Fr. Stefano Cascio is an old face for a lot of you who’ve seen him a few times on Zoom or read about him in my blogs from Adelaide
. Aside from being a friend of Salt + Light, Fr. Stefano is a parish priest in Rome, at “Parrochia Santa Maria Addolorata”.
Fr. Stefano is one of at least six priests in his parish, where on a Sunday, Mass is celebrated almost every hour! I remember going to Fr. Stefano’s 10 am Mass on Sunday, November 1st, and as we were leaving the pews, people were already coming in for the 11 am Mass! There are about 60,000 parishioners, and I would say almost a third to a half of the congregation on that Sunday were children. Fr. Stefano invited us to his Church for Sunday Mass and shared with us that a regular challenge he faces when working on his homily was trying to keep the kids awake and entertained and yet maintaining the adults’ interests and spiritual needs.
Santa Maria Addolorata was a beautiful Church full of life and colour. I would say the highlight of the Eucharistic Celebration was the drama behind Fr. Stefano’s homily.
So, you see Fr. Stefano heading towards the ambo to begin his homily. Then you see his head bob down and he disappears! You see all the kids wondering what happened to him. And then you hear peals of laughter as Fr. Stefano bobs up with a wizard hat! In what I could understand of Italian (which is very, very little), Fr. Stefano was talking about Halloween. Everybody dresses up for Halloween, and wears all kinds of things on their heads. But today, he says, I want to talk about something else that you should wear on your head.
And he bobs down and up again he comes with a different hat – a halo! Yes, he said, everyone should be wearing a halo. We are celebrating not only All Souls’ Day, but All Saints’ Day. We are all called to be saints. Who wants to be a saint, Fr. Stefano boldly asked everyone in the church, as he walked around looking people in the eye. One by one, you see kids raising their hand and standing up. It was truly a wonderful experience to be there and witness this.
After the Eucharistic Celebration, all the kids went outside, and we watched as they all played a game with some of the youth leaders. Over 30-40 kids playing outside the church after Mass! Outside, Fr. Stefano proudly showed us the mural that he and the kids painted together.
Fr. Stefano has a great love for young people, just like his inspiration and role model, Pope John Paul II. Aside from ministering to his flock at his parish, every Thursday night, Fr. Stefano had the wonderful initiative of holding a time of Mass and Adoration at Piazza Navona in Rome, at “Giovani di Sant’Agnese” (Church of St. Agnes). Richard and I had our most spiritual time there. As we went in through the doors of the church, we received a Gospel text within a scroll to meditate on. We also picked a candle to bring to the altar, to show Jesus that he is our light and that we offer our prayers to him. It was so inspiring to see all these young university students in the middle of tourist Rome, gathering together in prayer. Fr. Stefano started this Adoration initiative years ago, and the numbers of young people have been growing ever since.
Bravo, Fr. Stefano, the parish priest!