Smaldone, Filippo Mariano, Bl.

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Priest and cofounder of the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts (Congregazione delle Suore Salesiane dei Sacri Cuori ); b. Naples, Sicily, Italy, July 27, 1848; d. Lecce, Apulia, Italy, June 4, 1923. The eldest of the seven children of Antonio Smaldone and Maria Concetta de Luca, Filippo had decided by age 12 to become a priest, despite the persecution the Church was experiencing. He entered the minor seminary in Rossano Calabria (1862). His specific apostolate was determined while he was still a student following a encounter with the mother of a deaf child in Saint Catherine's Church in Naples. From that time he evangelized and taught the deaf.

Overcoming some difficulties that required his transfer to the archdiocese of Naples, Smaldone was ordained in 1871. While ministering to plague victims, Smaldone contracted the disease, but was miraculously healed through the intercession of Our Lady of Pompeii. Frustrated by his inability to help the deaf sufficiently, Smaldone considered undertaking a foreign mission; however, his spiritual director convinced him to recommit himself to his apostolate in Naples. On March 25, 1885, Smaldone cofounded an institute in Lecce with Father Lorenzo Apicelia and some specially trained Grey Sisters, who became Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart dedicated to the education of the deaf. Other institutes followed for the deaf in Bari (1897) and throughout Italy, as well as centers for the blind, abandoned, and orphaned.

Smaldone's love for the Blessed Sacrament was demonstrated by his founding the Eucharistic League of Priest Adorers and Women Adorers. In addition to his charitable activities and spiritual direction of many priests, seminarians, and religious communities, Smaldone served as superior for the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales and canon of the Lecce cathedral.

He died at age 75 of cardiac complications from diabetes, and was declared venerable July 11, 1995. Pope John Paul II beatified Smaldone on Aug 16, 1996.

Feast: June 4.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1996): 55153. L'Osservatore Romano, no. 20 (1996): 1; 21 (1996): 45. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 29 (1995): 5.

[k. i. rabenstein]