Rome: The Redemptorist community, with the parishioners, celebrates 125 years of ministry at San Gioacchino church


The pandemic had prevented the Roman parish of San Gioacchino in Prati, in the shadow of the Vatican, from a meaningful tradition, but this year, ahead of the Synod in the Vatican, the parish’s families and pastor, ‘Padre Pietro,’ join together to relaunch a special parish celebration full of faith and cheer.

The parish of the Basilica of San Gioacchino in Prati, in the backdrop of the Vatican, was able to resume its special tradition of a parish celebration this year, after the pandemic had caused an abrupt suspension to the gathering.

“In the most sincere and authentic sense, the parish’s families,” says Father Piotr Sulkowski (or simply ‘Padre Pietro‘),  San Gioacchino’s pastor,  “embraced the idea of the Pope’s calling for ‘a Church that goes forth’ to step out, embracing the parish community, and beyond.”

The September 30th tradition, which took place as the Synod’s ecumenical prayer vigil was happening simultaneously blocks away, was brought back to life by the church’s pastor, with the help of the parish’s family group.

Padre Pietro leads the Redemptorist-run parish that has an important role in Prati, an elegant quarter of families, lawyers, and shopping, by offering several daily Masses (even at 1 p.m., in response to the lawyers in the area, who wished to go to Mass during their lunch break), Eucharistic adoration, Stations of the Cross during Lent, Advent celebrations, Catechism classes for children, and beyond. Ahead of the Synod, he has also led various encounters on the theme, welcoming participation and input from all.

He told Vatican News how it has not always been simple facilitating a sense of community in the parish, surrounded by tourists, shopping and courthouses. Also, the cost of purchasing or renting in the area around the parish, he acknowledged, has made it challenging for many parishioners, to actually consider the quarter, their actual, or long-term, home.

Embracing Pope Francis’ Church ‘that goes forth’

For these reasons, he shares, it has become all the more precious to have this community put this much energy and time into this initiative, which ahead of the Synod, truly shows a ‘Church that goes out.’

Padre Pietro admits that, despite the massive participation for the events, especially the dinner, he had a slight concern that there could be less interest in the Mass and moments of prayer. However, he revealed that the Church filled up and there was great reverence, faith and presence.

A celebration to remember

For the celebration, the families literally spent months preparing and closed off — with the proper permits — streets of the quarter, showing how truly meaningful was the engagement to the quarter.

In addition to offering several Masses and many moments of prayer, the festivities saw children playing, adults dancing, and elderly singing.

During the official celebration on Saturday, there was, of course, cake, and even fireworks!

Leading up to September 30th, the parish that has as its namesake Jesus’ grandparents, but in particular, Jesus’ grandfather, San Gioacchino (St. Joachim), also dedicated several Masses full of prayer for the nonni, that is to say ‘grandparents.’

Revival of the quarter’s identity

During this weekend’s events, the Secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Vittorio Francesco Viola O.F.M., celebrated Mass for the parish community on Sunday.

His homily struck a chord with parishioner, Giusy Rabbito, who, part of the family group, along with her husband and little boy, Carlo, collaborated in the Feast’s organization.

“It was exciting to have San Gioacchino’s first parish celebration since the pandemic,” she told Vatican News, noting the celebration had “great evocative power, because it serves to tell our story.”

“Seeing our children playing in the street as they used to do, parents relaxed and chatting, dancing and singing in front of the churchyard, protected by the starry dome of our Church, I truly believed revived the sense of aggregation and identity of the neighborhood.”

Archbishop Viola’s homily during the solemn Sunday celebration, she noted, “made us reflect on this collective moment that also makes us observe the changes in our community. Many of us have now become parents, others have just moved nearby, and others have chosen to move so that they are closer to the parish.”

Faith and fatigue of the families

Over the years, the church’s families, through the parish group, and their own cultivating of friendship, have shared together their unique stories of faith, togetherness, and struggles. They meet together, reflecting on relevant themes.

They are determined to do this despite their little ones ‘vocalizing,’ singing, or running in and out of the room, as they chat, ahead of sharing a nice Sunday lunch together. They have taken to heart the Holy Father’s words after each Sunday Angelus to have a buon pranzo (‘good lunch’).

One should also note that the Parish of San Gioacchino has always been a special and historic space. During the Second World War, it also had a notable role in hiding Jewish people from the Nazis, and has chapels separated by country, which draw faithful from around the world during their stay in Rome.

credit: Deborah Castellano Lubov, Celebrating 125 years of the roots of Rome’s San Gioacchino in Prati [original title]/
Photos: Parrocchia San Gioacchino in Prati (Facebook profile)