A priestly pioneer dead at 98

Fr Dante Orsi

Australia's first Scalabrinian Missionary, Fr Dante Orsi, consecrated his life to serving God and his people until his death in January, reports Emily Ng for The Catholic Leader.

Fr Orsi, whose surname in Italian means “bears,” would have celebrated his 99th birthday in April, and before his death was the second oldest Scalabrinian alive in the world.  When Fr Orsi found out his brother had died late last year, the 98-year-old said he was “the last bear standing”.

Fr Orsi is considered a legend among Queensland Scalabrinians, as he was the first in the congregation to minister in the State. New Farm’s Scalabrinian community offered prayer and thanksgiving for the great priest who never lived in the community, but was almost the parish priest.One Brisbane Scalabrinian priest said Fr Orsi was “very dedicated, not only to God but to people”.

Scalabrinian Provincial Superior, Fr Savino Bernardi, said Fr Orsi was “an inspiration and an example to the new Scalabrinian Missionaries.” When Melbourne-based Scalabrinian Father Luigi Sabbadin met Fr Orsi three years ago, the pioneering priest could be found walking near St Luke’s, Lalor, Victoria,  “with Rosary beads in his hands.”

“He was spending most of his time in the church,” Fr Sabbadin, who worked as a missionary in New Farm from 2001 to 2010, said. Fr Orsi joined the Scalabrinian congregation at 22, and began his missionary work in the United States. He spent the last 30 years in Lalor, on Melbourne’s north.

Fr Orsi survived three other missionaries who together, were the first Scalabrinians in Australia. Fr Orsi volunteered to start a new missionary house in Sydney with Scalabrinians Fr Ignacio Militello, Fr Tarcisio Prevedello, and Br Giovanni Setti. When the Provincial Superior happened to talk to Fr Orsi about the shortage and put to him the offer, his  reply was, “I do not ask, but if you ask me I will accept.” They arrived in Sydney on November 2, 1952. He spent his first years in Silkwood, near Cairns, and became Superior of the Australian Scalabrinians until 1959.

Full obituary in The Catholic Leader

Image: The Catholic Leader 

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