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Preca, George, Bl.

PRECA, GEORGE, BL.

Dun Ġorġ (in English, Father George) Preca; founder of a religious order, b. Feb. 12, 1880 in Valletta, the capital of Malta; d. July 26, 1962, in Santa Verera. The seventh of nine children born Vincenzo Preca, a businessman, and Natalina Ceravolo, a teacher, he was baptized Ġorġ on February 17. After completing his studies at the Lyceum, Dun Ġorġ studied philosophy and theology at the University of Malta. He attend the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Malta in Floriana, and was ordained to the priesthood Dec. 22, 1906.

Even before his priestly ordination Dun Ġorġ was inspired to devote his life to the catechetical ministry. He gathered a group of young men and instructed them in the teachings of the Church. His goal was that these educated and formed men devote their lives to the ministry of catechesis. In 1910 he founded a female branch. All members dedicate themselves to catechize the young for an hour every day and thereafter meet among themselves for personal continuing formation. They embrace a simple evangelical lifestyle and lead prayerful lives by saying short prayers at regular intervals during the day. He called the group Societas Papidum et Papidissarum ("Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pope"). The locals nicknamed his association the Museum because of the rundown building where the members held their meetings. The members in turn adopted the epithet and created out of it an acronym in Latin: Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus ("Divine Teacher, may the whole world would follow the Gospel").

The innovative idea of the laity catechizing raised suspicions among the Church authorities. In 1909 the bishop ordered Dun Ġorġ to close down all the centers he had so far opened, but the parish priests rallied behind Dun Ġorġ and the ban was soon lifted. A few years later destructive articles about the Society appeared in the local press. As a response Dun Ġorġ required that the members take a vow of meekness. After further investigations by the Church, the bishop canonically established Dun Ġorġ's group as the Society of Christian Doctrine on Apr. 12, 1932, and in time the Society established branches in Australia, England, Albania, Sudan, Kenya, and Peru. Dun Ġorġ wanted his members to study, pray and proclaim God's word in their own native tongues. He translated parts of the Bible into Maltese and wrote a good number of books on systematic and moral theology as well as on spirituality, mainly for the continuing formation of the members of his society. He had a great devotion to the mystery of the incarnation and instructed his members to wear a badge with the words Verbum Dei caro factum est ("The Word of God became flesh"). Dun Ġorġ was a zealous apostle of the word of God, a faithful minister of catechesis. He was a priest of great humility, goodness, meekness and generosity. Dun Ġorġ 1962 and was buried in the Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal adjacent to the Society's motherhouse at Blata l-Bajda. He was one of three Maltese beatified by Pope John Paul II on his visit to Malta May 9, 2001.

Feast: May 9.

[e. magro]

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