Eusebio Chino I: A Foremost Tyrolean

If you want to beam with pride and joy, go to the rotunda of the US Capitol where you will find the statues of the “Founders” of individual states.  Although Columbus discovered this New World, you will not find an “Italian” name other than one that has a seemingly Italian name… Father Eusebio Francisco Chino…He is un di of ours Not only ours but the very first Tyrolean American in our country who identified himself as from the Tyrol. Reading the base of the statue it declares founder of Arizona, Agronomist, Explorer, and Cartographer…His gigantic accomplishments matched and probably exceeded those of Coronado, De Soto, Marquette, Junipero Serra, and others. Volumes have been written about our fellow to Tyrolean and it is difficult to affirm in which field he was greater, as a missionary, an explorer, and agronomist, a diarist, farmer, a cartographer, a cattle raiser, a Native American champion… or a man of God. Here are some sketchy introductory details regarding Father Kino in the expectation that we can return in future issues to delineate him further.

Eusebio Kion was born in Segno, today frazione of Taio, a village in the Val di Non in the Bishoprie of Trent, which after his death became the Austrian Hungarian Empire and in 1919 present-day Italy. The Trentino for 800 years had no “nationality” but resided in these feudal states or provinces ruled by Bishops. He was born on Aug. 19, 1645. He was educated in Innsbruck where he distinguished himself in the study of mathematics, cartography, and astronomy. From 1664 to 1669 he received his religious training at Freiburg, Ingolstadt, and Landsberg, Bavaria and was ordained a Jesuit priest on June 12, 1677, at Eistady, Austria. Although he wanted to go to the Orient, he was ordered to establish missions on the Baja California peninsula and Northern Mexican Sonora and Southern U.S. Arizona. Kino arrived in Mexico City in the spring of 1681. He became famous in what is now northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States (primarily northern Sonora and southern Arizona) in the region then known as the Pimaria Alta. He is known for his exploration of the region and for his work to Christianize the indigenous Native American population. Kino was a doer and the history of his accomplishments staggers the inquiring mind. During his 24 years in Pimeria Alta, he traveled over 50,000 square miles to reach, to baptize and to civilize the Indians helping to create a civilization. He founded 24 missions and established 19 rancherias. Cattle ranching and the introduction of European cereals and fruits owe Fr. Chino their beginnings. He was well loved by the Indians. He was their spiritual director, their defender against the assaults of the Apaches and the exploitation of the Conquistadores opposing Indian enslavement in the silver mines of northern Mexico. His maps of the South West made him famous throughout Europe. He is also said to have explored the sources of the Rio Grande, the Colorado and Gila rivers. His explorations of the area around the mouth of the Colorado River in 1701 convinced him that Baja California was a peninsula, not an island. His 1705 map was the standard reference for the southwestern desert region relating his achievements and trials, have been preserved and published. He was also the author of an autobiographic work, Favores celestiales. A movie was made about Father Chino or Kino starring Richard Pryor. One obtains it through Netflix. Fr. Chino is our pride, boast, and common Tyrolean American possession.

Eusebio Chino II: A Foremost Tyrolean

If you want to beam with pride and joy, go to the rotunda of the US Capitol where you will find the statues of the “Founders” of individual states. Although Columbus discovered this New World, you will not find an “Italian” name other than one that has a seemingly Italian name… Father Eusebio Francisco Chino…He is un di of ours Not only ours but the very first Tyrolean American in our country who identified himself as from the Tyrol. Reading the base of the statue it declares founder of Arizona, Agronomist, Explorer, and Cartographer…His gigantic accomplishments matched and probably exceeded those of Coronado, De Soto, Marquette, Junipero Serra, and others. Volumes have been written about our fellow to Tyrolean and it is difficult to affirm in which field he was greater, as a missionary, an explorer, and agronomist, a diarist, farmer, a cartographer, a cattle raiser, a Native American champion… or a man of God. Here are some sketchy introductory details regarding Father Kino in the expectation that we can return in future issues to delineate him further. The Tyrol … now the Trentino …gave the world two colossal figures that had enormous impact on the world and civilization of their times.

