Father Stefano Maria Pio Manelli
Father Stefano Maria Manelli was born in Fiume, Rijeka (Hrvatska-nowadays Croatia) on May 1st, 1933, the sixth of 21 children. His parents are the Servants of God, Settimio Manelli and Licia Gualandris who were spiritually guided by St Pio of Pietrelcina.
Fr Stefano received his first Holy Communion from Padre Pio in 1938 and when he was 12 years old, entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Friars Minor in Cupertino (Lecce – Italy) on December 8th, 1945.
He made his simple profession of vows on October 4th, 1949 and his solemn profession on May 27th, 1954. He was ordained a priest on the Solemnity of Christ the King on October 30th, 1955.
In 1960, he obtained his doctorate in Sacred Theology, specializing in the Immaculate at the Pontifical Theological faculty of the ‘Seraphicum’ in Rome. He became a professor of Theology (Patristic and Mariology) in the seminary of the Order, in the Diocesan seminary in Benevento and in the Institute of Religious Studies in Avellino.
He was the Prefect of Studies in the Conventual Province of Naples.
In 1965, Fr Stefano started a long period of study and reflection of the Franciscan Sources and the writings of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe.
The call of Vatican II asked religious to ‘return to the sources’ of their Order’s spirituality and adapt them to the changed conditions of the times as the principle of true religious reform. This inspired Fr Stefano to live the Franciscan life in its entirety, following in the footsteps of the Poverello of Assisi and the examples of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the ‘St Francis of the 20th Century’ as St John Paul II defined him.
With the blessing of their higher Superiors, on August 2nd, 1970, Fr Stefano and Fr Gabriele Maria Pellettieri started living a Franciscan life renewed according to a program of life called “The Marian Plan-the Traccia” which had been written by Fr Stefano.
The first Casa Mariana (Marian Friary) was established at the Marian Shrine “Our Lady of Good Counsel” in Frigento (AV), Italy.
On June 22nd 1990, this experience received Diocesan approval from the Archbishop of Benevento, Mons. Carlo Minchiatti, erecting it as an Institute of Diocesan Rite, by ‘decision of the Holy Father’ (cfr. Secretary of State Prot. N. 258.501).
It was subsequently erected as an Institute of Pontifical Rite on January 1st, 1998.
On November 1st, 1982, Fr Stefano and Fr Gabriele Maria Pellettieri founded the first community of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches, Manila (Philippines). They lived the same Franciscan-Marian life as the friars in the Marian Friaries. This new community was initially guided by Fr Gabriele.
On September 8th, 1990 in Loreto (Italy), Fr Stefano had the inspiration to found a public association for the faithful called the “Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix” (MIM). It lives the charism of the Institute according to one’s state in life and with different grades of consecration to the Immaculate (Missionaries of the Immaculate with either an act of Consecration to the Immaculate, or those with the private Marian Vow or Franciscan Tertiaries of the Immaculate). This association was initially canonically approved by the Archbishop of Benevento on January 6th, 1991 and with a proper decree from Archbishop Serafino Sprovieri on May 24th, 1997. The association was also officially recognized in the decrees of Pontifical erection both of the Friars (January 1st, 1998) and of the Sisters (November 9th, 1998).
Fr Gabriele Maria Pellettieri (of the Annunciation) – Cofounder
Antonio Pellettieri (in religion Father Gabriele Maria) was born in Vaglio Basilicata (Potenza – Italy) on June 11th 1940. His parents were Raffaele and Antonia Biscione.
When Anthony was 10 years old, he entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscan Friars in Ravello where he attended high school. He met Father Stefano Maria Manelli in the seminary of Saint Anatasia in Naples where he completed his studies.
On September 17th,1957 he made his first simple profession of vows and then his solemn profession exactly four years later He was ordained a priest on March 14th, 1965 and obtained his license in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of the ‘Seraphicum’ in Rome.
During the period from 1966-1969, he found himself in the same religious community with Fr Stefano in the Province of Naples and a spiritual friendship developed between the two Friar priests. From 1967-1970 he was the vice-rector and professor of literature in the minor seminary of the Order. On August 2nd, 1970, with the approval of the Minister General and that of the Provincial Chapter, he joined Father Stefano Maria Manelli in living out this renewed form of Franciscan life at the first Casa Mariana (Marian Friary) in Frigento (Avellino-Italy). Their daily schedule and form of life was regulated by the ‘Marian Plan of Franciscan Life-the Traccia’.
He was the Superior of the Casa Mariana in Frigento for two trienniums (from 1973-1979).
On August 23rd, 1979, together with three other friars from the same community in Frigento, Father Gabriele departed as a missionary for the Philippines and he remained as Superior there until 1989 when he went back to Italy. He was the pastor of the parish of Saint Francis and Saint Quiteria in Manila (Philippines) from 1980-1983 and was also the Novice Master in the seminary of the Immaculate in Novaliches. While he was in Novaliches, he started to direct a group of young women who later would make up the first religious community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.
Sister Maria Simona Pia, FI Vocations Directress
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