In the silence of the Holy House of Loreto
The year of foundation of the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany is 1982, but “all started in the silence of the Holy House of Loreto”, where, for more than thirty years (from 1946 to1967) Padre Pancrazio performed his duties of Capuchin friar entrusted with the care of the Holy House.
Everything started, by divine will, from the silence and prayer of Loreto, from humility and simplicity. We all know that the silence at Nazareth has been the model of Christian life for the faithful of all times and it is in such silence that Padre Pancrazio came in touch with the hidden life of Our Lord, with the practical and contemplative action of his and our most Holy Mother, and with the inestimable example of faith, humility and sanctity that is St. Joseph. It is in this place that in the young friar, dedicated to the cleaning of the Holy House, the reception of the pilgrims and to intense prayer, first sprang up, like a sprout yet to take form, the call for something new that he did not know, as yet, how to define. On this, Padre Pancrazio is used to say: “It is good that Our Lord has revealed his plans to me gradually; because what I was to do was so far above my own means and abilities, that if I had known it in advance, I would have never started it!” After being ordained priest in Loreto, on 18th March 1973, he was moved to Civitanova Marche. While numerous spiritual children of Padre Pio counted on him, since 1975 he had started to found prayer groups that he named Ancilla Domini. They are grounded on the experience of prayer, spontaneous praise giving and holy rosary.
Since 1977 P. Pancrazio followed with increasing attention the group of Civitanova Marche: with some of them he met more frequently for the foundation and ministry of other groups in Italy and in Ticino, and to organize summer retreats and community days of prayer, teaching and brotherly life. Within that group some felt the need for a more assiduous commitment, beyond the weekly meeting, so that, spontaneously, these members of the group started meeting daily, morning and evening, and even more on Sundays and festivities. From this assiduity originated the wish for a communal life of constant sharing. Padre Pancrazio saw in this desire of these lay people a sign that the call that he had perceived for some time in his heart was really a project that God was asking him to realize. Initially our Founder thought that this experience should start to develop within the Order of the Capuchins, where this project was welcomed and supported. As a matter of fact, his very superiors in Apulia suggested he would start this new experience in Terlizzi, in the province of Bari, where a wing of the convent was put at his disposal and there, on the day of Pentecost of 1982, with four young women, this adventure with Jesus took off.
Since the beginning the founding elements of this new ecclesiastical experience were clear: brothers and sisters called to share a life of prayer, hospitality and brotherhood.
The seed of this intuition was put by God in P. Pancrazio’s heart in Loreto, in the 50s. The experience started in Apulia in 1982 with the name of ‘Casa Betania’ and in 1998 it became an Institute of Consecrated Life in the Church, with the Church and for the Church. Padre Pancrazio has always defined the ecclesiastical approval certainty and guarantee that this Institute is not merely a human desire, but a new reality of consecrated life, donated by God to the Church, and that the Providence keeps blessing through numerous young vocations.