Father Martino Martini and Father Eusebio Chini were both Jesuit missionaries who not only spread Christianity but made enormous contributions to their societies. Father Martini went to China in 1640, traveled extensively, studied their culture, geography and thereby introduced China to Europe. He is known as the Father of Chinese geography. Father Chini made his way to Mexico, Southern California and Arizona where he became truly a pioneer, a champion of the native peoples, an historian, an agronomist and a cartographer. Whereas Fr Martini interacted with a country with a developed culture and tradition, Fr Chini came to yet to be explored lands with native peoples of a pre-Columbian culture. Whereas Fr Martini wrote and contributed directly to European society, its commerce and its governments becoming well known and well regarded, Fr. Chini’s tremendous and singular accomplishments…far removed from Europe and their networks fell into oblivion…even and especially in the Trentino.Hence, leaving Fr Martino Martini aside for now (the Filo` will return to this extraordinary Tyrolean in the future)…we turn to Eusebio Chini of Segno of the Valdi Non…

At the beginning of last century, his work was reevaluated by American historians and now his name and legacy is legendary. Eusebio Chini came to our shores and became the pre-eminent missionary, pioneer, explorer, historian, writer and geographer. Coming in 1681, he also represents the very first and prototype of our emigrants. His work and achievements affected the native people and the geography of our country so that our nation has declared him the Founder of Arizona. He was an exceptional man who made exceptional contributions to our nation and its peoples…and…for us, Tyrolean Americans, he was truly “unde nossi”…one of our very own. Hence, the Filo` will pursue a series of articles detailing his work and accomplishments. We will draw much of our material from the work of Father Bonifacio Bolognani, who studied his life and work and wrote his biography as well as the historian and scholar, Herbert Eugene Bolton who began his pursuit of Fr. Chino in 1902.

Segno is one of the lovely villages of the Val di Non. It would not have any significance were it not that it gave birth to some-one of tremendous significance…to the world beyond Segno. Exactly 100 years after the beginning of the Council of Trent,Eusebio was born in Segno on August 10,1645, the son of Francesco and Margarita Chini who were inheritors of title of rank granted by Charles V in 1529. There were two significant influences in his early life…the culture and the religiosity of the Val di Non and reputation and exploits of the Jesuit missionary born in Trento, Fr. Martino Martini. These two acknowledged influences prompted Eusebio to enter the Jesuit school, a ginnasio, a classical high school in Trento administered by the Jesuits of the Austrian Province. These two acknowledged influences prompted Eusebio to enter the Jesuit school, a ginnasio, a classical high school in Trento administered by the Jesuits of the Austrian Province. At the age of eighteen, he left for Austria and Germany. During a serious illness, he made a vow to St Francis Xavier that if he recovered, he would devote his life to the missionary work. Once he recuperated, he added the name “Francesco” to his own name,in honor of his patron saint. In 1665, at the early age of 20, he became a Jesuit in Landsberg, Germany exactly three hundred years before being recognized and glorified in the Capitol of the USA.

In Germany, he continued his religious and scientific education for 15 years with distinguished university scholars, in particular with the most distinguished Jesuit professors of science. The Dukes of Bavaria, father and son, asked him to teach in German universities, but Kino was already thinking of China. He would have liked to follow the example of his exemplar, Martino Martini, who had just died in 1611, Jesuit and missionary and fellow Tyrolean…and to follow him to that huge country,China. Europe came to know China thanks to Martini`s cartography and historical publications. But Kino’s superiors had decided differently: he had to leave for Mexico…and indeed sometimes God writes straight with crooked lines…and those crooked lines became the straight lines of greatness in our country…..

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: A Tyrolean Prince

A Cardinal in ecclesiastical church language is regarded as a Prince of the Church and there has never been a greater and more distinguished prince in American church history than our very own, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the late Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago…Here is a brief introduction…. Joseph Bernadin, whose parents, Joseph and Maria, emigrated from Primiero…to South Carolina….His dad Joseph dies when he is six years old and his mother supports him and his sister as a seamstress. Young Joseph purses a career in medicine, changes his mind, enters the seminary and is ordained a priest in the Diocese of Charleston. This diligent, talented and enthusiastic young priest becomes a superstar…for fourteen years he serves as the chancellor, vicar general,diocesan counselor and administrator. His talents are recognized by Pope Paul VI and in 1966 appoints Fr Bernardin to become the bishop of the Archdiocese of  Atlanta, the youngest bishop in the United States. first General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference(NCCB/USCC). He was instrumental in shaping the Catholic Church in the United States according to the vision of the Second Vatican Council. Bernardin’s even handedness and compassion made him well suited to act as a mediator, and he was called to reconcile diverging parties in the changing Post-Conciliar Church.

