Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 2004
Fr. Joe - a priest to everyone
Gentle Italian Oblate loved his Cree parishioners: He died November 8
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Father Giuseppe Peroni might have been renowned for fresco paintings or acclaimed as an opera tenor had he not dedicated himself to a life in Alberta as an Oblate missionary.
During Second World War fighting near his Naples, Italy, community of Campania more than 60 years ago, a teenaged and talented Peroni was transfixed by a swaying crucifix fastened to a novice's belt when a group of Oblates walked by.
He felt serenity amid the cacophony. Peroni realized humanity was not about killing, but praising and preserving life.
That moment began Peroni's devotion to spreading his blessings in the name of Christ, said Father Camillo Prosdocimo, his dedicated friend.
Peroni died Nov. 8 in St. Albert, at 78 after a lengthy illness.
"After the sixth day, God had plenty of gifts left over, so he dropped them all at Campania," said Prosdocimo, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish on the Saddle Lake Reserve near St. Paul.
"It is a beautiful area in southern Italy with a mild climate, music, colours and happy people. It is rich in crops all year round. Nature shapes its fruits and Father Peroni was a fruit of that land."
Known by many as Father Joe, Peroni was a gentle man, raised in a happy, Christian home. He was quick to see the good in nature and in people. He loved painting, music and good food, Prosdocimo said.
"Father Joe was very young when he entered the seminary and began seeking serenity with the Lord.
"The older seminarians explained to him they would be Oblate missionaries, bringing the Gospel to far away countries.
That was in 1942. He saw the suffering in his native land and he realized only God could help. He followed the Lord his entire life."
Prosdocimo was attending an Oblate theological college in Turin when he met Peroni, who was already respected and appreciated by the superiors, and the students. They studied together. Prosdocimo was impressed by Peroni's grace.
"I remember his style; his serenity in every aspect. He was a good painter and singer. He also loved acting."
Peroni knew his talents were gifts from God. He carried his gratitude and his spirit to Canada in 1953 where he shared the Gospel, his joy of life and his strong faith with Alberta aboriginal families.
"He had unbounded love. The natives loved him and absorbed him. He was never superior to them. He was a messenger of the good things, and they understood," Prosdocimo said. "He was a priest to everyone."
Peroni's mission took him to the St. Paul area to learn Cree. Prosdocimo occasionally sees the priest's name on baptism documents. He feels a sense of honour to be walking in his friend's footsteps.
"It is like going home, to find where my brother lived."
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