What is the St. Charles Fraternity?
The Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo is a Society of Apostolic Life of pontifical right.
The Fraternity has its origins in the charism of Fr. Luigi Giussani, founder of the movement of Communion and Liberation. The young men who ask to be admitted into the Fraternity to become priests have met in this movement the definitive form of their belonging to the Church. Through their missionary activity, they work to spread this charism, drawing from it the method of their apostolate.
A passion for the glory of Christ and life as witness to that passion.Fr. Luigi Giussani
The priests of the Fraternity live together in houses of three or more. The communion among them is meant to sustain their daily missionary work, inform how they live their priesthood, and be a path towards conversion. They must always be willing to be sent wherever the Church has a need.
They carry out their priestly service in parishes, schools, prisons, and hospitals, according to the wishes of the bishop of the diocese in which they reside.
A Young Story
Go out to all the world, bearing the truth, beauty, and peace that are found in Christ the Redeemer.St. John Paul II
In September 1984, during the audience granted for the 30th anniversary of the founding of Communion and Liberation, St. John Paul II gave the Movement this mandate: “Go out to all the world, bearing the truth, beauty, and peace that are found in Christ the Redeemer”.
On September 14, 1985, accepting the Pope’s invitation, Msgr. Massimo Camisasca and six other priests signed the founding act with which the story of the Fraternity began. It is a priestly association whose purpose is the formation of young men for the priesthood and for the missions. In 1989, the association was recognized as a Society of Apostolic Life of diocesan right.
During the 1990s, the first houses of the Fraternity, made up of three or four priests, began to spread throughout Italy and the rest of the world.
On March 19, 1999, John Paul II recognized the Fraternity as a Society of Apostolic Life of pontifical right. The Church, in front of the whole world, thus asked it to announce the Gospel all the way to the ends of the Earth according to the particular character of Communion and Liberation.
On September 29, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Massimo Camisasca bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. On February 1, 2013, the General Assembly of the Fraternity elected Fr. Paolo Sottopietra Superior General.
The Fraternity was born from the passion that Giussani introduced into my life and the lives of several of my brothers; it is the fruit of the seed which he planted within us.Msgr. Massimo Camisasca
The words that best express the life of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo are contained within its very name: fraternity, priestly, missionary. Here is how each is described by the founder, Msgr. Massimo Camisasca:
“The Fraternity is a companionship made up of people that are placed together by an Other, by the action of an Other who has had mercy on their lives. It is the effective sign of God’s mercy. Each of us has been gathered and is continually accompanied by Christ through his brothers. Thus, the Fraternity is the place which, through our conversion, makes the memory of Christ easier and continuous.”
“The priestly vocation is one of the highest and most beautiful paths that one can travel. It is a continuous communion with God and man. Like all vocations, it can be subjected to weariness and human weakness. If it is adequately sustained and aided, it acts as a bridge between heaven and Earth, represents a fundamental link in the history of salvation, and also serves as an important figure in the journey towards unity among men.”
“Mission is not something that we invent; it isn’t the expression of our particular talents or passions, even if it draws from all the gifts that God has given us. It consists simply in entering within the same mission for which God sent His own Son into the world, for which the Son sent the Apostles, and for which, in turn, the Apostles sent other brothers, until the visible echo of that event touched even us.”
Massimo Camisasca was born in Milan on November 3, 1946. While a student at the Berchet high school, he met Fr. Luigi Giussani, his religion teacher: it was the encounter that changed his life. Camisasca participated in Gioventù Studentesca, the movement started by Fr. Giussani, becoming one of its first leaders.
While attending college at the Catholic University of Milan, where he graduated with a degree in philosophy, Camisasca held several positions within the Milan chapter of Catholic Action before becoming the diocesan responsible. It was during these years that he discerned a vocation to the priesthood.
He entered seminary with a missionary community in the Diocese of Bergamo and was ordained a priest in 1975. Three years later, he moved to Rome to handle public relations between Communion and Liberation and the Holy See. In 1985, encouraged by Fr. Giussani, don Massimo founded the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo in Rome.
For the three decades that followed, Camisasca dedicated himself to the leadership the community and the education of its members. Since 2005, he has also accompanied the beginnings of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles, the female institute born from the experience of the Fraternity and from the same charism of Fr. Giussani.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, thus ending his tenure as superior of the Fraternity. On January 10, 2022, Pope Francis accepted his resignation, which he was required to submit upon turning 75.
The Superior General
Paolo Sottopietra was born in Tione di Trento on August 18, 1967. He grew up in Stenico and, during his high-school years, met the movement of Communion and Liberation in Trento.
At the Catholic University of Milan, he met Fr. Giussani, who in those years taught Introduction to Theology.
In 1991, during a stay in the United States, he met Michael Carvill, a priest in mission in Tampa, Florida. It was his first encounter with the St. Charles Fraternity. Living the priesthood within the horizon of belonging to the movement of Communion and Liberation became for Sottopietra a real possibility.
Upon returning from the United States, he asked don Massimo Camisasca to enter the Fraternity’s seminary and moved to Rome. In 1994, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology at the Lateran Pontifical University and in 1995 was ordained a priest. In 2001, he received his Doctorate in Theology at the Katholische Universität of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt with a thesis in Dogmatic Theology on the thought of Joseph Ratzinger.
After a period in mission in Germany, Sottopietra was recalled to Italy to serve in several positions within the government of the Fraternity.
Following the appointment of Massimo Camisasca as Bishop of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, Fr. Paolo Sottopietra was elected Superior General of the St. Charles Fraternity in February 2013.
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo were born from the desire of several young women to share the ideals of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo.
In 2005, Rachele Paiusco moved to Rome along with several companions to follow Fr. Massimo Camisasca and Fr. Paolo Sottopietra. Other young women soon joined this original small group, thus beginning the first seeds of a common life, defined by a rule of prayer, study, and work.
On March 25, 2007, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the small community was recognized as a Private Association of the Faithful by Bishop Gino Reali of the diocese of Porto-Santa Ruffina.
During this period, the Missionary Sisters were led by Fr. Paolo Sottopietra as Superior General. The first young women entering the fledgling institute were welcomed into a house in the Roman neighborhood of the Magliana, entrusted to them by the Vicar of Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini. In the meantime, the fundamentals and the rule of the community were defined. A school of philosophy and theology within the House of Formation, charitable works, and collaboration in the parishes with priests of the Fraternity were born during this time.
On March 25, 2012, they obtained recognition as a Public Association of the Faithful. In the following years, the first missionary houses were opened. In 2013, Bishop Gino Reali named Rachele Paiusco Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles.
In 2019, the Missionary Sisters held their first General Assembly, which confirmed Sister Rachele as Superior General and established for the first time a government independent of the St. Charles Fraternity. Today, they are present in Rome; Nairobi, Kenya; Denver, USA; and Grenoble, France.