As a boy, he had one idea, and his uncle had another. Fr. Tony M. Fortunato, O. de M., here explains how a family member stepped in and turned his mind to the Mercedarian Order.
Dear ones: My vocation to the Mercedarians goes back to a great Mercedario Frate [Mercedarian brother] and great priest: Fr. Ferdinando Fortunato, O. de M., an uncle of mine, born in a little village: Rocca Imperiale, Cosenza, on the blue Mar Jonio, way South of Italy. It was the summer of 1952. I was done with grammar school in Rocca and ready to start high school in Potenza, the minor seminary, of that part of South Italy [to study to become a diocesan priest].
I guess, Fr. Ferdinado, who at the time was the Rector of our Convitto Villa Mercede [Mercedarian’s friars’ house] in Orvieto, Terni, Umbria, not too far from Assisi, did not like my idea…. You have to go to a Marian Order, he said, dress up in Bianco Abito and study in Roma…. He gave the order. What really got my attention was the fact of Madonna della Mercede, Our Lady of Mercy, and Roma.
Ready to Rock in Rome
Being from a very religious family in a little rural agricultural town, I was ready to go and rock in the capital city of the Roman Empire and being not just another priest, but a fratello of a Spanish religious Order.
Was I confused by all this decision at age 15 or so??? Not a bit. I was ready to fly high, by leaving my family, my town, my little school for an ideal which was not clearly understood at this time. But God was calling me to a religious Order dedicated to la Madonna della Mercede, della Nova di Bonaria, etc. The same Mother of God was telling me… Tony… fear not…. I will take great care of you, in Nemi, Roma, Teutopolis, IL, Quincy College, Niagara University, St. Rocco, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (West the Best) and John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH.
Mary even was so kind to send to me to Philadelphia, PA (where my own father worked for twenty years)…. Last but not the least…. She was very loving to send me to the deep South, Florida for twelve glorious years…. WOW…. How can I say thanks enough to Mary of Mercy for being so considerate to me since 1952, when on the 21st of October I left Rocca Imperiale, in order to become a Mercedarian Friar and Priest?
A Request Made to the Virgin Mary
Before I go the Casa del Padre [house of the Father] I love from the same Mother of God, a very special and last favor…. Mary, can another kind and very passionate man take my place in the same Order which I loved and professed for a good number of years??? I will be a very happy camper in Paradiso, where I hope that the same Mary of Mercy will take me forevermore, despite my human imperfections and so many sins…. Ave Maria de Mercede, Mater et Patrona Nostra, ora pro nobis Peccatoribus.