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What is your family background?


My name is Flavio Gillio and I was born in northern Italy. My father’s name was Germano. He worked for La Stampa, one of the National Newspapers. My mother’s name is Rosella Melchiori Gillio, who stayed at home to take care of me. My maternal grandparents instilled the Catholic faith in me.


What was your faith life as a young man?


Like most teenagers, I stopped going to church after receiving my Confirmation. As a teenager, my life was divided between friends and sports. Growing up, I aspired to a successful life: I wanted to become a journalist. During my Senior High School year, I had the opportunity to come to the United States as an exchange student. That experience was an eye-opener.


Until then, my world was all around three words: friends, study, and sport. Thanks to my American family, my world became bigger, and I got to know what it means to volunteer and help people in need (more specifically, in that case, youth up to 18 years old).


That experience had a great impact on me. Towards the end of my High School in Italy, a friend of mine invited me to attend a Mass. I was completely taken by surprise by the invitation and agreed to attend. The casual “yes” would soon become the first step in my vocational journey. I remember that Mass as if it were yesterday.


When did you get the sense of receiving a call?


Specifically, I remember Father Aldo’s question to the assembly: “Why are there so few vocations? Is it because God isn't calling anymore or because young people aren't able or don’t want to hear Him?” It seemed as if those words were addressed to me. Without knowing the priest, I approached him at the end of Mass and asked for an appointment.


In my mind, it was supposed to be a single meeting. To my surprise, it turned into a year-and-a-half-long vocational journey. As part of this journey, I became an active member of the Community of Christian Life (a lay movement associated with Ignatian Spirituality and the Jesuits), and made the eight-day Ignatian Retreat, and attended an eight-day Jesuit vocation retreat.


This journey allowed me to rediscover an intentional prayer life, fall in love with the Bible, renew my relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, and be more and more attracted to his way of living.


I desired “more” than just a comfortable life


At the age of 21, I applied to join the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Fathers). After being accepted as a Novice with the Jesuits, my religious and priestly formation continued for many years, as is usually the case with members of the Society of Jesus. My formation as a Jesuit was characterized by three points: the Magis (a Latin word that in Ignatius’ thought can be rendered with “always on the lookout for the ‘more’ for God's Kingdom”), the holistic aspect of the Ignatian Spirituality, and the discernment of spirit, also known as the Ignatian decision-making process.


After my Diaconal Ordination, I was sent to do special studies. I continued my academic formation at the Catholic University of Paris (Jewish Studies), at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome (Bible) as well as at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Jewish Studies and Bible). During this time, I moved to Jerusalem, where I lived for several years.


Besides pursuing my studies, I taught Bible, Biblical Languages, and Jewish Exegesis in Italy (three months a year) and in Israel (nine months a year). At the same time, I became a guide in the Holy Land, accompanying groups coming from other countries to visit the Holy Sites.


What was your experience as a Jesuit religious?


As you can imagine, my religious life was very comfortable. During this time, however, I began to wonder how I could serve the Lord more (Magis). I shared all of this with Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who lived with me in Jerusalem, and with my spiritual director. They encouraged me to stay open to God's plans and surprises as well as to follow Ignatius' rules of discernment. Meanwhile, the experience of leading pilgrims through the Holy Land and reading the Bible with them, gave me a chance to witness the reconciling and healing power of the Word of God.


What about your growing desire to be a minister of reconciliation?


As a result of this ministry, I discovered in myself a growing desire to live my priestly and religious life as a “minister of reconciliation.” So, when I first encountered a Missionary of Our Lady of La Salette in Jerusalem, and he talked to me about the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette and the La Salette Charism of Reconciliation, I sensed a deep resonance. Mary’s tears touched and moved me deeply. All of this took place during the Fall. 


Over the next few months, Mary's maternal presence nurtured my faith journey and nourished my life. My relationship with her became more personal and alive. Immediately following my Rosary, I began to pray the La Salette Memorare every day. I shared all of this with Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who gave me my first book concerning La Salette: it was about a retreat he gave to his priests of the diocese of Milan at the Holy Mountain of La Salette, focused on Mary's tears.


What were some turning points in your ministry in the United States


The following summer, I was in the United States in the La Salette Parish of Our Lady of the Cape in Brewster, Massachusetts, to give a multi-session biblical program. During that time, I had the opportunity to learn more about the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette and to visit several communities. This was another turning point in my life.


While praying at Our Lady of La Salette Shrine in Enfield, New Hampshire, I deeply felt that my quest had finally found its answer. I clearly realized the great impact that Our Lady of La Salette was having on my life and my deep desire to take part in the mission of reconciliation entrusted to Melanie and Maximin. 


Another turning point had come for me: choosing to remain in my comfortable religious life or to strive to remain faithful to the path God was calling me to follow through Our Lady of La Salette. With the help of my spiritual director and the rules of discernment of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I chose the second option. I asked to join the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, in the United States. It was certainly a great leap of faith. However, it has been an excellent choice.


What does the La Salette Message mean for you today?


Today, I look at my journey with gratitude and enthusiasm. My gratitude goes out to both the Jesuits and the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette for all they have done for me. My enthusiasm stems from the fact that I am blessed with the opportunity to serve as a priest and a religious at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette and the La Salette Retreat & Conference Center, in a multigenerational and international community where the only limit is “my/our apostolic creativity.”


Today, I'm truly “graced” with the gift and opportunity to live a fulfilling and fulfilled life thanks to the message and mission of Our Lady of La Salette. The Beautiful Lady of La Salette certainly brought to fruition my desire to live a satisfying and accomplished life as a La Salette Missionary!