St. Guido Maria Conforti founded the Xaverian Missionaries in 1895 in Parma, Italy as a life-long dream to serve the mission of the church. His feast day is November 5th and is a feast day for we, Xaverians, throughout the world.
The son of Rinaldo and Antonia Adorni, Guido Maria was the eighth of ten children of an ancient family of Parma, Italy, landowners. The Conforti family was rooted in Parma since the Middle Ages and held administrative responsibilities for this region from the first half of the 14th century. They are remembered as early as 1285 and much information regarding their ancient roots is still available.
In 1872, Guido attended an elementary school in Parma, a Catholic school, of course. At age 7, young Guido was drawn to visit a large crucifix of Christ in a small chapel across from his school. He formed a relation this way with the person of Christ, as he later stated, He looked at me and said many things to me! … it is a miraculous crucifix: I owe my vocation to it.
This crucifix was his reference point: It speaks with an eloquence that has no equal. Years later, in seminary, while reading the biography of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary who died at the gates of China in 1552, it became the inspiration for the missionary vocation of Guido. But his requests to be accepted as a missionary by Jesuits and Salesians, were rejected due to poor health and a nervous condition.
In 1876 he entered the seminary and established a friendship with the rector, the future Blessed Andrea Ferrari, a friendship that lasted for a life time, even when Ferrari became the Archbishop of Milan. Conforti was ordained in 1888 and in 1892, at age 27, was appointed a canon at the Cathedral of Parma. By 1896 he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese.
As a priest, and later as bishop, he worked out missionary calling, founding the Xaverian Missionaries on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, on December 3rd, 1895. Struggling with difficulties getting the foundation on its feet, and the challenge of a lifetime of poor health, he was a man of wisdom, insight and peace. He sought, and asked his missionaries to pursue a spirit of living faith which enables us to see God, seek God, love God in all things, intensifying our desire to spread his kingdom everywhere, and a calling to mission with a goal to make of humanity a single family.”
In 1899, Msgr. Conforti sent the first two missionaries to China, but by 1900, the Boxer Revolt caused the killing of many missionaries and other religious. In 1904, a second group of missionaries was sent to China. In the laying of the cornerstone of the mother house in 1900, Bishop Magani stated, From this nest the young eagles of the Gospel will fly to bring faith to those that still live in darkness… The dream of Conforti is still alive in Bangladesh, Burundi, Brazil, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, the UK and the USA.
Inspired by St. Guido Maria Conforti and St. Francis Xavier, we, Xaverian Missionaries, serve to keep the local Church aware of, engaged with and connected to the missionary mandate of the universal Church, principally by witnessing Jesus to those who have yet to know Him.