On November 21, 1972, Bishop Bernardin was appointed Archbishop of Cincinnati by Pope Paul VI, where he served for 10 years.. While Archbishop of Cincinnati, Bernardin was named to the Sacred Congregation of Bishops, was elected to the permanent council of the World Synod of Bishops, served as president of the NCCB/USCC, worked to improve relations between Catholics and Jews, strove for better understanding between the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations, and made pastoral visits to both Poland and Hungary.Pope John Paul II appointed the promising Archbishop Bernardin to perhaps the preeminent See in the United States – the Archdiocese of Chicago. Archbishop Bernardin served as head of the NCCB/USCC Ad Hoc Committee on War and Peace, which drafted the pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response. This book-length pastoral letter challenged the morality of nuclear deterrence, and sparked a decades long debate in both the United States and abroad. Perhaps the most well know of these discussions on nuclear morality played out in the November 29, 1982 issue of Time, entitled “God and the Bomb,” which featured Bernardin on its cover. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin worked diligently for social justice in a changing world. Beginning in 1983, Cardinal Bernardin called for a”consistent ethic of life” in an age when modern technologies threatened the sanctity of all human life at every turn, be it abortion, euthanasia,modern warfare, or capital punishment. Cardinal Bernardin consistently spoke out against the increasing violence in Lebanon, Israel, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere. Additionally, Cardinal Bernardin was the first to offer a Mass for divorced and separated Catholics at Holy Name Cathedral. In 1985, Cardinal Bernardin established an AIDS task force to determine how the Archdiocese might best care for those stricken by the AIDS crisis.

In 1989, the Cardinal dedicated Bonaventure House with the help of the Alexian Brothers, a residential facility for people suffering with AIDS. Ardently adhering to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Bernardin, first in Cincinnati, then in Chicago, was committed to ecumenical and interfaith dialogues. While Archbishop of Cincinnati, Bernardin maintained dialogues with local congregations of Jews,Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Lutherans. In Chicago, this dedication led to the formation of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago in 1985. Cardinal Bernardin served as the council’s first president. Subsequently, under his leadership, the Archdiocese of Chicago established official covenants with both the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and the Evangelical Lutheran Metropolitan Synod. Cardinal Bernardin participated in the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1993. During his interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1995, he met with Israeli, Palestinian,ecumenical, and interfaith leaders, and urged peace and mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians. Cardinal Bernardin also adapted a strong stance on sexual abuse cases within the clergy by implementing the strongest,most comprehensive policy concerning priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Bernardin’s reforms concerning this painful issue soon served as a model for other dioceses across the nation. Bernardin served the Universal Church having been elected as a delegate of the NCCB/USCC..the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (now USCCB) to the Synod of Bishops, and was on the Council of the Secretariate of the Synod for sixteen years. From 1983 to 1989, Bernardin served as chair of the NCCB/USCC Committee for Pro-Life Activities, and from 1989 to 1993 was Chairman of the Committee for Marriage and Family Life.

Bernardin was also a founding member and co-chair of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, a member of the Catholic Charities USA National Development Task force, and the Board of Trustees of the Catholic Health Association.In a September 1996 ceremony at the White House, President Bill Clinton awarded Joseph Cardinal Bernardin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed on individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities and the nation. The President lauded Bernardin for his dedication to racial equality, arms control and social justice. Joseph Louis Bernardin invested the whole of his life showing the way of peace and conciliation to the world. He worked for justice, he strove for peace, and he gave all his strength to make life better for whomever he could. Through his many homilies, addresses, and pastoral letters, Cardinal Bernardin insisted that action be taken to preserve human life, dignity, and security by showing us that there is no other moral alternative. Even facing death, Bernardin showed us the gift and joy of life. 

