GIUSEPPE SABBATELLI (priest)
On Wednesday, October 20, 2004, at about 6:50 p.m., Fr. Joseph Sabatelli concluded his life on earth, assisted by his Confreres of the Community on Via Mameli, in Verona, and by his own loved ones. Fr. Joseph was born in Atella, in the Province of Potenza, on December 8, 1938, the son of Donato and Annunziata [Giuliano]. He was inserted into the life of Christ in Baptism, and January 4, 1939.
As a young boy of 11, he left his native southern Italy [Basilicata] in order to enter our Congregation on September 1, 1951, at Cadellara. On September 24, 1956, he began his Novitiate under the Father Master of that time, Fr. Mattiussi. On September 25, 1957, he pronounced his first vows. He was consecrated forever in our Religious Family on September 25, 1960, with his Perpetual Profession at San Leonardo in Verona. Following his studies of philosophy and theology at San Leonardo and then at the Angelicum in Rome, he obtained the Licentiate in theology. He was ordained a priest on June 27, 1965, in the Cathedral of Verona.
As he committed himself as a companion in the Stigmatine life, the Lord had chosen to enrich us with his testimony of fidelity, that he lived with simplicity day in and day out. As regards Fr. Joseph, it certainly could never be said of him that he sought the limelight. He did not have, nor did he ever desire, the role of leader. He spent his life anchored in a modest idea of himself, in the different communities in which he was called to live his Stigmatine service. But, he never lost the sense of having been called to live an attentive, discreet constant and precious presence among us.
He put his competence as Economus at the service of the various communities to which he had been assigned: Battipaglia, Rieti, Gemona, Cadellara, Sezano, the Stimmate and Via Mameli. For many, many years he purred out his better energies as very capable teacher and legal representative of the Province at the Professional Center on Via Mameli. Thanks also to his constant dedication, there are perhaps 300 young lives whose only other alternative would have been the street, who today are receiving a truly human and Christian formation, with a concrete professional capacity and a necessary culture in order to face head on the challenges of life.
After his surgery of two years ago, the diagnosis was that he was suffering from an incurable illness. As a result, Fr. Joseph did not withdraw into himself due to his illness, but continued to carry out his commitment to school and to the community, of which he was the Superior. We can say that he struggled against his own malady by taking care of others, and not of himself.
It is true that the earthly journey of Fr. Joseph took place mostly in the background, but this does not mean in an unqualified service. His spiritual stature was revealed fully in this last lap of his pathway of life. When he had been informed of the reality of his severe illness, he personally appealed to the surgeon to communicate his diagnosis to the Provincial and to his own sister, adding: ‘Please do it in the gentlest manner possible!’ He was more concerned for us, than for his own future.
‘One has to be realistic’, is what he said to me in speaking of his proximate departure from this world. And when I expressed my admiration and gratitude for his witness of serenity in the face of sister death, he added: ‘The Lord, the Lord alone sustains me.’ The most pleasing gift provided by persons who are approaching the end of the line is prayer. ‘Would you like to pray together?’, he asked me. And I responded ‘Of course!’. And he was incessant in his expressions of thanks to me.
Accompanied by the Sacrament of the Sick, which he himself asked for in order to share with Christ his own sufferings, and supported by the prayer of his Confreres in the Community, his loved ones and by so many persons dear to him, Fr. Joseph Sabatelli has gone to meet his Lord.
Those who prove victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot their names out of the Book of Life, but acknowledge their names in the presence of my Father and his angels [Rv 3:5]