Fr Julian Messina, the church’s new rector and senior Capuchin friar of Melbourne, said Fr Luciano’s tireless and courageous pastoral work will be honoured with a monument or tombstone to be situated at the church, where he offered almost half a century of service.
“The foundation’s aim is to not to close a chapter, but rather to take over from Fr Luciano and continue the story of St Anthony’s Shrine and the Italian community,” Fr Julian said in an interview with IL GLOBO.
Born Camillo Rocchi, Fr Luciano passed away in January, aged 91.
The Capuchin priest was a point of reference for the Italian community in Australia and an admirable example of devotion to one’s homeland.
He was born in Prignano sulla Secchia, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and was the only son among six daughters.
He began his religious studies at the age of 13 at the seminary in Reggio Emilia.
Just months after he was ordained in 1950, he left his job as a humanities teacher at the Liceo di Pavullo, in Modena, to accept an offer to go to Australia as a missionary.
In the following years, Australia would become a second home for thousands of Italian migrants.
The 25-year-old wanted to go to Ethiopia, but due to the Italo-Ethiopian conflict, the Church chose to send only Maltese missionaries there.
Many years have passed since that September in 1951, when, on the ship that transported him to Australia, the young Luciano Rocchi looked out of the porthole to take an “explorer’s glimpse” at Melbourne - an image captured by the lens of a photojournalist.
During those years, his pastoral activities led him to his involvement in the gradual formation of the Italian communities in various areas of Australia.
Fr Luciano stayed in Melbourne until 1953 (at Saint George’s Church - now Sacred Heart Catholic Church - on Rathdowne Street in Carlton), before spending two years in Adelaide, then moving to Halifax, in Queensland, in 1956, where he stayed until 1962.
After two years in Brisbane, he moved on to Perth for a year, before spending around five years in Griffith, in NSW, where he taught Italian and Latin at the seminary at Plumpton and offered his services at the leper hospital in Bathurst.
From 1971 to 1977, Fr Luciano was in Melbourne, then Adelaide until 1980, before he finally settled in Melbourne, becoming appointed rector and pastor at St Anthony’s Shrine.
It was there that he lived out his golden years, as editor of the religious periodical Il Campanile, published by the church.
Fr Julian was born in Cairns but studied in Emilia-Romagna like Fr Luciano and believes the foundation should carry on his predecessor’s devotion to both his motherland and second home through cultural, religious and social initiatives.
“We want his mission to continue and his message to remain etched in the memory of the many Italians who have visited St Anthony’s Shrine,” he said.
Fr Julian invites anybody who is interested, to participate in the meeting on March 28.