Fr. Giussani’s Time in Texas

Joseph visits St. Patrick’s parish in San Antonio, TX where Fr. Giussani lived during his time in Texas.

In the summer of 1965, Fr. Giussani traveled to the United States to study the methods that American parishes used to teach catechism. Even in a moment of overexertion and facing recurring liver and gallbladder issues at the time, Giussani made the trip following a proposal by his Archbishop, the then Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Colombo. Among other reasons, Cardinal Colombo wanted to integrate Gioventù Studentesca (GS), the high school movement that Giussani had founded, into the official structures of governance in the Archdiocese of Milan and thought the trip could contribute to that effort.

Before going on to visit Los Angeles, New York City, and the University of Notre Dame, Giussani spent about one month in San Antonio, Texas. At the time, there was a well-known catechetical program for children that the then Archbishop of San Antonio, Cornelius Lucey, had started. The program was specifically to prepare for the sacraments those children who did not attend Catholic schools. While in San Antonio, Giussani spent part of his time in the Archdiocesan offices learning the catechetical methods used in this program (and perhaps other religious education programs in the Archdiocese). During his time in San Antonio, Giussani wrote to Cardinal Colombo, “Allow me to send you, from nearly 12,000 km away, a devoted greeting, although one caught between gratitude and bewilderment. … Nevertheless, I’m certain that it is becoming an instrument or element of that source of life and fervor of action that nothing has ever succeeded in definitively daunting or trivializing. I pray that God lets me redeem the time. And I hope that the experience I’m having will be truly useful in future: it seems to me that it may be.” Colombo wrote back “I envision you with renewed energy; I wish you fruitful studies and experiences; I wish upon you great serenity of spirit, abandoned to the ever-loving instructions of God concerning your future and your future activities. Our deepest peace is always found in the stream of his will. My fond wishes and paternal blessings be yours. Affectionately.”

During his time in San Antonio, Giussani lived at St. Patrick’s parish, as a guest of Fr. Michael
McManus who was the pastor at the time. In 2023, St. Patrick’s parish will be celebrating the centennial of the building of its existing church. I live in San Antonio and so naturally was interested in visiting this church to see the environment that Giussani would have found himself in during that bewildering time of his life. In visiting, I tried to imagine what Giussani would have been experiencing at the time and asked him to help me gain the same certainty that he had: a certainty that my circumstances are an “an instrument or element of that source of life” and that God would redeem and make useful even the times in my life that appear lost to confusion and regret. I have visited St. Patrick’s several times, including during the kickoff to its centennial celebrations. It is a humble parish with good people. I wanted to share some pictures of the parish so that others can see where Giussani spent some of his time during his visit to America.

Joseph, San Antonio, TX