Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli
Founder of the F.I.
Fr. Stefano Maria Pio Manelli (of the Immaculate Heart and of the Angels)
Father Stefano Maria Manelli was born in Fiume (today Rijeka, Croatia) on May 1, 1933, the sixth of twenty-one children of two servants of God who process of beatification is underway: Settimio Manelli and Licia Gualandris, both spiritual children of St. Pio da Pietrelcina.
He received his first Holy Communion from Padre Pio in 1938. He entered the minor seminary of the Friars Minor Conventual in Copertino (Lecce) on December 8, 1945, at the age of 12.
He made his simple profession on October 4, 1949; his solemn profession on May 27, 1954; he was ordained a priest on October 30, 1955, the Solemnity of Christ the King.
In 1960 he earned his degree in Sacred Theology defending his doctoral thesis on the Immaculate, at the Pontifical Theological Faculty “Seraphicum” (Rome). He was professor of theology (Patristic, Mariology) in the Seminaries of the Order, in the Archbishop’s Seminary of Benevento, in the Institute of Religious Sciences of Avellino.
He was Prefect of Studies of the Convenual Franciscan Province of Naples.
Around 1965, father Stefano Maria began a long rediscovery and meditation of the Franciscan Sources and the Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe.
The call of the Second Vatican Council to religious for a “return to the sources and adaptation to the changed conditions of the times” as principles of true religious renewal inspire Father Stefano to live fully the Franciscan life in the footsteps of the Poverello of Assisi, following the examples of St. Maximilian Kolbe, “the Saint Francis of the twentieth century”, as St. John Paul II called him.
On August 2, 1970 Father Stefano Maria together with Father Gabriele Maria Pellettieri, with the permission and blessing of their Superiors, begins the “Casa Mariana” in Frigento – an experience of a Franciscan life renewed according to a program of life called “Marian Plan of Franciscan Life.”
In this way, the first Marian House is formed at the Shrine of the “Our Lady of Good Council” in Frigento. After 20 years, on June 22, 1990, this experience shared by many other friars animated by the same ideal of evangelical radicalism, receives the seal of the decree of erection to an Institute of Diocesan Right – signed by the then Archbishop of Benevento Mons. Carlo Minchiatti: “by the decision of the Holy Father” (cf. Secretariat of State Prot. 258.501). On January 1, 1998 the Institute is erection to an Institute of Institute of Papal Right.
On November 1, 1982, together with Father Gabriele, Father Stefano founded the first community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, in Novaliches (Manila), which lives the same form of Franciscan-Marian life as the friars of Casa Mariana. This new community is initially led by Father Gabriele Maria Pellettieri.
On September 8, 1990 in Loreto he is inspired to found a public association of the faithful – the Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix (MIM) – whose members live the charism of the Institute according to their state of life and in different degrees of consecration to the Immaculate (Missionaries of the Immaculate with the Act of Consecration, Missionaries of the Immaculate consecrated private vow, the Franciscan Tertiaries of the Immaculate). This Association was canonically approved for the first time on January 6, 1991 by the Archbishop of Benevento, a second time on May 24, 1997 by decree of Archbishop Mons. Serafino Sprovieri; the MIM was finally officially recognized in the decree of papal erection of the Franciscans of the Immaculate on January 1, 1998 for the friars and November 9,1998 for the nuns.
Father Stefano Maria Manelli was Minister General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from June 23, 1990 to July 11, 2013.