A personal memory…I had received several letters from Cardinal Bernardin and in our correspondences we joyfully…and proudly referred to ourselves as Tyroleans…He was truly our brother…

De Gasperi: A European Founder

Unquestionably, Alcide De Gasperi is not only most celebrated person from the Valsugana, a Valsuganotto…and the entire current Trentino…he is considered the most significant person in the creation of the modern European Union. To link him to us Tyrolean Americans,he was known to have said: Mi sun prestà` all `Italia..I lent myself to Italy…associating himself with the very same Tyrolean origins and identity of our forbearer immigrants in the USA. We have the good fortune of having a distinguished scholar and archivist of De Gasperi: Maurizio Gentilini. Here is his article, the first in a series to follow.

Probably Alcide De Gasperi is the most famous person coming from Trentino in the 20th century. De Gasperi was born the 3rd of April 1881 in the village of Pieve Tesino in the Valsugana, a valley in the province of Trento, historically the Tyrol and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a local police officer of limited financial means. The young De Gasperi was active in the social Christian movement and in the Catholic social organizations in Tyrol as well as in Austria where he attended the University of Vienna. In 1905 he graduated with a degree in philology and began to work as editor of the newspaper “La Voce Cattolica”, which was replaced in September 1906 by Il Trentino. In his newspaper he often advocated strongly in favor of an administrative and cultural autonomy for Sud Tirol or the Welch Tirol. At the same time he helped establish the Partito Popolare Trentino, for which he was elected to the Austrian Parliament in 1911. He was firmly neutralist during the First World War, which he spent in Vienna.

When the Sud Tirol or the Tyrol was annexed to Italy in 1919 at the conclusion of the World World War as part of the post-war settlement, he became an Italian
citizen, and became the founder-member of the Italian Popular Party led by Don Luigi Sturzo, an activist cleric in the transition of Italy from fascism. Elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1921, he initially supported the participation of his party in Mussolini’s first government in October 1922, but was soon in conflict with the Fascists. He opposed the constitutional changes to the powers of the executive, the election system,and the Fascist violence against the constitutional parties. The pressures of Fascism divided the Italian Popular Party, and De Gasperi became Secretary of the remaining anti-Fascist Popolari in May 1924. In November 1926, in a climate of overt violence and intimidation by the Fascists, his party was dissolved by order of the Ministry of the Interior. De Gasperi attempted to escape into exile and was arrested and imprisoned. After his release in May 1928, he was unemployed and in serious financial hardship,until in May 1929 the Archbishop of Trento Celestino Endrici , lifelong confidant secured him a job as a cataloguer in the Vatican Library, where he spent the next fourteen years until the collapse of Fascism in July 1943.During World War II De Gasperi became active in the underground, was one of the founders of the illegal Christian Democratic Party (Democrazia Cristiana, and founded the newspaper “Il Popolo”.

After the liberation of Italy in June 1944, he served as minister “without portfolio” and subsequently as foreign minister; in December 1945 he became Premier, a post he held until 1953. As chief of the Italian delegation at the World War II Peace Conference in Paris, he elicited concessions from the Allies that guaranteed Italian sovereignty. After the formal end of the Italian monarchy in June 1946 and the proclamation of Republic, De Gasperi functioned as head of the Christian Democrats, the party that dominated Parliament for the next 8 years. As Premier during this critical postwar period,his diplomacy and political skills maneuvered to maintain a precarious and moderate balance between disparate elements within the party and the nation. By avoiding conflicts with the numerous Socialists and Communists, he managed with great delicacy to put Italian democracy on a firm foundation. Besides his successful negotiations with the Allied Powers, his most striking achievement in foreign policy was the agreement with Austria (September 1946) to establish the southern Tirol as an autonomous region. De Gasperi’s involvement in the post-war reconstruction was of critical importance for the future functioning of the new Italian state. During his period of office, Italy voted to become a republic (June 1946), the Peace Treaty was signed (February 1947), the Marshall Plan and other US support for Italy was agreed. The wartime coalition with the Communists and Socialists was ended (May 1947), and the new constitution came into force (January 1948). The Democrazia Cristiana won a majority in the first parliamentary elections(April 1948), and Italy joined NATO (1949). With the guiding hand of De Gasperi the government planned and built many of the critical and important reforms.

