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Verbum Dei president says life is our true testimony

Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues is a journalist for The Catholic Weekly. She also writes at Email her at [email protected]
Fr Rodrigo Carizzo FMVD, president of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity.  Photo: Marilyn Rodrigues
Fr Rodrigo Carizzo FMVD, president of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. Photo: Marilyn Rodrigues

Unless Christians back up their testimony with their manner of life, they won’t be believed, the president of Verbum Dei has said on a recent pastoral visit to Australia.

The Catholic Weekly spoke to Fr Rodrigo Carizzo FMVD, the Spain-based president of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, at Ryde-Gladesville parish on 8 September.

The 53-year-old leader was in Sydney for an informal pastoral visit following an international meeting in the Philippines of the ecclesial family, which turns 60 this year.

“Our charism is centred on the Word of God,” explained Fr Carizzo.

“The dynamism is of listening, then assimilation, then living out and announcing the Word of God.

“The three main elements are prayer, that relationship with Christ, then the preaching of the Word of God which Jesus tells us we must do if we are his disciples, and then the testimony of our life.

“That third element is important, because unless you back up your testimony with your life people won’t believe you.”

Founded by Fr Jaime Bonet in Spain early in 1963, the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity was approved as a new form of consecrated life by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

It has grown to around 600 people in perpetual vows in the community in around 35 countries, and is unique in that it is formed by three branches who share in its governance, administration and mission—consecrated women, consecrated men (both brothers and priests) and missionary married couples.

Since the arrival in Sydney of Sr Anita Moranta FMVD in 1980, wherever the Verbum Dei Missionaries have been present they’ve formed communities of prayer, friendship and cheerful service, including at Ryde-Gladesville parish, where Fr Greg Morgan FMVD has been parish priest since 2017.

Fr Carizzo said Fr Bonet, whom he knew and who died in 2017, was a passionate evangelist.

“I never met anyone who spent so much time with the Word of God, either praying with it or preaching it constantly,” Fr Carizzo said.

“The Word of God was his food, and he was convinced that through preaching people will receive the faith.

“Now that our founder has died the challenge for us is to keep his legacy and transmit it to the next generations.”

Recently the Verbum Dei Sydney Facebook page ran thoughts on the centrality of prayer for Verbum Dei from Fr Bonet.

“I desire and ask God with insistence, night and day, for a Verbum Dei that prays more and better, for a Verbum Dei prayer not a prayer out of duty or for studying or reflection in the chapel or to prepare topics, nor for appearances to look good but for an affective prayer – person to person – intimate that consecrates, that makes you fall in love and makes it possible not to tumble in all of the terrible temptations and difficulties, not to fall into a mediocrity of a life without meaning.”

Sr Maria Pineda FMVD, a part time chaplain at St George Public Hospital who is also part of the Verbum Dei retreat ministry in Sydney said a big part of their mission is to encourage the faithful in their call to evangelise.

“Our ministry is universally the same in Verbum Dei regardless of the branch, it is to pray and then to evangelise by giving the Word of God.

“At our retreats we encourage others to be disciples themselves and share what they have received, because while not everyone is called to preach [publicly], all are called to mission.”

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