Silvestrelli, Bernard Maria of Jesus, Bl.

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Baptized Cesare, Passionist priest; b. Nov. 7, 1831, Rome, Italy; d. there Dec. 9, 1911, in Morricone Monastery.

Cesare was born into Roman nobility, the third of the seven children of Gian Tommasso and Teresa Silvestrelli. Cesare attended Jesuit schools, including the Collegio Romano. Although he entered the Passionist novitiate on Monte Argentaro (1854), he was forced to leave because of ill health. He continued his studies and was ordained a secular priest (1855). Four months later he asked and was given permission to re-enter the Passionists at Morrovalle, where he was given the name Bernard Maria of Jesus (Apr. 28, 1857) and studied with St. Gabriel Possenti.

Following the completion of his studies, Father Bernard Maria served the Passionists in various capacities: novice master (186569) and rector of the new Scala Santa ("Holy Stairs") monastery next to the Lateran (186975); provincial consultator (187576); and vice-provincial (187678). Silvestrelli was elected and reelected superior general (187884, 188489, 189399, 18991905, 190507) and instituted a number of reforms within the order.

To maintain the order's ideals, he published the vitae of the companions of St. Paul of the Cross. Additionally, he established preparatory schools to form future candidates for the novitiate. As superior general, he expanded the congregation into Spain, Mexico, and Latin America, established a novitiate in Bulgaria, and founded the international house of studies at Saints John and Paul in Rome. Silvestrelli visited all the Passionist provinces, including those in northern Europe, Spain, and, in 1896, the United States to better understand the difficulties pursuant to Passionist life in these localities. He was a man known for his prudence, gentleness, and charity.

Pope John Paul II beatified Silvestrelli on Oct. 16, 1988.

Feast: December 9 (Passionists).

Bibliography: f. giorgini, Bernardo Maria Silvestrelli Passionista (Rome 1988); English tr. p. rogers (Rome 1990). f. g. zic chetti, Padre Bernardo M. Silvestrelli Passionista (Recanati 1988).

[k. i. rabenstein]