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Illuminato Cecchini

Italy

From Bakhita's Diary

A catechumen


We then returned to Mirano where we were to slay for two years. When Mrs. Michieli decided to go back for a moment to Suakin, she wanted to admit the child into a boarding school where she would receive a good education. The Canossian Sisters in Venice agreed to give the child hospitality in their Catechumenate and I was expected to stay with her. Thus I had the opportunity to be instructed in the Christian faith. But why should a child who was already baptised be kept in a Catechumenate? When Mrs. Turina insisted that the two of us, Mimmina and myself should not be parted, a problem arose which dragged on for a long month, without any conclusion.
It was Mrs. Michieli's administrator, Illuminato Checchini who stepped in to solve the dilemma. He was a man with a golden heart, intelligent, honest, open, and an excellent Catholic. From the very beginning he had developed a fatherly affection for me.
When he handed a Crucifìx over to me, I noticed that he kissed it with great devotion. He then explained to me that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that he had died for us. I naturally did not grasp the meaning of this, but urged by inner feelings, I hid the Cross, afraid that the mistress might take it away from me. Until that day I had never hidden anything from her, nor had any reason to do so. After all, I owned nothing of my own; nor was I attached to anything. I now remember how,as I looked at the Crucifix, I experienced a strange feeling which I could not explain. Thus both the child and myself were admitted to the Institute, since Mimmina refused absolutely to be parted from me.
We were entrusted to the Sister in charge of the instruction of the Catechumens. Whenever I think of the loving care she lavished on me, even now my eyes fill with tears. She wanted to know whether it was really my intention to become a Christian. On hearing that, indeed, this was my intention and the purpose for being here, she was overjoyed.
And so the saintly Sister, with a patience that was truly heroic, instructed me and made known to me that God whom, since my childhood, I had experienced in my heart without realizing Who He
was.
I remembered then how, as a child, contemplating the sun, the moon, the stars and all the beautiful things of nature, I had asked myself "Who can the master of all these beautiful things be?"And l felt a keen desire to seeHim, know Him and pay Him homage. And now I know Him: "Thank you, Lord, thank you!"
The gentle Sister responsible for all this was Sr. Fabretti and she used to say that "I drank in the truth of the faith".


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