Italy: The Primary School at Vico is named after the Redemptorist Fr Francesco Pitocchi

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On Friday, 10 May, the State Primary School of Vico (Lazio, Italy) held a ceremony to name the school complex after the Redemptorist religious, ‘the most illustrious citizen of Vico’.  

It was a simple but heartfelt ceremony and very well attended, not only by pupils and teachers but also by parents and other citizens who wanted to pay homage to Fr. Francesco, a prominent figure in the history of the small municipality and in the broader history of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and the Roman clergy.  

The initiative, painstakingly carried out by former headmaster Primo Pica, promoter of all initiatives related to the figure and work of Fr Pitocchi, involved local institutions: the mayor Claudio Guerriero, who, together with the headmistress Antonella Sorge, unveiled the dedication plaque. The parish priest of the Collegiate Church, Don Luigi Battisti, also promoted the sanctity of the illustrious Vico cleric and organised, with his pastoral workers, numerous initiatives to enhance a central figure in the history of the community, still a magnet for multiple devotees.  

The project, shared by the municipal administration and the school authorities, had its antecedents in several educational events in which the life and work of Fr. Pitocchi was presented. A guided tour of the house where he was born and of the collegiate church of St Michael a month ago allowed the students to stop in the chapel of the Holy Trinity, where the mortal remains of the humble Redemptorist are venerated, and some of his mementoes are preserved.  

After the greetings of the students to the authorities present, the parish priest blessed the dedication plaque, followed by the singing of the national anthem and speeches by the mayor, the headmistress and Mr Pica, who in his detailed report emphasised with conviction the importance of culture for the formation of the new generations. He was referring back to the school experience of Fr. Pitocchi, a primary school teacher in Vico (1877-1885), a superintendent of Public Education, and later a teacher of literary subjects in Rome in the Redemptorist student residence in Via Merulana. Pica, a profound connoisseur of Fr. Pitocchi’s work, emphasised the originality of his pedagogy, characterised by goodness, gradualness and modern pedagogical criteria, inspired by those of the founder of the Salesians, St. John Bosco, at that time a model for the clergy and a profound innovator in Italian and European pedagogy.  

P. Pitocchi had an innate propensity for teaching, as seen in the numerous testimonies of his long activity as a preacher, popular catechist, confessor and spiritual director of seminarians and clergy in early 20th-century Rome. As a young priest, he obtained his licence to teach elementary school on 1 August 1875 in Velletri. He took the exam before the State Commission to begin his work as an elementary school teacher in Collepardo (FR), with the first three male classes.  

As the speaker stated several times, it is clear that Fr. Francesco’s memory is alive, not only in Vico but also in other places that bear witness to his work and holiness of life, which were unanimously recognised by popes, cardinals, bishops, and numerous priests and spiritual sons.  

The guest of honour at the ceremony was one of the great-grandchildren of the Redemptorist from Vicenza, Igino Pitocchi, with his wife, who, at the end of the ceremony, lounged with the attendees for a hearty convivial moment.  

This cultural moment centred on the figure of Fr. Pitocchi was also an opportunity for the community of Vico to consolidate its roots and strengthen its identity around a figure who unites the old and new generations and reaffirms the value of culture in the training of young people, the protagonists of tomorrow, recalling the role of Catholicism in the work of social redemption of Italian society after Unification.  

Fr. Vincenzo La Mendola C.S.R.