His eight year tenure of office remains a landmark of political longevity for a leader in modern Italian politics. A gradualist and a firm believer in the importance of international alliances, he was a politician for whom the term”centrist” could have been coined. He was a good practical administrator and a deeply religious individual who hated dogmatism and abhorred extremism.

He is considered to be one of the Founding Fathers of the European Union, with the French and German statesmen Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer. He helped organize the Council of Europe and supported to the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community (CECA) – a forerunner in the process of European integration. He was named president of the European Steel and Coal Community in 1954. Although the project of European Union eventually failed, De Gasperi helped develop the notion and the very structure of a common European defense policy. In 1952 he received the Karlspreis (International Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen), an award by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace.

When the Christian Democrats did not gain a majority in the elections of 1953, De Gasperi was unable to establish a workable cabinet and was forced to resign as premier. The following year he also had to leave the leadership of his party, and 2 months later, on Aug. 19th 1954, he died in his beloved Trentino. He is buried in Rome, in the Basilica di San Lorenzo outside the Walls. In 1993 the Catholic Church opened the process for his beatification. De Gasperi is often regarded as one of the few undoubted statesmen of the Italian Republic, and as one of the most important founders of democracy in Italy and in Europe.

De Gasperi Monument — Trento Maurizio Gentilini had been the archivist at Diocesan Archive of Trento, and now record manager of the National Research Council (CNR) in Rome, published many books and articles regarding De Gasperi and was the curator of the Museum of De Gasperi’s birth house in Pieve Tesino. He will be contributing a series of articles that can also be found in Wikipedia, to which he contributed his scholarship. In subsequent articles in the Filo, Maurizio will present us with the following topics: Early years in Trentino; The opposition of Fascism; De Gasperi Prime Minister; De Gasperi and the American support; De Gasperi and 1948 elections; De Gasperi founding father of Europe.

Don Guetti I: The Farmer’s Priest

The life of our ancestors was extremely difficult and they struggled to eke out a living out of the small plots of land assigned to them with the backwardness of their methods of cultivation. In 1882 and 1885, there occurred severe natural disasters: severe flooding and new and difficult plant diseases: downy mildew and oidium. Added to this was the silkworm pebrine that destroyed the silkworm and that wiped out the cottage or individual home industry of silkworm cultivation. Political forces also combined to increase the economic woes of the Italian Tyrol. The Risorgimento ot the war of “reunification” of a new state of Italy, removed from the common empire both of the Trentino’s neighbors:Lombardy and the Veneto, their traditional trading partners under the regime of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. The Trentino was forced to revert to the borders of 1796 when it belonged to the feudal domain of the Principato of Trento and Bressanone. Thus, custom duties were imposed increasing the hardships. Moreover, the inoculation against smallpox increasing the economic hardships by an unexpected increase in population. Emigration became an inevitable and harsh necessity The combination of all these circumstances created the great migration to the USA and to our very own community, the Tyrolean Americans

There is a story that deserves to be remembered and retold for everyone, including the readers of the Filo, that want to better understand the past which becomes evermore distant but continues to emerge to add a freshness and a vitality to the many men and women who are heirs of the history. The time that we refer to is the second part of the 1800’s (1850-1900) and the place is the Trentino or Tyrol, part of the Principesca Contea del Tirolo that succeeded the Principato of Trento and Bressanone, the feudal state of the Bishops that had endured for 800 years ending in 1776 then succeeded by the Austrian Hungarian Empire.

The work of Don Lorenzo Guetti (1847-18989), the priest that was responsible for the spread of the Cooperative system throughout the Trentino. He established“Famiglie Cooperative” (Family Cooperatives) and the “Casse Rurali” (Rural banks). These two entities were fundamental instruments for the survival and well being of the people. They were like beneficial rivers that brought life, liberation, dignity and survival and hope in a period of great misery, odious poverty and the lack of any future for the Trentini people of that time.

