Emigrate and work
I arrived in Argentina in 1897. I was 17 years old, and we had to emigrate from our native Italy in search of better horizons… because nobody leaves their land if they are well off in it. We settled in Bahía Blanca, and I started working in a tile factory. There was no way I was going to study.
The good thing was that there was a Salesian house there, and it was my second home… where I grew up in the faith, participating in different groups, and with the Salesians I learned to go out to help those who were most in need, to not stay comfortable seeing how others needed a hand.
And now, looking into the distance, I think I could understand the sufferings of so many who lived with many limitations… because I was one of them.
I believed, I promised and I healed
Several times in my life I experienced that God is always with us. Above all, when I was 22 years old, in 1902, when I fell ill with tuberculosis, which at that time was fatal. And although I was in Bernal, studying to become a Salesian, the best remedy at that time was to be in a place with a better climate. So I went to Viedma, where the Salesians had a hospital.
Father Garrone, who was its director, proposed me, in addition to the medicines, to entrust myself to Mary Help of Christians, promising her that if I was cured I would dedicate my whole life to the poorest… and that is how I believed, promised and was healed. I tried to keep this attitude of trust in God and certainty of Mary’s close and active presence throughout my life, and I nourished it with daily prayer and participation in all the moments that helped me to grow and manifest my faith.
With God and with circumstances
I never expected that my life as a Salesian would be to help the sick. But following the example of Don Bosco, who acted as “God inspired him and circumstances demanded it”, I spent fifty years in the Salesian hospital in Viedma. First as a nurse, and then taking charge of everything… mainly looking for that hospital to be an authentic Salesian house.
And although with practice I learned a lot , it became necessary to study in order to provide a better service, especially to the poorest, so that the Hospital’s pharmacy could give medicines almost free of charge. And so it is that in 1917 I obtained my degree in Pharmacy, and in 1948 I enrolled as a nurse… not to exalt myself, but always thinking of service.
In this world no one is leftover
Sick people came to the hospital from everywhere, especially the desperate ones, without resources. I, who had been very sick, understood them very well and received them. I was guided by what Don Bosco had written to the first missionaries who came to Argentina: “Take special care of the sick, the children, the poor and the elderly“.
Some people used to say to me “Zatti, you always get the worst…”, when we received patients that other hospitals rejected. However, for me they were the best… because in them I saw the real presence of Jesus, keeping in mind that “every time you did it to one of these little ones, you did it to me”.
And some of them stayed for a long time. I remember a macrocephalic boy, whose appearance was impressive, and a rather restless mute, who, like all children, made their mischief, which ere sometimes troublesomec. At some point they suggested sending them another place, “so that they can be better cared for and leave the hospital alone“. But I objected: “These two,” I told them, “attract God’s blessings on the hospital“.
With the youngs and in community
I always liked and felt part of the Viedma community, participating in everything I could. Especially in the life of the youngs, trying to help them grow, in the various groups that were formed in the city to propose to walk together in life. I liked to share activities with them, especially those that made us feel more “at home”, as Don Bosco wanted.
On a daily basis, I was also very active in my Salesian religious community, with my brother priests and coadjutors, with whom we shared joys and sorrows. We began the day together with a good time of prayer, we shared meals, tasks, the search for the best for those who needed a hand… and together we faced the changing situations of life, with the certainty of what Don Bosco promised us: “a little bit of paradise fixes everything”.