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updated 4:51 PM UTC, Apr 18, 2024

Lodovico Arcernese of Pietradefusi

On Saturday, March 11, 2023 in the Maria Santissima Annunziata parish church in Pietradefusi (Avellino) the Archbishop of Benevento, Most Rev. Felice Acrocca, presided over the last session of the diocesan inquiry into the life, virtues, signs and reputation for holiness of Fr. Lodovico Acernese of Pietradefusi (1835-1916) professed priest friar of the Capuchin Province of Campania and Basilicata. He was the founder of the Institute of the Immaculate Franciscan Sisters. The church was crowded with sisters, friars and devotees from the small town of Pietradefusi and other neighboring communities who together formed a clear testimony of how alive and present the good done by the Servant of God remains even until this day.

The Servant of God represents a clear model of religious and priestly life. Typical of the Capuchin tradition, he adopted the press as part of his arsenal of evangelization. He also engaged in various initiatives in and around social circles. The Institute of Immaculate Franciscan Sisters found its purpose in educating girls and women, embodying a strong initiative for restoring the dignity and active presence of women in society. In the same vein, he promoted the Franciscan Third Order with the aim of giving the Catholic laity a greater and more active presence in society.

Antonio Acernese (his given name) was born in Pietradefusi, Avelino on April 14, 1835. In 1848 he entered the diocesan seminary of Benevento, which was run by the Jesuits. In 1852, because of the Risorgimento uprisings, however, he returned home. After completing his high school studies in 1855 he enrolled in law school, but on June 6, 1856 was admitted into the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars Minor in Naples, taking the name Fra Lodovico da Pietradefusi. On June 18, 1859, he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza.

A lecturer in Philosophy and Theology for young Capuchin friars, he published works on Thomist philosophy and left other print-ready samples. With the suppression of religious orders he had to leave the friary. On December 3, 1866, he was appointed rector of the church of the Capuchin friary of Montefusco, and obtained permission to remain there, alone, as chaplain (1867-1875), while soon gathering around him other scattered Capuchins.

He became a spiritual director to the young tertiary Teresa Manganiello (1849-1876), proclaimed Blessed on May 22, 2010. With her, he initiated the founding of what would become the Institute of the Immaculate Franciscan Sisters, which was officially started on Dec. 8, 1881.

He was elected provincial minister (1885-1888) of the Naples Province of Capuchins, upon which he invited the scattered friars to return to their friaries and resume their “common life”: He worked to reorganize the formation of young friars and the typical Capuchin apostolate: preaching and confessions.

Slanderous accusations came, however, regarding his leadership of the nuns’ congregation. He was forced to leave the place of its founding, Pietradefusi, and moved to Cava dei Terreni. Shortly thereafter, July 3, 1894, he obtained incardination as a priest in Archdiocese of Benevento. Fr. Lodovico was 59 years old, 38 of which he spent in the Capuchin Order.

As soon as it was possible, he aimed to return to the Capuchins by appealing to the superiors of the Province of Naples, who readmitted him on December 15, 1907. From then on, he lived in Pietradefusi as superior of the hospice he founded and director of the Institute of the Immaculate Franciscan Sisters. He spent the last years of his life intent on writing, studying and praying. He died on February 16, 1916.

Last modified on Thursday, 13 April 2023 17:59