Editrice, Rome, 2004; CORNACCHIA DOMENICO, The spirituality of Eustachio Montemurro (Gravina 1857 – Pompeii 1923) Degree thesis in Theology, Sector Christian life and spirituality, in the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy, Section “S. Luigi”, Naples, Academic Year 1999-2000 ); MARRANZINI ALFREDO-TRIANNI DELIA, Eustachio Montemurro: witness and father, 1857-1923, Città Nuova, 2010; CORNACCHIA DOMENICO, Eustachio Montemurro in the spirituality of the southern clergy of the twentieth century, in RSR Review of Religious Sciences, Apulian Theological Institute Pius XI, Molfetta, year XVIII, n. 1/2004; BATTISTA EMANUELE, Eustachio Montemurro, fruitful grain (theatrical play). Sacro Costato Lay Association, Bari 2005.
PIETRO BORZOMATI, Eustachio Montemurro doctor and priest. A mystic of the twentieth century. Presentation by Cataldo Naro, International Publishing Company, Turin 1997; •Eustachio Montemurro. A protagonist of the South among the poor and marginalized. Proceedings of the National Historical Conference, Pietro Borzomati (cur.), Bari, 22-23 May 1993, SEI, Turin 1994; CROBE PIERFRANCA, In comparison with our charism to respond to the requests of the Church and of today’s world. Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side, Rome 1994; CROBE PIERFRANCA, The Identity of the Religious of the Sacred Side traced by the Founder and codified in the Constitutions, Rome 2004; DI PIERRO AMERILDE (cur.), Don Eustachio Montemurro, Drawing from his writings, Rome 1982; ALFREDO MARRANZINI, Eustachio Montemurro: doctor, social promoter, priest and founder, in Church and society of the modern and contemporary South, Antonio Cestaro (cur.), ESI, Naples 1995; MONDRONE DOMENICO, A terrible grace, Coletti, Rome 1996; ULDERICO RELATIVE, Eustachio Montemurro founder of the Little Brothers of the Blessed Sacrament and of the Daughters of the Sacred Side, in Campania Sacra, Review of Social and Religious History of the South, vol. 31 (2000); SECHI GIANFILIPPO AND MEREU DANIELE (ed.), At the Sources of the Sacred Heart. Reflections and prayers taken from the Writings of E. Montemurro, “Association lay Sacro Costato”, Rome 2005; SORRENTINO GUGLIELMINA, Eustachio Montemurro. doctor and Priest of Christ (1857-1923), Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side, Rome 1974. TRIANNI DELIA, Eustachio Montemurro, Servant of God, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side, Rome 1992, 110 pp. (Text also available in English and Spanish); TRIANNI DELIA, Charisma and Spirituality – Collection, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side, Rome 2009: » Eustachio Montemurro, prophetic voice of the social and pastoral commitment of the Church; » Eustachio Montemurro promoter of culture for the integral formation of the person; »Charisma and spirituality of Eustachio Montemurro and his Institutes; » Centrality of Christ in the life and teaching of Eustachio Montemurro; » Reparatory love essence of the charism of the Congregation of the Sacred Side; » Eustachio Montemurro, from the contemplation of the crucified Christ to apostolic action at the service of man; » The Eucharist in the religious and apostolic experience of Eustachio Montemurro; » Eustachio Montemurro, Little Rules of Life. » The Evangelical Counsels in the life and teaching of Eustachio Montemurro; » Eustachio Montemurro and his experience of the Spiritual Exercises; TRIANNI DELIA, Via Crucis with reflections and prayers drawn from the writings of S d D Eustachio Montemurro, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side and of Maria SS.ma Addolorata, Rome 1994; TRIANNI DELIA, Sr Addolorata, first Daughter of the Sacred Side, Missionaries of the Sacred Side, Rome 1999; TRIANNI DELIA, Mother Teresa Forty Missionary of the Sacred Side 1884-1968, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side and of Our Lady of Sorrows, Rome 199; TRIANNI DELIA, History of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Side and of Our Lady of Sorrows, Rome 2008; SECHI GIANFILIPPO and MEREU DANIELE (cur.), Meditations and prayers for the month of May taken from the Writings of E. Montemurro, “Lay Association Sacro Costato”, Ploaghe SS 2009.