MONSIGNOR DOMENICO POGLIANI
A priest witness of his time
A cause of canonization is underway: it concerns Monsignor Domenico Pogliani, who founded Sacra Famiglia in 1896 in Cesano Boscone, which was in open country around Milan at the time.
Let’s recall his life because he was a forward-looking man, who was able to create one of the widest charitable institutions of the Diocese of Milan, so he remains an example for the community.
Domenico, first born of blacksmith Felice Pogliani and of Regina Guani, was born on the 18th of December 1838, in the city centre of Milan, regional capital of Lombardo-Veneto.
Domenico’s parents were devotedly Christians and led him to attend the Oratory of S. Luigi, one of the most active institutions as for the youth education.
Domenico completed his primary studies at the public schools. In 1857, at the age of 19, he entered the minor seminaries of the Diocese of Milan, and then in the ancient Seminario Maggiore of Milan to attend his theological studies. He was ordained priest on the 25th of May 1861, in the chapel of Seminario Maggiore by Pietro M. Ferrè, bishop of Crema.
His first pastoral experiences
He started as assistant pastor by the parish of Rosate, a village having 2,600 inhabitants placed in the southern country of Milan. Father Domenico gained here a first direct experience of life and working conditions of country people: such conditions were very serious as sickness and old age made people unable to work, so they were subject to misery and abandonment.
His massive pastoral work gradually weakened his health, so he wore out and, after eight years, he was forced to stay in bed. Therefore, he had to leave Rosate to go to a place with a healthier climate in order to recover. His superiors addressed him to Lecco, but his doctor suggested a new transfer in Trenno, a village in the north of Milan. Father Domenico was given light tasks in order not to tire him. However, he wanted to be a full-time priest, so he visited other territories for preaching. Despite his delicate appearance, his energy was surprising. The zeal inspiring him and his preaching attitude did not go unnoticed by his superiors. Therefore, they entrusted him with a more delicate and challenging task: in autumn 1870, he was addressed to the parish of Milan Cathedral as assistant pastor.
Assistant pastor in Milan Cathedral
After the experience gained in a rural context, Father Domenico started to work in the city centre of Milan. Having 200,000 inhabitants, Milan was about to become a metropolis, with distresses and contradictions of the coming industrial civilization.
In addition to his normal activity as assistant pastor, Father Domenico resumed in Verderio Superiore the preaching of spiritual exercises according to the ignatian method. Father Domenico got to hold six courses in a year. The success of the exercises for clergy led him to include even laic people.
Parish priest in Cesano Boscone
On the 23rd of October 1883, he was appointed parish priest in Cesano Boscone, that was at that time a little country village having about 1,300 inhabitants, mostly tenant farmers.
According to his superiors, this destination should be resting for his figure, which was delicate and consumed by efforts. However, Father Domenico wasn’t made for rest, and right after his arrival he handled some initiatives aiming at creating or improving structures and parish activities.
Father Domenico was convinced by the fundamental value of Christian and human education, which had to start since people were little. Therefore, he immediately decided to create a preschool by involving Mrs. Maria Monegherio, who owned houses and lands.
The parish church in Cesano was really in a bad state and needed a radical intervention. In order to raise the necessary funds to accomplish such a major intervention, Domenico managed to involve all the population, even those people coming from outside the parish borders. Monsignor Angelo Meraviglia Mantegazza, auxiliary bishop and vicar general, then consecrated the church on the 4th of September 1899.
Facing misery and sufferings of many brothers
The need to look after the poor grew in Monsignor Pogliani’s mind. Indeed, he had observed that a fair principle of distribution didn’t always lead charity “because, as you can see a generous one in the city, you have to deplore it as pretty low in the country”.
Thinking about the abandoned old people created in his heart the urgency to look after them in some way. Father Domenico chose the servant of God (at that time) Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo, a priest himself, as model of holiness and charitable action. His work and many worries undermined his health. After many consultations, doctors agreed about the seriousness of his illness, and only a supernatural intervention would save him. The parish priest had a feeling about this, so he trusted himself to Our Lady of the Rosary with a novena. During the sixth day of the novena, after having the Holy Viaticum, he felt suddenly better; he entered convalescence and could soon get back to his ministry. This nearly miraculous recovery, obtained by the intercession of Holy Mary on the 1st of November 1892, was considered by Father Domenico as a proof that the Lord was keeping him alive to realise what he had in his heart. Since then, nobody held him back from realising his project: he obtained twelve perches of land by Mrs. Monegherio. While the first building was rising, Monsignor Pogliani immediately hosted the first guests with whom he dined and shared the bed. Meanwhile, some girls from the parish helped him with aid.
The Ospizio’s facts
The Ospizio opened on the 1st of June 1896, and it was inaugurated by that first little group of blind, old and disabled people that Monsignor Pogliani had hosted for some months by his home. The first house cost 56,000 lire. Father Domenico had started its building by spending all 20,000 lire he was keeping for the house of the poor; the remaining sum came from the Providence.
The project of the founder soon included even children, the orphans. “Super omnia charitas” is the motto that Pogliani wanted: love above everything.
After having a two-year collaboration of some good girls from his parish, Father Domenico obtained in 1898 some sisters of Our Lady of Consolation. In 1903, the Sisters of Charity, called of Maria Bambina, replaced them.
Indeed, the first house didn’t remain alone for a long time. In 1896, the parish priest Pogliani built the southern branch of the Ospizio: it included the entrance, the management offices and some convalescence rooms. After that, he built the western branch. This first part of the Ospizio caught the attention and generosity of people with a good heart: therefore, after some years, the eastern branch and the house of the director saw the light.
The usefulness of the Ospizio was more and more growing and the hospitalization requests were growing in a way larger than hospitality possibilities, so the number of wards continued to increase.
His last days
Even though Monsignor Pogliani was old and worn out, he had still a remarkable fortitude. He was seen walking the streets of Milan to move people to love, forgetting the upset caused by kidney stones in the years.
Feeling that his end was near, Monsignor Pogliani was so humble and wise to get a collaborator he could entrust with his creature. He chose Father Luigi Moneta, who was helping him for some years in the spiritual support to the guests. Father Moneta was then his successor in managing the Istituto.
On the 25th of July 1921, a nearly sudden stroke occurred: Monsignor Pogliani felt it, and had just the time to consciously receive the sacraments and to bless his parish and his Ospizio for the last time. Finally, with a smile, he died.
The body of Monsignor Pogliani, according to his desire, was buried in the cemetery of the Ospizio. Since 1990, his remains rest in the Church of Fondazione, next to the high altar.