By Daniel Tay
SINGAPORE – As prior of the Church of the Infant Jesus in Prague, 69-year-old Carmelite Father Anastasio Roggero has met many pilgrims who visit the church and ask for blessings from the Infant Jesus – among them French President Nicholas Sarkozy when he was a government minister and Singapore President S. R. Nathan.
Father Anastasio is quite the linguist, with the ability to celebrate Mass in ten different languages, and he tries to welcome pilgrims in their own native language.
Father Anastasio was sent to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, in 1993. This occurred after a call by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk to the Discalced Carmelites to return after a 200-year absence to their church in Prague to reawaken devotion to the Infant Jesus and to give pastoral care to Czechs and pilgrims from all over the world. Under Father Anastasio, the first Carmelite community to live in Prague since 1784 was born.
Father Anastasio was in Singapore from Jan 9-14 to celebrate the inauguration of the new Infant Jesus shrine at the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. He explained that his main reason for coming is to help Singaporean devotees to the Infant Jesus to realize that it is more than a devotion that they are called to. They are called to the mission of the Infant Jesus.
The Infant Jesus mission almost always begins with education, just as how the Infant Jesus Sisters were first invited to Singapore by Father Jean-Marie Beurel to start a school for girls here. "In developed countries, the emphasis for young people is education. But in developing countries like Africa, the emphasis is on work and production, not education," he explained.
Through Father Anastasio, with the help of Muslim benefactors, the Infant Jesus mission in Central Africa Republic (where he was procurator for the Infant Jesus mission from 1975-1993) provides work to some 400 young people there because "work brings food", he said. "Our main work is evangelization, but how can people pray without eating?" he asked rhetorically. Thus his focus is on providing education with work.
His creativity as a missionary has enabled him to create jobs for the young people there.
Father Anastasio also emphasized that the school, hospital and nursery run by the mission welcomes all children of God with this message: "I welcome all children, Protestants or Muslims. Why is there such a division? Because we didn’t listen to Jesus to love one another."
Despite having touched the lives of many, Father Anastasio’s greatest challenge is "to be faithful to my religious life, to be a true Carmelite", he confided. "Fighting my own ego, trying to improve myself, and to help others to become better people are my biggest challenges."n