Mazzucconi, Giovanni Battista, Bl.

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Missionary priest, martyr of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions; b. March 1, 1826, Rancio di Lecco (near Milan), Italy; d. Sept. 7, 1855, Woodlark Bay, Papua New Guinea.

The ninth of the 12 children of Giacomo Mazzucconi and Anna Maria Scuri, Mazzucconi studied in the seminaries of Monza and Milan. In the summer of 1845, he and his friend Carlo Salerio met the prior of the Certosa of Pavia, who had been a missionary in India. This sparked an interest in the young men, who maintained correspondence with the priest. In the meantime Giovanni was ordained May 25, 1850, and the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) was established with apostolic approval. Two months later in July 1850, Mazzucconi received an invitation from Msgr. Angelo Ramazzotti to become a charter member of the PIME, together with Father Salerio, three other clergymen (Timoleone Raimondi, Angelo Ambrosoli, and Paolo Reina), and two catechists (Giuseppe Corti and Luigi Tacchini).

They intended to go first to Oceania. Following a three-month journey, the missionaries arrived July 25, 1852, in Australia, where they studied the language and customs of New Guinea under the tutelage of a Marist for two months. Upon their arrival at Woodlark Island Oct. 28, 1852, the mission was divided into three groups with Mazzucconi, Reina, a catechist, and their Marist mentor continuing to Rook Island, where they worked for two years under difficult conditions. The missionaries attempted to gain the trust of the natives by helping and teaching them new agricultural methods.

After their attempts failed, Mazzuconi returned to Sydney January 1855, where he became seriously ill. Upon his recovery, he sailed Aug. 18, 1855, back to Woodlark not knowing that his companions had abandoned the mission stations at Woodlark and Rook. When his schooner ran aground on a coral reef, he was killed with an axe by one of the locals. Eight months later Father Raimondi led an expedition to find Mazzucconi and learned of his martyrdom.

Mazzucconi was beatified by Pope John Paul II, Feb. 19, 1984.

Feast: Sept. 10 (Archdiocese of Milan).

Bibliography: p. gheddo, Mazzucconi di Woodlark: un martire per il nostro tempo (Bologna 1983); Missione i Oceania: Giovanni Mazzucconi, martire a Woodlark (Turin 1984). n. maestrini, Mazzucconi of Woodlark: Biography of Blessed John Mazzucconi (Detroit 1983). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1984) 300. L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 12 (1984) 34.

[k. i. rabenstein]