The dream and mission of the Cooperative Movement was that of a humble but talented priest from Vigo Lomaso in the Val of the Giudicarie Esteriori. The birth of this Movement was the spark of an economic, social and spiritual rival for the Italian Tyrol. This area depended solely on the cultivation of everything from cereals and grains to fruit trees, from cultivating pastures for the grazing of animals, to the harvesting of wood from the mountain sides,to cultivation of their animals, cows and goats, to create their dairy products, to their pigs for meat, to cultivation of mulberry trees and silk worm. Yet these many and varied pursuits remained individual to the particular contadino and lacked the capital investments and the specialization of industrial production. In context of all these economic, social and spiritual upheavals, Don Guetti was a real spring of fresh water, a flower to combat the universal dryness.

Fr. Marcello Farina is a priest, high school teacher of philosophy, an adjunct professor at the University of Trent, author of many books including  E per un uomo la terra regarding the life and work of Don Guetti.

Don Guetti II: His Ministry

Don Lorenzo Guetti wrote that he was: “born a farmer and always living among farmers, I lived their misery, I knew their sufferings and troubles and tried to help them.” In a few profound and heartfelt words, he depicted his world in which he lived the 51 years of his short life, giving voice to the dedication that prodded him on even during the hard times of the late 19th century. The small village of Vigo Lomaso in the exterior Giudicarie Valley was what he called home: a hamlet of about 500 residents at the time, nearly all small farmers. He worked the land alongside his father Girolamo and mother Rachele Molinare, as well as his thirteen siblings (he was second oldest), to procure the basic necessities for survival. At a young age he learned first hand the meaning of hunger and poverty, the uncertainty of life for those who depend on the land to scratch out a living and are at the mercy of the weather, in addition to the continual fear of illness and the burden of debt. In short, what it meant to live every day on the verge of falling further into poverty without relief in sight. His family was not alone; the story was the same among the other villagers in Vigo and everywhere in Trentino. He later wrote that “the poor workers of the land were left to their own devices, on the margins of society, and no one gave them a thought except for how to exploit in various and multiple ways the fruit of their labor, thereby confirming the old saying: scarpa grossa porga ognicossa (cosa), farmers and laborers are born only to serve.

Lorenzo Guetti carried these experiences with him when at age 16 he enrolled in the seminary of Trento, to finish in August 1870 at age 23. In this environment of study and prayer, the young Lorenzo came into contact with men were his teachers who were able to accompany his sensibility to social issues with a concrete and open study of history and of the current social situation. This, alongside dedicated study of the spirit of the gospel as a message of hope for the poor, proved to be particularly formative for the young student. Seven years later he left the seminary a “man of God” and a “man of the people,” of his people, the Trentino people who had always known that life meant “to work, not complain and accept your fate.” He spent the 28 years of his ecclesiastical career in three communities in the diocese of  Trento: eight years in Terragnolo, near Rovereto; then 15 years in La Quadra, in Bleggio; and the last five years of his life in Fiavè, in Lomaso of the Val delle Giudicarie. It was in Terragnolo where Don Lorenzo “perfected” in a sense, the formation of his character and his moral foundations, as well as his grasp of many aspects of the agricultural sector and life. Many insights came from contact with the local community, where he saw the extreme consequences of poverty, hunger and recurring disease. He learned how to walk alongside his flock, sharing the tears and hopes of the people he served.

At 31, Don Guetti arrived in La Quadra that comprise the four villages of Cavaione, Marazzone, Larido and Bivedo. Full of energy and enthusiasm, he saw the need to live among the people. He worked in the school to make it more welcoming and better equipped; he became interested in the serious issue of emigration from the exterior Giudicarie areas and subsequently from Trentino in general. To stem this tide and offer hope to the local people, he founded the co-operative movement, establishing the first Co-operative Consortium at Villa of the Bleggio and the first Cassa Rurale (Rural Bank) at Larido, in one of the church buildings. Don Lorenzo arrived in Fiavè in 1893 and continued to develop his project, which led to the founding of the Federation of Family Cooperatives (Cooperative Food Chains) and Casse Rurali (Rural Banks), for which he also served as president. Lorenzo Guetti’s boundless physical and spiritual energy and support for the community was cut short only by his early death on 19 April 1898. He had left his mark on the landscape and in the hearts of  Trentino people, who had found in him the face of real hope for a better life.

