Fr Giovanni Fontana, 1939-2008
Fr Giovanni Fontana CRS (pictured recently, above during the visit of the World Youth Day Cross and Icon), was born in Sale Langhe, Italy, on November 1, 1939.
The first-born of a humble family of peasants with five children, Giovanni entered the minor seminary when he was just 10 years old.
At the age of 17 he made his first Profession of Religious vows in the Order of the Somascan Fathers and 10 years later – on March 5, 1966 – he was ordained a priest in Rome.
The first period of his priestly life was spent in his native Italy and was completely devoted to the care and education of youth.
This is the most specific apostolate of the Somascan Fathers, founded by St Jerome Emiliani in 1532 for the care of orphans.
In 1988 Fr Giovanni was sent to India to start the first Somascan community in that country, where in 17 years of tireless activity he aided scores of vocations and built several formation houses and youth centres for orphan and street children.
On July 25, 2005, Fr Giovanni joined the Somascan community at St Jerome’s, Spearwood.
During his first period in Western Australia he devoted himself particularly to the care of the elderly and sick of the area (including at the Murdoch Hospice).
In June 2007 he was appointed Acting parish priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Hilton, where he served until March 2008.
During the last three months of life Fr Giovanni was entrusted with the care of the Italian population in several areas of the Diocese – Northbridge, Leederville, Morley, and Kalamunda, apart from Spearwood.
Fr Giovanni passed away suddenly on June 6 due to heart failure.
His Requiem Mass at St Jerome’s Church on June 15 was presided over by Archbishop Barry Hickey and concelebrated by 52 priests – a reflection of the mark he left on his brother priests.
Hundreds of faithful from all the places where Fr Giovanni was well known for his apostolic zeal came to pay their last respects to this gentle, humble, fervent and exceedingly energetic servant of the people of God.