Fr. Giuseppe Ungaro died in May of this year. The Italian Franciscan was 99 years old, according to the conventional reckoning, but he liked to point out that he had already been alive for 9 months before he was born. By that count, he was 100 when he passed away. In 2018, he had received the seal of the city of Padua in recognition for dedicating his life to helping others.
Throughout the 10 decades of his journey through this world, Fr. Giuseppe got to know no fewer than six saints in person, and shared his memories of them with Fr. Mario Conte, one of his confréres, who wrote about it in 2016 (although another saint has been added to the list since then, with the canonization of Paul VI).
Of the saints he met, three were popes. He met St. John XXIII while he was still the Patriarch of Venice, where Fr. Giuseppe had been assigned to work at the Frari Basilica. He spoke of the saintly pope in an interview in the St. Anthony Messenger: “We knew each other well. He often came to lunch at our convent in Venice.” St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II both visited the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, where Fr. Giuseppe lived for nearly 50 years.
He also met three great Franciscan saints:
St. Leopold Mandic is a Capuchin saint from Croatia, famous as a particularly kind and gentle confessor, and described by Fr. Giuseppe as “a man of great humility, sensitivity towards others, and great wisdom.” Fr. Giuseppe was impressed by the time they spent together: “He used to come to the Basilica every Wednesday. He would first pay his respects to St. Antony at the Tomb, and then head straight for the confessional, where he used to administer the sacrament for hours on end.”
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