Declared Venerable: 20-01-2017
Francesco Convertini was born in the Marinelli district near Cisternino, in the province of Brindisi, on 29 August 1898. His family was very poor, and he was forced to work from an early age. At just eighteen he was called up to fight the First World War. He was captured by the Austrians and interned in a concentration camp. At the end of the war he was released. After recovering from meningitis, he decided to join the Guardia di Finanza. He followed the captain, of whom he was the adjutant, to Turin and, very devoted to Our Lady, he went to confession in the Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice.
Providence wanted the confessor to be Fr Angelo Amadei, Don Bosco's second great biographer. Fr Angelo was his spiritual guide. After inviting him to take part in the handing over of the crucifix to eleven departing missionaries for India, he said: "Why don't you become a missionary too?" Francis undertook his studies with difficulty in the Salesian Missionary Institute of Ivrea and, after receiving the crucifix from Fr Rinaldi, on 7 December 1927 he embarked to reach India.
He was formed by Salesian saints. He did his novitiate at Shillong with Fr Ferrando and was a disciple of Fr Costantino Vendrame. Francis learned the life of Don Bosco from Fr Amadei and learned in India to embody his missionary apostolic spirit. With Fr Vendrame he made himself close to the people: they traveled for miles to visit the villages, they entered the houses to tell the life of Jesus. With difficulty he succeeded in completing his philosophical and theological studies.
He was ordained a priest in June 1935. The new bishop Ferrando sent him to the Salesian mission in Krishnagar. Although he never managed to achieve an excellent knowledge of the Bengali language, no one in Krishnagar had so many friends, so many spiritual children from ignorant to wise, from rich to poor. He was one of the few missionaries who could walk into a Hindu home and go beyond the first entrance chamber.
He was constantly on his way from village to village. Fr Francis was good, his Salesian kindness opened people's hearts to him, he knew how to be a father, brother and friend. He gave himself indistinctly to everyone: Muslims, Hindus, Christians ..., and was loved and revered by all as a master of inner life, who possessed the "sapientia cordis" in abundance. He enjoyed a reputation for holiness already in life, not only for his heroic dedication to souls, but also for mysterious episodes that were told about him.
He was an apostle of Mary Help of Christians. He died on 11 February 1976, murmuring: "My mother, I have never displeased you in life. Now help me!" His body was displayed in the Cathedral, and saw a continuous flow of people of every race and every religion. Now he rests in the garden adjacent to the Krishnagar Cathedral.