COMBONI THAT DAY

In Pace Christi

Fr. Debertolis Modesto

Born: 29/03/1929
Luogo di Nascita: Primiero (I)

Voti temporanei: 27/02/1947
Voti perpetui: 19/09/1952
Ordinazione: 30/05/1953

Date of Death: 16/06/2017
Place of Death: Milano (I)

Fr. Debertolis was born in Transacqua on 29 March 1929, one of the five municipalities that make up the commune of Primiero San Martino di Castrozza, in the autonomous province of Trent (Italy). He took first vows at Venegono Superiore in 1947, was ordained priest in Gozzano and frequented Milan State University where he obtained a degree in mathematics.

We came to know him in 1958 at Villa Pisa, on the hills between Florence and Fiesole. The studies were hard and demanding and Fr. Debertolis was a member of the college of professors. That first year passed quickly and then, to our great displeasure, the Liceo was transferred to Carraia in Lucca Province, to a new and majestic seminary with little that could be called familiar. Fr. Debertolis migrated with the rest of us.

His room as professor of mathematics was our escape route, even if only for the telescope set up on the external, always pointing to the stars. It was a welcome break to get away from the difficult course his mathematical genius subjected us. One of his students writes of him: “He was a nice man, simple, sociable and often smiling. He was my professor for three years in the Liceo. I always found him to possess extraordinary equilibrium of judgement for myself and my class companions. He seemed to have access to a degree of precision capable of telling from questioning or homework if one had studied the subject for half an hour, or an hour or more. From this he allotted a mark. To sum up, he was ‘the fairest professor I remember ever having during my years of school”.

In 1970 he was assigned to Brasil and worked there until 1974, first at Riachão (from 1970 to 1972) and then at Mangabeiras (from 1972 to 1974), both located in North East Brasil, in the diocese of Balsas. In Riachão he formed a community with Fr. Franco Sesenna, superior and parish priest, and Fr. Giuseppe De Feo, whose task was that of curate. He is remembered as being intelligent with much geniality and capable of creating ties with the people. He liked to visit people and chat with them. In community he was able to reduce tensions and always tried to create a good community atmosphere with a smile or a joke.

In 1974, he returned to Italy where he was placed in charge of Mission promotion and engaged in ministry in various communities: Pordenone, Padua, Verona Mother House, Venegono and again in Pordenone: he continued thus until 1985.

In 1985 he returned to Brasil, to the state of Maranhão, again in the diocese of Balsas. He was curate in the parish of Pastos Bons until 1988. It was an old parish, founded in 1764, where the Combonis had been ministering since 10 March 1966. From there they assisted the parish of Mirador and Nova York. Fr. Modesto lived in community with Fr. Juan Sánchez Arenas, community superior, Fr. Carlo Bianchi and Bro. António Martins da Costa. He then spent six months, from 1 January 1989 to June of the same year, at São Luís, the capital of the State of Maranhão, situated on an island with kilometres of pristine unspoiled beaches. There Fr. Modesto found an old student of his, Fr. Gianfranco Masserdotti, who was Provincial of Brazile Nord and whom he had known since his Carraia days. Then, in July of 1989 he had to return to Italy for treatment until the final stage in the “Father Giuseppe Ambrosoli” centre in Milan.

We went to visit him and found him in bed, silent, immobile and thoughtful. We thought it was no longer him. Perhaps he was thinking of all the work he did on the pipes of the organ in Arco, a job he never finished. A few days later he left us, there in Milan, on 16 June 2017. (Fr. Arnaldo Baritussio)