Written By Don Marcello Farina

Don Guetti III: The Cooperative Movement

What rendered Don Lorenzo Guetti (1847 -1898) immortal in Trentino history was the creation of the co-operative system, that is, the Casse Rurali and the Famiglie Cooperative, both of which became social and economic entities that made an enormous contribution to the well-being and dignity of the people in our region. DonGuetti’s creations brought about a sort of rebirth for our valleys and villages, a veritable springtime in social and economic terms, giving hope and a future for Trentini people; all because a simple country priest was able to truly comprehend the needs of his fellow Trentini. He had dedicated himself to studying possible “solutions” to the agrarian crisis of the time, trying to identify possible strategies for surviving the crisis. He then set out with boundless determination to build the co-operative networks that still exist today. It could be argued that Don Guetti didn’t really invent anything but merely applied to Trentino what had already been done in England, Germany and the Austrian empire (which our territory  was part of at the time). It can also be said that the “time was right” in the last decades of the 1800s. In Austria, until 1773, the government had issued laws that granted economic assistance for the development of cooperative credit initiatives. In Trentino the provincial agricultural council declared its willingness to support such activities. Indeed, in 1883 Don Silvio Lorenzoni, a priest from the Val di Non, issued a loud call for help from the provincial agricultural council, essentially begging “someone” to take the reins – and the accompanying responsibility – and move ahead with these direly needed social and economic networks.

Inspired, Guetti took up study of the issues, convinced that what was needed foremost was the creation of the Casse Rurali (access to credit was of primary concern) and then the Famiglie Cooperative. But events obliged him to invert this order. The first was a natural catastrophe which struck all of western Trentino on 21-22 May,1887. In his remarks, Don Lorenzo described “hail, snow, ice, storms of all sort … all at once … a total disaster! So many dreams destroyed in an instant! Mulberry trees, grapevines, nut trees, other fruit trees reduced to nothing, burnt, dried up. It breaks your heart just to set foot outside these poor homes, the desolation is total.” By the end of May everything was lost and the specter of absolute misery and starvation appeared inevitable to the beaten-down farmers in the Giudicarie valley.

The government at Innsbruck allotted 700 florins to be distributed among the most desperate. But how could one rank degrees of absolute poverty and starvation? Don Lorenzo suggested using the money to buy cornmeal that could be distributed to the farmers at a price lower than local commercial rates. The endeavor was a success and led to the founding of the first cooperative consortium in Villa di Bleggio in 1890. In truth there is another factor that pushed Don Lorenzo into action: a request from his compaesani of Quadra to introduce also in Trentino “emergency loans” “mutue di pronto soccorso,” which they had already had experience within Piedmont at the time they emigrated to Italy in search of work. Naturally the business community tried to spread rumors of the sort that “the subsidies for the poor people end up on the priests’ plates,” but the common people understood who was on their side.

Things were even more complicated for the Casse Rurali. Don Guetti wrote: “Now the credit agencies must continue their work . . . No sooner does one generous person take up an initiative that can be truly helpful to others than the campaign to discredit him with lies and slander starts . . .”. Don Guetti was nonetheless convinced that “the Casse Rurali should be the first priority of every community … so that everyone can have access to funds for basic needs;” he thus struggled to overcome every hurdle that was thrown down to block him, but inspired by the system set up by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, a German layperson working in the spirit of the gospel, Don Guetti founded the first Cassa Rurale of his village, Quadra, in July 1892. In his words it was “a universal innovation for Trentino.” The “joyful revolution” had been accomplished. For Don Guetti this also represented the message of the gospel put into practice; the words in the Acts of the Apostles, “There is more joy in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35) had been brought to life. Upon the death of “the apostle of co-operation in Trentino” in 1898, there were 51 Casse Rurali in Trentino and the family co-operatives numbered 107. Only six and eight years after their respective beginnings, a network designed to improve the well-being and to build on the hopes and dreams of residents had been established throughout the territory.

Written by Don Marcello Farina