500 years of service to the Church

September 27, 2011

The Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are blessed to have the Somascan Fathers living and serving among them, but especially this year, when the Church is set to mark the 500th anniversary of the conversion of the Somascans’ founder, St. Jerome Emiliani, and the spiritual birth of the order.

On Sept. 27, the religious order begins the official Jubilee Year of the universal patron of orphaned and abandoned children, also offering plenary indulges on five days commemorating 
St. Jerome throughout the year at churches and religious houses run by Somascans. 

In Houston, Assumption Church (located on 901 Rose Ln.) and Christ the King (4419 North Main St.) are under the pastoral care of the Somascan Fathers and both will host Jubilee celebrations.

Indulgences will be offered on Sept. 27, 2011 and 2012; Feb. 8, the solemnity of the Somascan founder; March 14, when St. Jerome was proclaimed the universal patron of orphans and abandoned children; and April 29, when the Somascan order was formally founded. Faithful penitents must attend confession and Mass and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father to receive the indulgence.

“This is a gift of St. Jerome’s holiness and we want to make it to available to whomever wants it,” said Father Italo Dell’ Oro, who is the Somascan’s vocation director in the U.S. and in residence at Christ the King Church. 

The story of St. Jerome began on Sept. 27, 1511 when the young, ambitious soldier of Venice was captured and thrown in a dungeon following the surrender of his outnumbered castle garrison. As he prayed for Virgin Mary’s intercession, vowing a pilgrimage to the shrine in Treviso in her honor, she appeared to him, dressed in white and holding keys in her hand. She unshackled him and told him to flee. 

His motto was taken from Psalm 116:16 “Dirupisti vincula mea,” in Italian, for “You have loosed my bonds.” 

Liberated from physical bondage, and also the bondage of egoism and worldly ambition, St. Jerome dedicated his life to growing in holiness by serving orphaned and abandoned children, renewing the spiritual vitality of his local church and founding the Somascan order of priests and brothers to share in his charism. 

Somasca is a hamlet in the Lombardi region of northern Italy where the fathers worked. 

St. Jerome established a hospital, multiple orphanages and a home for former prostitutes. His legacy endures today in the work of Somascans throughout the world. 

There are 10 Somascan fathers in the U.S., six of them here in Houston. In addition to Assumption and Christ the King in Houston, the order runs the Pine Haven Boys Center for troubled and abandoned youth in Allenstown, NH. 

Father Dell’Oro invites anyone interested in helping the order further the work of St. Jerome Emiliani to consider making a donation to Pine Haven Boys Center, since it is through the order’s work with abandoned youth and orphans that St. Jerome’s profound understanding of God’s relationship to us as the Father is made evident.

“Jerome was a man chosen by God to teach and remind the world that God is Father. How? By taking care of the fatherless,” Father Dell’Oro said. †