Father Gino, Apostle of
Our Lady of Fatima
On May 8, 1983, before a congregation of 25,000 people, Brother Gino was ordained to the priesthood. Our readers should note in the following articles Father Gino is referred to as Brother. We did not have time to change the type set for these articles. We are certain that our readers join with The Fatima Crusader in extending our prayerful best wishes to Father Gino on this sacred occasion.
We continue here the biography of Father Gino Burresi, O.M.V., which started in Issue 9-10 of The Fatima Crusader. Father Gino’s Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at San Vittorino near Rome, Italy, has become internationally well known and people from all over the world come to visit Father Gino and come to his Shrine as a place of prayer and pilgrimage. Many people feel they have received special graces through Our Lady’s intercession there. Father Gino has attracted many young people to San Vittorino to live the life of consecrated religious. These young people, mostly from the United States and Canada, have accepted the call to follow Christ and His Blessed Mother together with Father Gino and the Oblates.
In 1955, he was sent by his superiors to the community of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary attached to the parish church of St. Helena’s in Rome. There he was given the duty of care of the church and cleaning the house. There the people of Rome began to know of his goodness and they brought him things for the poor people whom he helped.
In 1957, the Rector Major (Superior General) called Brother Gino to be near him in the house of the General Curia, which is next to the Mamertine prison in the heart of Rome. The Mamertine prison, which is presently in the care of the Oblates, is where two thousand years ago Saints Peter and Paul were instrumental in converting 47 fellow prisoners to the Faith. This happened about a day before Saints Peter and Paul were taken to their places of martyrdom. They had no water in the prison to baptize the converts with, but a miraculous spring came up out of the floor of the prison at the Saints’ prayer, and they used this water to baptize the converts. To this day, this spring of water is still there.
Over this prison is built a church dedicated to Saint Joseph the Worker. As Brother Gino’s reputation for holiness spread, more and more people came to ask graces through the intercession of the “Madonnina” (the little Madonna). They prayed the Rosary before his little statue of the Madonna of Fatima. The superiors at the Mamertine allowed the little statue to be exposed over a side altar in the church of Saint Joseph.
The Pious Congregation
The numbers of the faithful who were gathering to pray the Rosary at the Mamertine kept increasing, and many went there every day and thus became friends. They wanted to unite in an organization to work more effectively with Brother Gino to make known the devotion to the Madonna of Fatima and Her message. Brother Gino saw how the movement was growing and so he decided to seek approval from the ecclesiastical authority (The Vicariate of Rome) to canonically found the “Pious Congregation of Our Lady of Fatima” for the conversion of sinners.
With the help of Monsignor Crovella, who worked at the Vatican, a rule governing the association was proposed. There was a careful examination of the actions of the faithful in this new group.
The Statutes were officially approved by the Cardinal Vicar of the Holy Father, Cardinal Micara, on Feb. 28, 1958. Thus, through the initial instrumentality of the sacramental of the little Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the movement grew and won official Church approval. In fact, Pope Pius XII, himself greatly devoted to Our Lady of Fatima, met in audience with Brother Gino and personally blessed the little statue and his work in the Fatima apostolate. At present, only the spiritual aspect of the association remains. They are prayer groups which bring groups of pilgrims to the Sanctuary of San Vittorino. The use that Heaven made of the small statue of Our Lady of Fatima is indeed a lesson in the importance of sacramentals, which are holy things or actions of which the Church makes use to obtain spiritual and temporal favors from God. Unlike Sacraments, the power of sacramentals does not come from the objects themselves, but from the Roman Catholic Church’s prayers of intercession.
The Sanctuary at San Vittorino
One day in 1958 or thereabouts, Brother Gino went out to the edge of Rome, to a small village named San Vittorino. He went there to visit a man named Angelo Colista, who was sick. The doctors at the hospital in Rome realized there was nothing that could be done to save his life and they told his relatives to take him home to San Vittorino. Signor Colista relates: “My case moved the town with pity. I had small children, and my death would have left my family in great difficulties.
“Somebody told one of my relatives: ‘Why don’t you call Brother Gino? He is a religious brother. He lives in Rome and helps poor people. They say he is working miracles.’
“My parents ran to the parish priest. They begged him to go to Brother Gino. The day after, Brother Gino came to see me. As soon as I saw him I said, ‘I don’t ask to be cured. I am ready to remain an invalid forever, to suffer, but I wish to see my children grow and be able to be their advisor.’
“We prayed together. Brother Gino told me before he left, ‘Be confident. Your wishes will be fulfilled’.”
Signor Colista adds: “I am not completely cured. But I am still alive, just as I asked. Brother Gino and I became friends. He came to see me often. His visits left such a peace in my soul.
“On one Sunday afternoon, (December 8, 1960, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception), after speaking to me, he went for a walk with my son and the other lads. When they reached that part of the town where there is a chapel dedicated to Saint Rock, Brother Gino said, ‘Let us pray the Rosary.’
“They began to pray. All of a sudden an extraordinary thing happened; he had begun to speak alone …” Brother Gino was oblivious to his immediate surroundings.
Brother Gino came to understand at this time, that Our Lady wanted a church to be built on that spot, dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. Many people would come to this shrine of Our Lady of Fatima to be converted. He understood that he would have to undergo many sufferings, but that Our Lady would always be near him to help him.
In January 1961 Brother Gino brought a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the parish church in San Vittorino, and right away the people of the town began to share his enthusiasm for the new sanctuary. In the field chosen for the new church, a little shrine was built, and on May 13, 1961 a small statue of Our Lady of Fatima was placed there.
In 1964 a little crypt church was built there, which is now at the base of a large sanctuary. It is common in Europe to have a smaller crypt church at the base of a larger construction, and this is also the case at the Oratory of Saint Joseph in Montreal, Canada. In the smaller church at San Vittorino is a Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which came from Fatima, Portugal. An American who visited San Vittorino recounts that in 1972 this statue shed tears. The tears were taken to Rome and analyzed and were found to be human tears. It seems according to that same American, that Brother Gino asked Our Lady why She was crying, and Brother Gino understood that She was sad because the work of the Sanctuary was going too slowly. That was in 1972 but now the sanctuary is nearly completed.
Not long after Brother Gino had understood that Our Lady of Fatima wanted him to build a shrine at San Vittorino in Her honor, the following incident took place, as related by a friend of Brother Gino:
“It was around this time that Brother Gino one day wanted to go to San Vittorino, to see a man about the deed for buying this particular land where the church was to be built. And a friend of his had an old Fiat car. And Brother Gino asked him to take him to San Vittorino in it. And his friend said, ‘Well, I’m sorry, Brother, but I don’t have any gas in the car. It’s completely run out. It's bone dry. And I don't have any money, and I know you don't either.’ And they got into the car, and Brother Gino asked for the keys, and he blessed the keys. And he told the man now to try to start the car. Well, it started, and they drove twenty miles to San Vittorino, and then about twenty miles back to the center of Rome where the Mammertine prison is, where Brother Gino lived. Brother Gino thanked the man for the ride.”