Something very beautiful is being realized at Torricella
A Benedictine Monastery
The history is very lengthy. Don Giustino Rossi was born in Torricella about 65 years ago. His father, born into a family which came from Montenerodomo, died in Albania when Don Giustino was very small. His mother still lives in her village of origin, Montebello sul Sangro (former Buonanotte).
Don Giustino is a Benedictine monk from Vallombrosa. The Abbey at Vallombrosa, founded in 1035 by San Giovanni Guadalberto (who died in 1073), is about thirty kilometres from Florence. It is situated in the splendid forest created and looked after for centuries by the monks of Vallombrosa, who are famous also for their sensitivity towards environmental problems. In fact San Giovanni Guadalberto is the Patron Saint of Italian Foresters. Vallombrosa is a most beautiful place, the destination of many visitors seeking peace, serenity and meditation.
As Benedictines the monks at Vallombrosa follow the Rules of San Benedetto "Ora et Labora" ("Pray and work") and take their strength from evangelism and poverty.
Some time ago, Don Giustino asked his superiors if he could set in motion the founding of a monastery in his village of birth. He was given permission for one year. This means, Don Giustino says, that when the year ends the initiative will carry on "if it is the work of God".
With no financial guarantees and yet without any delay, trusting in "Providence", he returned to Torricella this summer.
He had left Torricella as an adolescent in 1952, not yet knowing what his vocation (would be), to go to Tuscany to "study" under the monks at Vallombrosa. Before he took his final vows he gave his share of his father’s land to relatives. As time went by his relatives sold the property at Tre Confini (Three Borders) and emigrated abroad.
Don Giustino, with his decided and convincing manner, was able to get back the building, which had become a tumbledown ruin and also some of the surrounding land, of which part was worked and part was forest. This rural building is in the Tre Confini district, in a rather isolated zone, highly suitable for creating a place of prayer and meditation.
When he arrived at Torricella he was amazed to find everyone extraordinarily welcoming and ready to help him. Did he need premises during the restoration work? Well the mayor, Graziano Zacchigna, with (the approval of) the Municipal Council, gave him the use of the old "Porreca" nursery school in the village, which needed to be adapted for living quarters and also was in need of restoration. But Don Giustino, with a smile on his face and the security of one who is guided by the Almighty, put on the clothes of a carpenter, or a plumber, or a builder and with the aid of friends who volunteered to help, he rolled up his sleeves and literally he is doing up the building.
And what about money, or food? Don Giustino says, "There’s no problem, both the money and the food arrive at the right time." Who from? "From Torricellans and benefactors," people he had met during the years that he was responsible for the Foresters of Vallombrosa.
The other day a couple from Bologna came to meet him. Sister Lidia, also a Benedictine, who looks after the house, showed us a small photo album showing some period (antique) furniture that a lady in Florence had donated for the monastery under construction.
Sister Lidia is working with Don Giustino to the same (Benedictine) ideals, in which great importance is given to "Eucharistic worship" and to "reparation" of sins. Another project is the integration and training of lay workers, who, since there is a lack of priests, can aid in the reopening of abandoned churches. Lay workers help to make these churches come alive again and become welcoming places for Christians during the week, although not on Sundays, as lay workers cannot say Mass.
Meanwhile progress is being made with the restoration works at the old farmhouse at Tre Confini. The building firm Di Fabrizio from Colle Zingaro is carrying out the work.
Almost the entire structure internally has been demolished. Only the weight-bearing walls will remain. They need to remake the floor, the attics, the dividing walls, the roof, the window and door frames, the sanitary fittings, the plumbing and the electrics, taking care to conserve all the building’s characteristic features. It will take a long time, a lot of hard work and above all a great deal of money. But for Don Giustino and Sister Lidia nothing is impossible and they have faith in ….. Heaven’s Bank, "everything is possible, all is as God wills it".
Here is an interestingly evocative detail - the other evening I was reading a booklet by Don Attilio Calabrese called "Ricordi di Guerra" ("War Memories"). In the introduction there were some historical details. Amongst other things it said that the first written mention of Torricella was in a document dated 1069, when Pope Nicolò II numbered a half of the castle at Torricella amongst the belongings of the Benedictines of the Tremiti Islands. How strange! But also how wonderful!
After a thousand years the Benedictines are returning to Torricella.
I asked Don Giustino what help we could offer him to support him in this work and he gave me the following address :-
Any financial assistance, indispensably necessary for continuing with the restoration, should be sent to the bank :-
Cassa di Risparmio della Provincia di Chieti
Torricella Peligna - 1/11/04
"Buonanotte" is the old name of the village now called Montebello sul Sangro. The inhabitants did not like the old name and so, about 20 years ago, they changed it to Montebello sul Sangro.
Riga Tre Confini District, 11, - Torricella Peligna
The farmhouse under reconstruction, where the Benedictine Monastery will be.
|Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca|