Cardinal Pironio’s Love for St. Dominic and the Order

The Reminiscence of Brother Carlos Azpiroz, OP (Part I)

Do not weep. I will be more useful to you after my death.
I will be of more help to you than during my life.

The words of Saint Dominic of Caleruega to his friars shortly before he died.

In the last days of his terminal illness, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio made his own these precious words of “Our Father”, as he himself used to call St. Dominic.

On 5 February 1998, at the age of 77, he celebrated his final Easter on earth. He was born on December 3, 1920 in Nueve de Julio, today seat of the diocese of “Santo Domingo en Nueve de Julio” (Province of Buenos Aires), in Argentina. The present Cathedral Church was then the parish church of Santo Domingo. Eduardo was the last of 22 siblings, all children of a simple Italian immigrant couple from Friuli.

He loved St. Dominic and the Order with particular affection. Throughout his intense pastoral ministry as priest and bishop, he worked with several friars and sisters of the Dominican family. Many of us have been enriched by treasuring and cultivating the gift of his sensitive and wonderful friendship.

Many Argentinean friars later remembered their meetings with Eduardo as a diocesan seminarian in the summers of “Molinari” (Córdoba), when Eduardo Pironio first became associated with the Dominicans.

In 1948, Eduardo made his profession as a member of the priestly branch of our Third Order in the Convent of San Pedro Telmo in Buenos Aires, taking the name “Alberto” (after St. Albert the Great). A few years later, the young priest completed his theological studies at the “Angelicum” in Rome (1953-1954). There he was a fellow disciple with Brother Dominic Basso, OP, and Brother Dominic Renaudière, OP, among others. They often commented with humour and delight how they helped him to overcome his fears and reservations in the face of exams.

On November 3, 1973, as Bishop of Mar del Plata, he consecrated the chapel of St. Martin de Porres, on the site of the “Parque Las Margaritas” on the particularly festive occasion of the completion, by Brother Norberto Sorrentino, OP, of the work dreamt of by Brother Domingo Orfeo, OP.

In September 1975, he received a visit from Brother Vicente Argumedo, OP, who, in the name of the Argentinean Province, asked for his episcopal authorization for the canonical erection of the Convent of St. Martin de Porres, which would also be the novitiate house. The bishop had just been summoned by Pope Paul VI to exercise the office of Pro-Prefect of the then Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. This news had not yet been made public and Monsignor Pironio confided to Brother Vicente that he had always asked for the grace of having the Dominicans in his diocese. He concluded: “Divine Providence has finally granted it to me in this moment of the Paschal Cross!” This authorisation gave him great joy and was one of his last acts as bishop of Mar del Plata.

When he left for Rome, leaving his diocese for good, he wanted to make a last stop — a symbolic one — in the convent chapel of St. Martin de Porres. There he entered to pray, accompanied by our Dominican brothers and the sisters of St. Catherine of Siena — the “sisters from across the street” who loved him as a true father and a brother. He was leaving his beloved Mar del Plata to serve the Church in another pastoral ministry, collaborating more closely with Paul VI, whom he loved so much.

During his years as Prefect of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, he had the collaboration of several Dominican men and women, among them, his dear friend, Sister Alicia Ovejero, OP (Dominican of the Annunciation). Sister introduced him to the joyful life of her convent of Monte Mario, in Rome, where he found the breath and fraternal atmosphere of a Dominican community.

Brother Carlos A. Azpiroz Costa, OP

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