Triple Love from Fr. John Bonanomi

Fr. Giovanni Bonanomi in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Jonah M. Makau

This humble and down to earth servant of God was promoted to glory on 03rd April 2024 at 92 years old. A virtue that makes him still alive, that we shall never forget, and is the foundation of all lessons we learnt from this great man of God is love.

By Boniface Ochieng *

Man, like other living beings, has to physically die. But others in their physical death still are fully and physically alive. This is the case of the Late Rev. Fr. John Bonanomi IMC a Consolata Missionary who dedicated his entire missionary life in forming the youth.

  1. Love for the Liturgy

Indeed love for the Liturgy is one of the five pillars that characterize us as Consolata Missionaries. But to the Late Fr. John Bonanomi, his love for the Liturgy was amazing.

He died on the Easter octave! He loved and took care of the Liturgy. No wonder he had to see God face to face on this great and sacred week of the Church’s Liturgical period.

Fr Bon, as frequently known, enjoyed singing the Exultet. In the seminary, he could take up this solemn part of the Easter vigil and was extremely keen on its musical note, of cause shaking his shoulders in between the stanzas. I strongly believe that he must have sung the final Exultet on 30th March 2024 in the silence of his heart due to his frail health and advanced age, for nothing would have separated him from the Liturgy.

Of cause Fr. Bon would not only be fully present during liturgical practices such as readings and choir practices, but also would fully participate in them. He taught us several songs and a great number of Consolata missionaries of Kenyan origin came to know many English songs through Fr. Bon. What of the pronunciations?  Oh my goodness!

If you would want Fr. Bon to shout at you even in the middle of the consecration is to do an error he had repeatedly corrected. He was very keen, despite his hearing problems, at pronunciations for those taking the readings during the Liturgy of the Word. I admit to have learnt from him to articulate well the readings during the proclamation of the Word.

He indeed faithfully and practically incarnated in us this love for the sacred liturgy as stipulated in our IMC Constitutions and General Directives no. 14.

Fr. Giovanni Bonanomi (centre) in the Alpignano community receives a visit from his confreres from the missions in Africa. Photo: Jaime C. Patias

2. Love for the Youth

When his demise was officially announced by the General Secretary of the Consolata Missionaries, Rev. Fr. Pedro Louro, IMC, indeed countless tributes fell like heavy rains that ravaged most parts of the world in these days. Since the majority of these tributes came from the generation that passed through his hands, this was the fruit of Fr. Bon’s dedicated and transformative love for the youth he handled during his lifetime here on earth.

This not only led to an urgent appeal (from Fr. Daniel Kivuwa, IMC seconded by Br. Wekesa Kenneth, IMC, Fr. Adeka Justus, IMC, Fr. Joseph Mwaniki, IMC, and Fr. Erasto Mugalama, IMC- the General Councilor for Africa Continental affairs) to put the tributes in writing and forward to the relevant ecclesiastical authority; but also a proposal from Fr. Alexander Likono, IMC, to name some of our Institutions and works of consolation after him. Because Fr. Bon is “a model of Blessed Joseph Allamano”, one even shouted in capital letters: “SANTO SUBITO”!

In the Imc Africa Whatsapp group, apart from just simple “Rest in peace, Fr. Bonanomi”, there were 47 messages with added qualities of Fr. Bon. This was a clear signal that he touched the lives of many. Some of these tributes are here below:

  • Great Formator (8 times)
  • Great man (3 times)
  • An inspiration to humanity and mentor (3 times)
  • Sincere man (twice)
  • Great Missionary (twice)
  • Great Teacher (twice)
  • Man with love and commitment
  • A man who believed and practiced forgiveness
  • Deeply humble and submissive man
  • Man of prayer who loved and meditated the Word of God
  • Man of extra ordinary faith
  • Man who lived and was attached to the Church and the Institute
  • Great man of God
  • Man with listening ears and understanding heart
  • Man who lived his life well
  • The one who translated from Italian the Spiritual Life of the Founder written by Fr. Lorenzo Sales

Good to note that, he had never worked in the parish that is a direct pastoral care of the parishioners all his 66 years of priestly ministry. The majority of that time was dedicated in the service of the youth, especially those who wanted to be like him, a missionary. He dedicated his life in the formation of young men to priestly/brotherhood vocation and family life.

Fr. Giovanni Bonanomi woth Fr. Daniel Bertea in the Alpignano community. Photo: Jaime C. Patias

3. Love of gratitude

Father Bon would tell you thanks for having told him the truth; even if the truth in question was an act contrary to the Seminary norms that would even warrant an expulsion. His sense of gratitude extended even when one had offered an obvious service out of duty to the seminary community. For him, duty well done and recognition of one’s mistakes merited a word of gratitude from him.

Very many occasions, he would tell us “thank you” after having done the manual work. This was very exceptional and made most of us feel at home away from home.

For the majority who stayed in contact with Fr. Bon even as he was gracefully living his old age in Italy, he would always sign his correspondence with “Peace; and once again thank you”. Physical fatigue due to old age and sickness never made him tired of being grateful.

Others don’t just die! No they don’t. Fr. Bon won’t die as long as we live. Fare thee well.

* Fr. Boniface Ochieng, IMC, is missionary in Ivory Coast

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