Meet A La Salette

Editor: Father Pierre-Jeannot Rakonindrainy, M.S., completed not only three terms as Provincial Superior of the La Salette Missionaries in Madagascar but also recently completed a term of six years as Assistant General in Rome. He is now serving in a parish of Croix de Belledonne on the northeastern outskirts of the city of Grenoble (around Omene).

Fr. Pierre-Jeannot
Rakonindrainy, M.S.

How did you first come in contact with the La Salette message?

In the past as a youth, I assisted the La Salette Missionaries as well as the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette as a volunteer catechist. In 1982 as a youngster in the La Salette apostolic school in Antsahasoa, I was introduced to the event and message of La Salette, thanks to the La Salette Missionaries of Madagascar.

What first struck me was the fact that the Blessed Virgin appeared to two young cowherds. Since they worked for the more well-off farmers of their village, they did not go to school, and only received a bowl of rice as their salary! In my native country of Madagascar, the majority of the population is impoverished and suffers every day from rampant systemic corruption. Mary at La Salette is the image of the love of Jesus who always opts for assisting the poor and the young.

The message of reconciliation is primarily an appeal to be sensitive to the needs of others, responsive to suffering humanity. The challenge is immense and I am proud to be La Salette with a spirit of solidarity with the poor and the helpless.

As a baptized Christian and La Salette religious, I am called to be a witness of my faith and an active minister of Reconciliation – in a sense, an expert in helping humanity! The challenge is immense and I am proud to be a La Salette, living out the spirit of solidarity with the poor and the helpless.

Fr. Tom Puthusseril, M.S.,
Director of the National
Shrine of Our Lady of La
Salette, Attleboro, MA

What is your family background? 

I was born in Kerala, in the southwestern part of India, on the Malabar Coast. My father’s name is Chacko Puthusseril, and my mother is Mary Kutty, both from Kerala. My older brother’s name is Benny Chacko Matthew. My father worked both in the Rubber industry and farming as well. My mother was a housewife. In my household, "Mother Mary" (Our Lady) was a significant presence in my life, through daily family morning and evening prayers and devotions and daily Mass.

Through my parents and their sharing stories of saints and the challenging life of missionaries with both myself and my brother, I felt called to some special mission for my life. I was a regular altar server and I constantly spoke with the parish priests about my own and other’s questions about our Catholic faith. This education and experience helped concretize my desire to serve the Church and God’s people.

How did you come in contact with the La Salette Missionaries?

I began my seminary life with the Diocese of Kanjirapplly. During my regency, a period of immersion in ministry, I was assigned to a Rehabilitation Center for Prisoners, funded limitedly and quite poor. I saw a calendar on a wall that invited young men to consider a vocation with the La Salette Missionaries. I responded to that invitation by phoning the contact person, Fr. Andrews Kollanoor, M.S. I went to meet with him later and we discussed what my procedure should be for my life and studies.

Fr. Joseph Bachand, M.S.,
presently serving as a
General Councilor on the
La Salette General
Administration in Rome

What is your family background? 

I was born in Jewett City, Connecticut, USA, on December 15,1949. I am the oldest of eight children, with five brothers and two sisters. My father was a factory worker and also worked for the U. S. Post Office. He is now 86 years old and was ordained a Permanent Deacon 25 years ago. My mother died three years ago and was a marvelous sign of faith and strength to my entire family.

How did you come in contact with the La Salette Missionaries?

As a child, I was an altar boy and often spoke about the possibility of becoming a priest. My neighbor, who knew this, had two cousins who were Missionaries of La Salette. She and her husband brought me to visit the La Salette Shrine in Ipswich and the La Salette College Seminary in Altamont where her cousins were serving. She also gave me copies of Our Lady’s Missionary to read. There I was especially taken with the photos and stories of the La Salette Missionaries in Burma. Since then I have had the opportunity to meet a number of the men I had read about. Only recently did I have the opportunity to visit the country (now Myanmar) that had first captured my interest in La Salette.

