Rest In Peace Fr Simon Aloisi OSB

Let us recall the fascinating life of this loved pastor. 

12 September 2017 General Interest

Last Friday, the Diocese lost Fr Simon Aloisi OSB.

We ask for your prayers for Fr Simon, for the Benedictine Community and our people of St Benedict's Arcadia.

Let us recall the fascinating life of this loved pastor.

Early Life
Fr Simon Aloisi was born on 26 October 1936 in that far northern region of Italy known to the Italians as Alto Adige, and to its German-speaking majority majority as the South Tyrol (Süd Tirol). His father, Gregorio, was a Sicilian policeman, and a member of the paramilitary “carabinieri”, just one of the many Italian officials posted to this border area as a deliberate policy by the Mussolini government – for it had become Italian territory only after World War One. Unusually for these days, Gregorio met and married a girl from a German-speaking family, Emma Lamprecht. Fr Simon was the second of their six children.

His early childhood, during the Second World War, was difficult. He lived in an almost totally German-speaking environment in those years. His father had been arrested by the Germans in 1944, like many other Italian officials, and taken was north to a forced labour camp near Berlin. After the war, one of his teachers at school had a brother, d.Pietro Niedekofler, who was a priest monk in the Sylvestrine Benedictine Congregation. He judged Simon Aloisi to be a suitable candidate for the Sylvestrine probandate and so, in 1948, just before his twelfth birthday, he was sent off to join it, hundreds of kilometres to the south. Separation from his family and sparse food were less of a problem than trying to learn to speak Italian, and this difficulty affected his studies.

Catholic Life
He took his first monastic vows with five other novices in September 1955, at the mother-house of Montefano, and remained there for the years of philosophy. Eventually, he and his companions were sent to Rome in late 1959. Fr Simon was one of those enrolled at the Gregorian for his four years on theology. He can still reel off the names of ten or so of his Jesuit professors, but the two who impressed him most were Fr René Latourelle and his classes of revelation theology, and the German moral theologian, Josef Fuchs. Fr Simon was ordained a priest on 19 June 1963 at S. Stefano del Cacco, the Sylvestrine Church in Rome, close by S. Maria Minerva. The ordaining bishop was the Abbot ordinary of St Paul-outside-the-Walls, d. Cesare d’Amato. In October that same year, the Gregorian granted Fr Simon the licentiate. These were heady days. The first sessions of the second Vatican Council had already taken place.

After a pastoral year at a Salesian institute in Rome, Fr Simon began teaching classes at the two schools (a middle school and a trade school) attached to the Sylvestrine monastery at Bassano Romano. In 1968, however, his life changed much more radically, for he was asked to go to Australia, replacing a monk who had returned to Italy. He and Br Guiseppe Pedica arrived in Sydney in early March that ear. He now had to concentrate on learning a new language, but otherwise spent much of the next two years helping on the monastery farm at Arcadia.

Parish Life
In April 1970, after Easter, he was instructed to go to the parish at Smithfield (where the Sylvestrine foundation had commenced in 1949) and to help out for a week or so. In fact, he remained there for the next eight years.

The parish was very large and a mecca for recent immigrants. It contained three churches and had a primary school, said, in the late 1970s, to be the largest Catholic primary school (in terms of enrolments) in NSW. There were always four monks stationed at St Gertrude’s in the 1970s and 1980s. All were kept busy with the numerous Masses, marriages and baptisms, and a considerable ration of catechetical instruction in the State schools. Fr Simon himself was particularly interested in fostering and supporting various devotional groups in the parish, and even more in the ministry to the sick and infirm. This involved not only frequent visits to those in hospital, but also the regular taking of Holy Communion to the home-bound.

He was recalled to the monastery in 1978, but from 1980 to 1988 was to serve another term at St Gertrude’s. As for holidays, for 26 years he took these on the same stretch of the North Queensland coast, year in, year out. This was close by to the town of Tully, where families of Italian descent were thick on the ground. During this period, through his own efforts and those of his many friends and contacts, he amassed an unusually large shell collection. Part of this is now displayed in glass cases and cabinets in a room at the monastery specifically set aside for this purpose, the so-called Shell Museum.

Fr Simon was parish priest of St Benedict’s, Arcadia from 1996 to 2001, but generally prefers a supporting role. Despite describing himself as “semi-retired”, he is still very active in the parish. Apart from his daily Mass (and others), he is chaplain to the Senior’s Group which meets every Thursday morning for Mass, conversation, activities and lunch. The Italian Rosary Group sees him on Monday afternoons; and a Friday evening prayer group (preceded by Benediction) is also part of his routine. Above all, however, it is the visiting of the sick, which continues at an undiminished rate.

Nor is he idle in the monastery. Gardening, compost-heaping, recycling the rubbish, preparing the monk’s supper on Thursday nights, eagerly washing up at the sink, feeding the birds (lorikeets, natïve doves, the white cockatoo now approaching his half-century) – all these activities fill his days, quite apart from the daily round of his monastic duties and the long preparations for each of his homilies.

Fr Simon could never be called “typical”, but it is his eccentricities, his kind heart, his zeal for souls and genuine simplicity that explain why he is held in such affection by his confreres, his parishioners and his many friends.

Words By Br Terence Kavanagh OSB
 

 

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001
news@dbb.org.au

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