WHO IS ST. MARIA GORETTI. Patron saint of the youth in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
By Fr. Shanthi Puthussery, PIME. The feast of St. Maria Goretti, the patron saint of young people, was solemnly celebrated by several dioceses in Papua New Guinea this year. Bp. Rochus Tatamai of Bereina, who had just come back from Australia after heart surgery and was at RABAUL for the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Blessed Peter ToRot says, "In the early morning of Saturday, 7 July I welcomed the youth from Kokopo and Rabaul deaneries at Rakunai. They came as pilgrims from two different locations and converged at the shrine of Blessed Peter ToRot. I reflected with them on the Feast of St. Maria Goretti as well as that of Blessed Peter ToRot. I also shared my experience in the hospital in Sydney and thanked them all for the prayers and kind thoughts. It was a very moving encounter". At BEREINA Fr. Ray Caigoe had two days of gathering with the youth leaders and gave a reflection on the martyrdom of St. Maria Goretti followed by a solemn Mass. The youth also watched a video of Maria Goretti. At VANIMO Fr. Bijish Joseph, the diocesan youth coordinator, organized a celebration at Dasi parish with the youth. At WEWAK almost all the parishes had three days of parish youth convention culminated with the celebration of the feast of St. Maria Goretti. In BOUGAINVILLE the youth leaders gathered together and had two days celebration with Fr. Dominic Kiaku. The youth of KUNDIAWA celebrated St. Maria Goretti at Don Bosco Technical School.
MARIA GORETTI PATRON OF THE YOUTH
In 2006 the youth representatives from the dioceses of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands gathered in Goroka and after carefully considering several options chose Maria Goretti as their patron saint. Later on the Bishops endorsed and approved this decision.
LIFE OF MARIA GORETTI
Who is Maria Goretti? She was born on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, in the Province of Ancona, in Italy, to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. She was the third out of six children. On July 5, 1902, finding eleven-year-old Maria sewing alone, Alessandro Serenelli came in and threatened her with death if she did not do as he said; he was intending to rape her. She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning Alessandro that he would go to hell. She desperately fought to stop Alessandro, a 19-year-old farmhand, from abusing her.
She kept screaming, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it!" Alessandro first choked Maria, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times. The injured Maria tried to reach for the door, but Alessandro stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away. Maria's little sister Teresa awoke with the noise and started crying, and when Alessandro's father and Maria's mother came to check on the little girl, they found the bleeding Maria and took her to the nearest hospital in Nettuno. She underwent surgery without anesthesia, but her injuries were beyond the doctors' help. The following day, twenty hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for her murderer and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, Maria died of her injuries, while looking at a very beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother, and clutching a cross to her chest.
Alessandro Serenelli was captured shortly after Maria's death. Originally, he was going to be sentenced to life, but since he was a minor at that time the sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison. After his release, Alessandro Serenelli visited Maria's still-living mother, Assunta, and begged her for forgiveness. She forgave him, saying that if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed then she could not do less, and they attended Mass together the next day, receiving Holy Communion side by side. Alessandro reportedly prayed every day to Maria Goretti and referred to her as "my little saint." Alessandro later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, living in a monastery and working as its receptionist and gardener until his peaceful death in 1970.
On the evening of the beatification ceremonies in the Saint Peter's Basilica, April 27, 1947, Pope Pius XII walked over to Assunta, the mother of Maria. She almost fainted. "When I saw the Pope coming, I prayed, Madonna, please help me. He put his hand on my head and said, blessed mother, happy mother, mother of a Blessed!" They both had eyes wet with tears.
Three years later, on June 24, 1950, Pius XII canonized Maria as a saint. Assunta was again present at the ceremony, along with her four remaining sons and daughters. Some sources assert she was the first mother ever to attend the canonization ceremony of her child. Alessandro Serenelli who stabbed Maria was also present at the canonization.
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