Fr. Stefano - Founder
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Fr. Stefano Mary Pio Manelli (of the Immaculate Heart and of the Angels) - Founder
Fr. Stefano was born at Fiume/Rijeka (Hrvatska, modern day Croatia, although at that time was Italy) on May 1st 1933, sixth of twenty-one children, by two servants of God and intimate spiritual son and daughter of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Settimio Manelli and Licia Gualandris, whose process of beatification officially opened on December 20, 2010.
He received his first Holy Communion from Padre Pio on 1938. He entered the minor seminary of the Friars Minor Conventuals at Copertino (Lecce, Italy) on December 8, 1945, at twelve years of age.
He made his simple profession on October 4, 1949; his solemn profession on May 27, 1954; he was then ordained a priest on October 30, 1955 on the Solemnity of Christ the King.
He received his bachelors in Sacred Theology in 1960, defending his doctoral thesis on the Immaculate, at the Pontifical Theological Faculty, the "Seraphicum" (Rome). He was a professor of theology (Patristic and Mariology) at the seminaries of his Order, along with the Seminary of Benevento, and as well as at the Institute of Religious Sciences in Avellino (Italy).
He was then Prefect of Studies in the Conventuals Province of Naples.
Around 1965, Fr. Stefano began to meditate anew on the Franciscan Sources and on the writings of Maximilian M. Kolbe.
The call of the Second Vatican Council to religious on "returning to the sources” lived within “the changed conditions of our times," were principles of true religious renewal that inspired Fr. Stefano to integrally live the Franciscan way of life in the footsteps of St. Francis; following the example given by St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, "the St. Francis of the 20th century", as John Paul II has clearly affirmed.
On August 2, 1970, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli O.F.M. Conv., together with Fr. Gabriel M. Pelletieri O.F.M. Conv., began to live the experience, with the permission of the then Minister General of the Order, of a renewed Franciscan way of life according to the “Traccia Mariana” (the Marian form of Franciscan Life), composed by the same Fr. Stefano, in obedience to the Minister General.
That was how the first Marian House was established at the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Good Counsel in Frigento (AV, Italy). Twenty years later, on June 22, 1990, this new living experience, now shared by numerous other friars animated by the same ideals of evangelical radicalism, received its approval with the decree of erection of the Institute to diocesan right. It was signed by the then Archbishop of Benevento Mons. Carlo Minchiatti, "by the decision of the Holy Father" (cfr. Secretary of State Prot. n. 258.501). On January 1, 1998 the Institute was elevated to the pontifical right.
On November 1, 1982, together with Fr. Gabriel, Fr. Stefano founded the first community of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, at Novaliches (Manila). The sisters share the same form of Marian and Franciscan life of the friars of “Casa Mariana.” This new community is at first led by Fr. Gabriel, and then handed over to members of this new Institute of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.
On September 8, 1990, at Loreto, Fr. Stefano was inspired to found a public Association for the laity – The Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix (MIM) – who would live the charism of the Institute in conformity to their state of life and according to different degrees of consecration to the Immaculate (Missionaries of the Immaculate with the Act of Consecration, Missionaries of the Immaculate with a private Marian Vow, and Franciscan Tertiaries of the Immaculate). This Association was then canonically approved on January 1, 1991, by the then Archbishop of Benevento; and confirmed on May 24, 1997, with a decree from the then Archbishop Mons. Serafino Sprovieri, and finally officially recognized in the decree of the pontifical erection of the Institute of Franciscans Friars of the Immaculate on January 1, 1998, and on November 11, 1998 for the sisters.
Fr. Stefano, since June 23, 1990, is the current Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.