In Bagnara, the heart of the Citadel of the Immaculate Conception beats, a place of prayer surrounded by greenery

«This place was born after a long discernment conducted some time ago thanks to the guidance of my spiritual father, Monsignor Serafino Sprovieri, archbishop of Benevento at the time. It was he who encouraged me to follow the my intense inspiration to give life to a place of prayer with the heart turned to Mary and to Jesusin the footsteps of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe and of the convent of Niepokalanów which he had founded in Teresin in Poland. A city where live and pray together, in which to welcome i pilgrimsin which to practice the charity. A center of fervent evangelism in which you breathe thesmell of the earth and the scent of the sky and Paradise».

The place he talks about Father Santo Donato and the Citadel of the Immaculate Conceptionfounded by him several years ago in the hamlet of Ceramida in the municipality of Bagnara Calabra, in Reggio Calabria, inspired by the figure of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Polish priest and Franciscan, martyr of Auschwitz.

The smell of the earth and the scent of the sky

Here the smell of the earth is given by eleven hectares of green expanse overlooking the Strait, from the ancient olive trees, from the vegetation that surrounds the house and the numerous evocative places of prayer and contemplationfrom the gushes of water that reveal a particular source richness of the area.

The scent of heaven and paradise is given by the people who inhabit it, i.e. by mixed spiritual community – appearance that combined with inspiration to father Kolbe contributes to the uniqueness of this reality in Italy – made up of Little Brothers and Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conceptionmainly from Calabria.

Fifty brothers and sisters in blue dress And consecrated to Mary. The Institute Little Brothers and Sisters of the Immaculate born began a journey in 2000 then merged into the realization of this Citadel sort on a large land, purchased in 2010. Here, where orevery season is a riot of colourswhere the Providence and therefore donations – no public and ecclesial funding has had a part in this project – have made all this possible, community life that is also projected outsidein the hamlets of Solano, Pellegrina, Porelli and up to Cannitello, in the municipality of Villa San Giovanni, and in the prisons from Reggio Calabria and Arghillà.

Community testimonials

“Ours is a life of communion and sharing. With moments of prayer and apostolate which we also carry out externally. We are in fact engaged in parishes and some schools of the surrounding area and then also in prisons. Characteristic trait of consecrated life in general, and therefore also of ours, is that ofhospitality“, has explained sister Francesca Schiavone.

«Welcoming pilgrims, who come in large numbers from all over the Calabria and also from Sicily for pray with us and to share the Eucharistis one of main missions of the Citadel of the Immaculate Conception. In the footsteps of San Massimiliano Kolbe and following the example of his initiative, the community has grown a lot in recent years. Now we come to welcome, especially on Sundays in the summer, even 400 – 500 pilgrims. They are occasions of great communion that we celebrate in our external chapel surrounded by olive trees,” he explained father Francesco Iermito.

With your feet on the ground and your eyes on Mary

Next to the great lung of the spirituality, of thewelcoming pilgrims, and in these months also of ukrainian children, and ofassistance to the poorthat of the will soon come to life too charity.

«We live immersed in the blessing of so much beauty and in it we recognize the face of Christ and the heart of Mary. All together, every day we are committed to making this Citadel prosper, which we have set up with our dedication and the help of many generous and friendly people. We live with our feet on the ground, immersed in our occupations but, at the same time, always with his gaze turned to the sky» explained Father Santo Donato, founder of the Citadel of the Immaculate Conception of Bagnara.

Spirituality and Charity

«The Little Brothers and Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception are people created and saved by Christ who have chosen to consecrate their lives to Mary and to live in this community. All this is already a miracle. In this path of fraternity I see granted much of the dream where it all started. But we don’t want to be just a community with a strong spiritual dimension. We also wish to follow the example of Charity that Christ embodied.

Thus, as soon as the bureaucracy allows, we will create a hospice for the terminally ill and a home for inmate mothers with young children. We feel close to us the prisons of Reggio Calabria, Palmi, Locri and Messina and we know the tragedy of so many mothers that we want to try to alleviate. This we will strive to build in the future. In that future that is certainly in God’s hands. We will continue to be aided by Providence and to make our Citadel grow with the promises of the rich and the offerings of the poor», Father explained Saint Donatusfounder of the Citadel of the Immaculate Conception of Bagnara.

The custody of history and creation

Spirituality, hospitality, charity and commitment to the local area, with the recovery of dry stone walls linked to the history of the Basilian monksand for the custody of creation, as a living trace of infinite beauty and in turn ardent and irreducible testimony of faith. The care of greenery is in fact an integral part of the apostolate of the community of the Citadel of the Immaculate Conception. It lives of the earth and with the earth, feed them his lamps With the’oil it produces and, with i small seeds of Job’s Tears that cultivates, handcrafts the rosaries with which he prays.

The beauty of God’s presence

«The citadel of the Immaculate Conception wants to be a sign of the beauty of God. We wish that whoever comes here can enjoy the beauty of this nature and the joy of our community, who thanks and blesses the Lord, acknowledge the presence of God and his love. Thus we can be missionaries and announcers of the Resurrection of Christ», he concluded Father Giuseppe Calogero.

In Bagnara, the heart of the Citadel of the Immaculate Conception beats, a place of prayer surrounded by greenery