Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography Xaverian Missionaries - V.le S. Martino, 8 - Parma, Italy 0521-257.337

Conforti: A Patron Saint for Museums?

P. Emilio Iurman


Saint Guido Maria Conforti, patron saint of museums
Saint Guido Maria Conforti, patron of museums

The proclamation of the holiness of Msgr. Guido Conforti, on October 23, 2011, has taken on a special meaning during the restructuring of the museum. Saint Guido Conforti, in fact, was both founder of the Xaverian Missionaries, and also of the Museum.

Fr. Toscano wrote: "Bishop Conforti was jealous of his museum; he even refused to lend a Chinese dress and weapon to the Salesians of St. Benedict who wanted to use them for a theatrical performance for the missions". Again: "The love of Mgr. Conforti for his museum objects was great. We still have some vessels which he admired much…" (G. Toscano, 3,000 years of Chinese history in Parma, 1962, p. 18, 20).

In the preface to his catalog, Fr. Toscano wrote: "When Msgr. Conforti died, Count Boselli wrote in an article in the ‘Gazzetta di Parma’, that Conforti would only survive as a Saint. It seems to me, however, that founding a Chinese Museum in a missionary institute was an idea worthy of a genius" (p. 7).

So, why the excitement for the proclamation of his holiness? Well, if someone would like to think that even museums need a patron saint, then the candidacy of Conforti would be most suitable.

The Founder

1865: on 30 March, Guido Giuseppe Maria is born at Casalora di Ravadese, son of Rinaldo Conforti and Antonia Adorni.
1876: on 4 November, G. M. Conforti joins the seminary, and begins the first year of junior high school.
1888: Conforti is ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Parma, on 22 September
1889: Conforti, at the age of 24, writes to a friend, telling him that he feels in his heart “a daring project”, the founding of the Xaverian missionaries.
1895: Bishop Magani appoints Conforti Provicario generale [Pro-vicar General]; in November the first missionary students enter the house in Borgo del Leon d'Oro [street name] and on 3 December, feast of St. Francis Xavier, Msgr. Magani inaugurates the Seminario Emiliano per le Missioni Estere [Seminary of Emilia for Foreign Missions].
1899: on 4 March, Conforti presents the Crucifix to Fr. Caio Rastelli and the seminarian Edoardo Manini, who were to leave for China with Msgr. Fogolla by ship via Genoa-Marseilles. They will experience the “Boxer Revolution”, and their Chinese mission will end after only two years, with the death of Fr. Rastelli, while Manini returns to Italy
1900: on 24 April, the first stone of the Mother House is laid.
1901. Inauguration of the Motherhouse, in Viale S. Martino, 8. A room of the building is reserved for the exhibit of the first objects of the Chinese Ethnologic Museum.
1902: on 16 May, Conforti is received by Pope Leo XIII who informs him of his appointment as bishop of Ravenna. After only two years of work in the diocese of Ravenna, Conforti retires from Ravenna, due to health reasons, and lives at the Xaverian Motherhouse in Parma.
1907: on 24 September, Pope Pius X appoints Msgr. Conforti coadjutor of Bishop Magani, and with the death of the bishop, Conforti becomes Bishop of Parma on 12 December.
1928: on 21 September, Conforti leaves for China to visit his missionaries in Henan. He boards the ship at Marseilles and arrives in China on 1 November, where he remains until 3 December; he departs for Italy on the Trans-Siberian railway and arrives in Parma on 28 December.
1931: on 5 November, Conforti dies peacefully at 1:35pm, at the age of 66.
2011: on 23 October, Guido Maria Conforti is proclaimed “Saint” by Pope Benedict XVI at a celebration at St. Peter’s in Rome.