Servant of God Michael Ansaldo
Michael Ansaldo was one of the most memorable eighteenth-century Jesuit missionaries in Pondicherry. He lived as a missionary for 33 years which was exactly half of his lifetime in Pondicherry. He lived through the most turbulent times of suppression of the Society of Jesuits and witnessed Christ by leading a prophetic life among the people of Pondicherry. He also played an important role in bringing identification to the downtrodden, in giving life to the afflicted women, hope to the homeless, and education to the girl children to whom it was forbidden in Indian Society
He was born in the city of Messina which is the third-largest city on the island of Sicily, and the 13th largest city in Italy. The city has been a Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Archimandrite seat since 1548 and is home to a locally important international fair. The city has the University of Messina, founded in 1548 by Ignatius of Loyola. In 1548, this was the first Jesuit college in the world, which later gave birth to the Studium Generale (the current University of Messina) In 1783, an earthquake devastated much of the city, and it took decades to rebuild and rekindle the cultural life of Messina
Holy Life Started
Family back ground
Michael Ansaldo hails from one of the European, especially the Italian noble families. The Family surname is “Ansaldo” it is included in the list of Italian Noble families. Michael Ansaldo was a close relative of a young Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the Patron Saint of youth in the Catholic Church. The mother of Michael Ansaldo hails from this particular, noble family “Gonzaga”. The father’s family of Michael Ansaldo was engaged in assisting the “Poreban Kings” family in Spain who had migrated to Messina, Sicily. Similarly, the Gonzaga family who was with the Austrian Royal family came in contact with each other at Messina on the island of Sicily.
He was born to a noble couple who was from a noble family, which was a very pious and God-fearing family. This pious couple was blessed with two male children, the elder one is Joseph Ansaldo and the younger one is Michael Ansaldo. The eldest son was born in the year 1737 and was named Joseph Ansaldo because in Europe there is a custom to name the eldest son in the family as Joseph, thus the brother of Michael Ansaldo was named Joseph Ansaldo. And the younger son, our Servant of God Michael Ansaldo was born on 29th September, at Messina, in the year 1739 on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel thus, his parents named him Michael Ansaldo
On 15th January 1754 when Servant of God Ansaldo was just fifteen years old, he and his elder brother Joseph Ansaldo entered the Society of Jesus (Novitiate) at Messina. At that time Rev. Fr. Simone Castiglia SJ was Rector and novice master After their novitiate both of them were still considered as young to study philosophy hence, they were sent to study new languages and grammar (grammar of Latin, Italian, Spanish etc..)
In the year 1765 both Michael Ansaldo and his brother Joseph Ansaldo had studied their first-year theology at the College of Massimo at Palermo. Michael Ansaldo studied his second-and third-year theology in the years 1766 and 1767 at Palermo instead his brother Joseph studied second and third-year theology at Messina. Thus both of them grew in virtuous Ignatian spiritual life and in religious formation according to the rules and regulations of the Society of Jesus.
Ordination and final vows
Like any other Jesuit, Ansaldo had to complete the religious profession, and to enter the mission field, he had to “possess sufficient learning in humane letters, in liberal arts and scholastic theology and sacred scripture.” At the end of the third year on 19 September, 1767 Michael Ansaldo and his elder brother Joseph Ansaldo both were ordained together as priests at Palermo. Both of them left for Rome on 19th December 1767 as all the Jesuits were forced to leave Sicily according to the orders of the king. Later on within a few days his beloved brother Fr. Joseph Ansaldo went to receive the eternal reward. The death of his dear brother turned into a big loss for the Servant of God Michael Ansaldo.