Where did you experience your preparatory studies and priestly ministry?

Fr. Fernando Altamiranda, M.S.
What is your family background?

I was born on March 7, 1969, in Tucuman, in the Northern part of Argentina. My father’s name is Julio César and he worked as an electrician. My mother, María Argentina, worked in our home. I have two sisters, Patricia and Daniela, and one brother, named Ariel.

My sister, Patricia, began to volunteer in our parish with youth and teach catechism as well. She then invited me to help her with the youth group and then I taught in our religious education classes for First Communion and Confirmation (ages 9-17). This was my first experience in teaching and began for me a lifelong call as a teacher who strengthens others in their faith.

In this same experience, I worked alongside Fr. Alfredo Velarde, a La Salette priest in our parish. I also worked with him in another group consisting of about 60 youth. We worked in our city and countryside barrios to help our people celebrate their faith. We also drew our youth into working in the summer in soup kitchens with very poor children, teaching them how to keep clean and healthy including delousing practices. We also helped the children with remedial studies and well as appreciation of their faith, and the importance of Jesus and Mary in their lives.

What drew you to the priesthood and the La Salette Community?

The novices gathered in their classroom

As a worldwide community of men, by the grace of God we welcome new members each year into our community from our ten provinces. After their Novitiate year of training, they take their first vows. After three of more years of renewing their vows, they may, if accepted, they may take their perpetual vows at a special celebration.

At my request, Fr. Sibi Kunninu, M.S., Novice Master for the La Salette Indian Province, was kind enough to send me information on this year’s Novitiate Class who recently took their first vows. I hope you enjoy meeting these young devoted men who will, by the grace of God, spend their lives making Mary’s message known as priests in India and elsewhere in God’s world.

Editor: The La Salette Missionaries are a worldwide order of religious men. From Mary’s own words, “You will make this (message) known to all my people”, we are happy to serve in about 25 countries. Each year, new members enter our religious order when they complete their novitiate. Our La Salette Rule describes the purpose of the novitiate:

Fr. Sibi Kunninu, M.S., Novice Master for the Indian
La Salette Province, with his latest class of novices

The novitiate increases the candidate's understanding of the mystery of Christ and the role of Mary so that his whole life may be imbued with the spirit of the Gospel. It leads the candidate to appreciate and live the religious life and to be penetrated by the mystery of reconciliation and the relevance of the teaching put forth in the La Salette event.

It provides a setting for prayer, reflection and study, an intensive experience of community life and formative apostolic activity. Thus the candidate will be equipped to commit himself freely and maturely to the life and mission of the Congregation. (La Salette Rule, #34)

At my request, Fr. Sibi Kunninu, M.S., Novice Master for the La Salette Indian Province, was kind enough to send me information on this year’s Novitiate Class who recently took their first vows. I hope you enjoy meeting these young devoted men who will, by the grace of God, spend their lives making Mary’s message known as priests in India and elsewhere in God’s world.

This is the first of two sets of profiles for your enjoyment.

What is your family and personal background?

(from left) the town of Sundgau, Alsace,
France and the Church of Our Lady of the Snows
My name is Pierre (Pierrot) Zaessinger. I was born in Alsace, France, on Jan. 21, 1950, in the small historic village of Sundgau, a calm and quiet village like that of La Salette. It has a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows and through that I was intimately aware from an early age about veneration of the Blessed Virgin. I have cherished memories of the special processions and especially our celebration of the feast of Mary’s Assumption celebrated on August 15th.

At the age of twelve, I made a pilgrimage with my mother to the La Salette Shrine. I remember well the site of the Apparition with its three statues of Our Lady. I also remember the stunningly beautiful surroundings, and the singing the refrain of the La Salette Hymn: "Virgin of La Salette, our hearts belong to you. On this, your holy feast day, send blessings from above..." I often hum this lovely melody in my heart. And I vowed to return one day to that most beautiful place.

