Cusmano, Giacomo, Bl.

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Physician, priest, founder of the Servants of the Poor and the Congregation of the Missionary Servants of the Poor (MSP); b. March 15, 1834, Palermo, Italy; d. there, March 14, 1888. Giacomo (in English, Jacob or James) was born into a bourgeois family. Following the death of his mother, Maddalena Patti, in 1837, her older sister Vincenzina Patti cared for the Cusmano children. His pious aunt instilled in Giacomo the sense of charity for which he became known, and his Jesuit teachers at Palermo reinforced this virtue. Although he contemplated becoming a missionary, he studied and practiced medicine at Palermo, offering his services to the poor free of charge. Under the spiritual direction of Monsignor Turano, he followed his vocation to the priesthood and was ordained (Dec. 22, 1860). Cusmano used his wealth to buy land, buildings, and factories to provide employment, housing, and training. With the blessing of Archbishop Naselli and the approval of Pope Pius IX, Cusmano founded (Aug. 5, 1868) the first Boccone del Povero ("Morsels of the Poor"), which spread throughout Sicily to provide for orphans, the aged, and the sick. He also founded two congregations to serve these people. The first Servants of the Poor brothers received their habit on Oct. 4, 1884; the Missionary Servants, Nov. 21, 1887. When the first Sister Servants were veiled (May 23, 1880), his aunt Vincenzina Patti was appointed superior. After exhausting his own resources, he begged in the streets of Palermo and relied on God to provide the rest. Many miracles are attributed to his intercession. He is noted for his courage in working among the impoverished during a cholera epidemic in 1888, which led to his death at age 54. Cusmano was beatified by John Paul II, on Oct. 30, 1983.

Feast: March 13.

Bibliography: Lettere del servo di Dio p. Giacomo Cusmano fondatore del Boccone del povero (Palermo 1970). g. civiletto and m. t. falzone, eds., L'eredità spirituale e sociale di Giacomo Cusmano, proceedings of the 3d congress, Palermo 1720 November 1988 (Rome 1990). f. conigliaro, L'evento-Cristo nell'esistenza del povero: la profezia ecclesiale di Giacomo Cusmano, in AA. VV., La "Chiesa" del Cusmano (Palermo 1995) 50178. m. t. falzone, Giacomo Cusmano: poveri chiesa e società (Palermo 1986). g. lentini, Un santo a Palermo (Rome 1985); Beato Giacomo Cusmano: medico e prete dei poveri (Turin 1989). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 77 (1985): 11214. L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 47 (1983): 67.

[k. i. rabenstein]