This was also the period in which all the Jesuits were expelled from the Kingdom of Sicily by Pope Clement XIII with Papal Bull Apostolicum pascendi, after appropriate examination in the seminary by clerics of Viterbo Italy and were promoted to the fourth year of theology. Thereby Ansaldo was judged suitable ad habendum actum parvum and to teach theology in seminary. After the completion of his studies in the major seminary, he spent his life for a few years as a teacher of literature in one of the Jesuit colleges . Thus On 15th of August 1771 – he pronounced his final vows in the Church in Templo Peritateis Hortae at Orte Italy in the hands of Father Vincenzo Ippoloito
Missionary journey to Pondicherry
Ansaldo made every effort to know about the lives of a few of those missionaries who traveled oceans to preach the good news. With due permission from Rev. Fr. Lorenzo Ricci the Superior General of the Society of Jesus (May 21, 1758, August 16, 1773, November 24, 1775, July 21, 1773 (Suppressed)). He began his journey soon after his final profession as an obedient Jesuit in the Society of Jesus along with his 5 more companions “Saint-Amour; Busson; Ansaldo; Fabri; Sincére; Jean Baptiste Choiseille ”. They have travelled in one of the French ships that was going to India along with the French missionaries . After a long travel of struggling with the wind and bad weather on the high seas, Ansaldo landed in Pondicherry in 1771.
Life of Servant of God Michael Ansaldo in Pondicherry, India
Michael Ansaldo at the shore of Pondicherry
During those days’ their journey on the ship was too hard and it was neither safe nor secure yet Ansaldo traveled with all his love for God. It is said that Saint Francis Xavier, during his travels to Japan and China had briefly stayed at what is now called Uppalam. At Church commemorating his visit now stand at Uppalam, Netaji Nagar, Pondicherry. Likewise, the journey of Servant of God Ansaldo came to an end with his arrival at the shore of Arikamedu Pondicherry.
Ansaldo was welcomed wholeheartedly by Rev. Fr. MM. Mosaic the Superior of the Jesuit Community in Pondicherry. A Memorandum from Fr. Vernet, dated May 13, 1771, will give us the names of the Jesuit missionaries and their respective positions in Pondicherry: MM. Mosaic, Superior; Coeurdoux, blind; Vernet, Prosecutor; Guirbaldi, in Ariancoupam: Saint-Amour; Busson; Ansaldo; Fabri; Sincere; Jean-baptiste Choiselle, non-priest, apotiquary (brotherhood).
As the director of Carmel Convent
In the first half of the eighteenth century, the Society of Jesus, was rendering it’s service to Carmel convent, evangelizing the Malabar populations of Carnatic, on the Coromandel Coast, one of his Religious was leaving Europe to sow the good seed in this distant mission. It was the Reverend Fr. Coeurdoux, reached Pondicherry in the year 1739 after many struggles, heavy winds during his marine voyage. He even prayed to God to save the ship from dangers so that he would begin a religious convent for women in the name of St. Therese of Avila in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel . Later on when Ansaldo was responsible of Carmel nuns had given them St. Aloysius Gonzaga as their second patron saint.
While the waves threatened to damage the ship, the missionary, raising his heart to St. Teresa Child Jesus, tried to ward off the danger by the vow he made to work to find a Carmelite monastery. Finally the missionary reached to the shore and was able to kneel on the shore of Pondicherry, where he was going to spend many years, spending his life, before dying there as the superior of this part of the mission
Death and burial of Servant of God Ansaldo
When he was appointed as the Visitor of Madras Capuchins, Ansaldo felt that that task could have been given to someone else, finally humbly he accepted it. After the appointment he left for Madras on 16th October 1805. He fell sick during his journey to Madras and from the 20th October, till his death he could not eat anything. Ansaldo before his death, prayed for the Congregation to which he was the director and his special loving prayers for the convents which he had begun with the name of St. Aloysius Gonzaga for the orphan children in it .
Rev. FATHER MICHAEL ANSALDO Belonging to the Ex- Order of the Jesuits, and of the Malabar Missionary of Pondicherry. A man highly esteemed and respected, and who during thirty-three years of residence in India, discharged the duly of his profession with true Christian zeal which was evinced by the concourse of attendants at his funeral and the grief of his brethren- he died at Madras, on the 2nd November, 1805.
At the age of 67, on Saturday 2nd November 1805 he died and buried at the Capuchin Monastery in Madras.