Editor: Bishop Pean was invited to the Attleboro Shrine to participate in the La Salette Triduum Celebration. He presided and preached at a special Pilgrimage Mass for Haitian people on Sept. 16, 2012. He is Bishop in the Diocese of Gonaīves, where two La Salette priests from Madagascar now serve his people. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in northern Haiti in Pilate, in Cap Haitian. We are three boys and one girl in our family and I’m the second oldest. My father, Dacius, worked in commerce (buying and selling); my mother, Carmelie Sylne was an industrious worker and dedicated full-time mother in the home.

How did you discover your vocation?

Bp. Pean with a Haitian deacon and ministers
including two La Salette Missionaries, at the
La Salette National Shrine, Attleboro
Since my youth, I was very conscious of my vocation to the priesthood due to my family environment of faith, prayer, and love. Even my extended family was very supportive of my vocation. When I went to secondary school from the age of 14, I was gradually becoming more conscious of being called by God to something special. After studying Philosophy, I realized more strongly that time was drawing closer for me to choose a vocation, perhaps the priesthood.
After I finished my secondary education, I chose to enter the Novitiate of the Holy Cross Congregation in my home town of Cap Haitian. There I continued my studies in Philosophy and Theology followed by one year of pastoral work. In addition I also was involved in special studies in anthropology and ethnology at the State University in Haiti. I soon received my license in Anthropology and my bachelor’s degree in Theology. 

Fr. Leslaw Panczak, M.S.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Rzeszow, in southern Poland, about 100 miles east of Krakow. My mother, Helen, and my farther, John, both came from there. I am the oldest of three children: my brother, Peter, and my sister, Barbara and myself. We attended our diocesan parish but I remember, as a child, going regularly to the La Salette novena in the neighboring Parish of Our Lady of La Salette. I loved the prayers and the La Salette message. We later moved to an apartment very close to the La Salette church. At the age of nine I became an altar boy and Eucharist was my regular nourishment. 
When the parish priest came to visit our house each year, he asked my parents to pray for my vocation to the priesthood. I visited the rectory and saw their happiness, their lifestyle and their community spirit. It was a natural journey to eventually join the La Salette community, continuing to appreciate the familiar values of prayer, community and Marian devotion. In our La Salette parish, we went each year to the Shrine at Debowiec as a group of altar servers. I grew up in the shadow and spirit of La Salette. 

Fr. Silvano Marisa, M.S.,
newly-elected Superior
General, La Salette
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in northern Italy in the Province of Trento, in Boccaldo, a little village of only 66 people, nestled in the mountains.
My family were very simple peasant farmers – my father and mother, my three brothers and one sister. My parents, now deceased, were both from the same region. My father was born in our village, which was then under the previous Austrian empire until our liberation in 1918. My mother was born in a nearby village. My parents were married when they were both in their early 20’s. 
Boccaldo, the small mountain village
in which Fr. Silvano was born
How did you hear about the La Salette Missionaries?
Among the principal buildings of the nearby town of Trambileno stands the Sanctuary of Our Lady of La Salette. Located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the capital city, Moscheri, the sanctuary was built in 1856 with money from a noble donation of Rovereto and with the hands of itinerate townspeople who worked in France during the summer. They dedicated the Shrine to Our Lady of La Salette because her message expressed their own concerns as farmworkers: famine, potatoes and wheat.
The shrine has been well-known in the region. In fact, in 1956, we joyfully celebrated the centenary of our little shrine. On that occasion, a La Salette priest, Fr. Macario Caterini, came to preach the La Salette Triduum for that celebration. Our parish priest introduced me to Fr. Caterini, who had travelled from Torino. After we spoke, he invited me to join the Minor Seminary at Salmata since I was just 11 years of age at that time. I then made my Novitiate in Corps, France, my philosophy studies at Lyons and my Theology studies in Rome at the Gregorian University. I was ordained in Naples in our parish on Dec. 16, 1973.

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”