xxxxGuido Maria Conforti played a leading role in the rebirth of the missionary spirit in the Church between the second half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century.
He was born at Ravadese, near Parma (Italy), on 30 March 1865. His encounter with a crucifix in a church on his way to school awakened his desire to announce God’s great love to all.
xxxxHe joined the seminary when he was eleven years old, but serious illness cast doubts on his suitability for the priesthood and put an end to his dreams of becoming a missionary. Nevertheless, with the support of his rector, Fr. Andrea Ferrari (who later became Cardinal in Milan and was beatified in 1987), Conforti was ordained priest in 1888. He was appointed Vicar General before his thirtieth birthday.
xxxxEncouraged by his bishop and the prefect of Propaganda Fide, in 1895 he founded the Congregation of St. Francis Xavier for the Foreign Missions (Xaverian Missionaries). He sent his first two missionaries to China in 1899.
xxxxIn 1902, at the age of 37, he was appointed Archbishop of Ravenna, a post from which he resigned in 1904 on health grounds.
Pope Pius X appointed him bishop of Parma in 1907. During his 24 years as bishop, he took special care of the clergy, promoted religious instruction (especially of young people), made five pastoral visits to the diocese, held two diocesan synods, celebrated Eucharistic, Marian and Missionary Congresses, supported the Catholic Action movement and played a vital role in all social affairs.
xxxxHe worked hard to support the growing missionary spirit of the Italian Church. In 1916, he collaborated with Fr. Manna in the foundation of the Pontifical Missionary Union of the clergy and was its first president.
xxxxHe sent various missionaries to China and went there on a personal visit in 1928.
xxxxHe died in Parma on 5 November 1931 and was beatified in Rome on 17 March 1996.
xxxxHis mottos In omnibus Christus and Caritas Christi urget nos sum up his life’s work and his spirituality.