Thursday, March 17, 2022
It pleased the Lord to call back his servant Father Francesco Cazzaniga on Saturday, 12 March 2022, after some heart complications that are not uncommon among those who suffer from diabetes like he did. Fr. Cazzaniga is to be remembered as a Comboni Missionary for the Sudanese people; intelligent, humble, unpretentious, organized, deeply humane. Those who have known him have met in him a man at peace with all because he was at peace with himself.
Father Francis Cazzaniga
Francesco Cazzaniga was born on 30 March 1925 in Mariano Comense, in the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy. After some years in the diocesan seminary of Milan, he decided to join the Comboni Missionaries because he wanted to be a pastor of souls rather than end up teaching in the seminary. He professed the first vows in 1943 and the final vows five years later. In 1949 he was ordained priest and immediately assigned to the mission of the Sudan, which would be his province for the next 62 years.
After studying Arabic at the Colonial Course in London and then in Zahle, Lebanon for one year, he came to Khartoum, where he worked in CCK as a teacher from 1950 to 1965, with the interruption of two years (1957–1959) when he went back to London for a specialization in Religious Studies and one in Islamology.
It was in 1965 that he was assigned to El Obeid, first of all to work in Comboni School El Obeid as director, then to help in the pastoral ministry in the parishes of Kadugli and the cathedral. From 1969 to 1975 he was the Apostolic Administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of El Obeid (prior to Fr. Paolino Lukudu, who would eventually become the first bishop of El Obeid as a diocese). The story goes that he declined to be made bishop of El Obeid. Confreres remember he was not at ease with being in the spotlight, yet he carried on his duty to the best of his abilities. In the early 70’s, he sponsored some young men from Kadugli to go to study in Nahoud; from that group of young men, some vocations to the priesthood trace their origin.
In 1975 Fr. Francesco was sent to Ethiopia to specialize in nursing sciences for the lepers. He thus spent two years in Awasa, in Sidamo (Ethiopia). When he came back, he carried on his work in the parish of Kadugli while also reaching out to the people affected by leprosy, working alongside local health officers for the distribution of medicines.
Except for two more years in Holy Family Chapel in Khartoum (CCK), his mission would remain between El Obeid and Kadugli till 1993. He is remembered for his precious work in the formation of catechists in the Nuba mountains, and more so in areas where the Catholic presence needed to be strengthened. Among those who worked with him, we have to remember Fr. John Fenzi, Fr. Davide Ferraboschi, Sr. Teresina, Sr. Alice, Sr. Valeria Vincenzi, Sr. Costanza Rizzi, as well as catechists like Mr. Francis Abu Anja, Mr. Butros Hasan and Mrs. Nargis Komi.
In 1993 Fr. Francesco was assigned to Port Sudan. There he spent the remaining 18 years of his service in the Sudan, mainly teaching CRE in the Secondary School and to students of public schools. Fr. Benito Buzzaccarin, who spent with him twelve years, recalls his precision and dedication in teaching, as well as his generosity in giving extra lesson to the Shahada Sudaniya candidates. He took special care in teaching CRE to Eritrean students as well, offering to them a special class. He is remembered very fondly both by former students and teachers, among whom he obtained great admiration.
Talking of his gentle character and few words, Fr. Benito says, “I have never heard him raise his voice”. Younger confreres like Fr. Antonio Manganhe, appreciated a lot his wisdom and his tireless dedication to work despite his advanced age, as well as his availability in helping out young missionaries in polishing the Arabic of their Sunday homilies; in fact, he is remembered also for his good mastering of the language. Fr. Luigi Cignolini recalls that he taught up to the day he left Port Sudan, at the age of 86. His only health-related complain towards the last times was that he had some difficulty in hearing; for this reason, he requested his students to put their questions in written. While in Port Sudan, he raised funds for the “Comboni-Ba” schools, with the program “Adopt a school”.
In 2011, he retired and went back to Italy, first in the community of Rebbio and then to Milano. It pleased the Lord to call back his servant on Saturday, 12 March 2022, after some heart complications that are not uncommon among those who suffer from diabetes like he did.
Fr. Francis Cazzaniga is to be remembered as a Comboni Missionary for the Sudanese people; intelligent, humble, unpretentious, organized, deeply humane. Those who have known him have met in him a man at peace with all because he was at peace with himself.
Fr. Diego Dalle Carbonare