The Priest Deprived from Entering the Society of Jesus

The son of Dr Ascanio Surdo UID, Fiscal Lawyer of the Holy Office in Malta, and Margarita, Franciscus was baptised in Vittoriosa on 22 October 1596. He hailed from a very rich family. The Boschetto territory originally belonged to them but in 1559 they exchanged it with Grand Master of the Order of St John who gave them another territory in lieu of this property.

In 1605, at eleven years of age he was granted the Treasurership of the Cathedral, from which he resigned in 1621. On 5 October 1634 Franciscus Surdo graduated Doctor in both Laws from the College of Consistorial Advocates in Rome. The date of his ordination to the priesthood has not been established.  He was appointed parish priest of Ħaż-Żebbuġ after Rev. Vassallo in 1636, but on 17 February 1637 he was again granted the Treasurership of the Cathedral, and was installed on the 15 April of the same year.

On various occasions from November 1638 until October 1640 Rev Surdo was absent from Malta. After a lapse of five years as Treasurer, he resigned once more this dignity to enter the Society of Jesus about 1641. It seems that he had already joined the Jesuits earlier. This resulted from a letter dated 5 November 1637 which the Father General wrote to Rev. Surdo, informing him that on the insistence of the Grand Master, he was already to re-accept him in his Order.

On 23 July 1640, writing from Palermo, Rev. Surdo informed Fr General that he had resigned the Treasurership. In 1649 he formed part of the Jesuit Community residing at the Maltese Collegium Melitense. He must have left the Society soon afterwards because in 1652, he requested, once more to be admitted as a Jesuit. The Jesuit Father General, on 18 July 1652, informed him that there were difficulties to submit him to the Novitiate at his advanced age. 

Fr Franciscus Surdo, in the meantime planned to bring with him all his assets and thereby would have caused no inconvenience for his upkeep and other needs. He could even provide for the subsistence of other Jesuits. He had explained all this to the Father General in a letter dated 2 November 1652. Nothwithstanding these attractive proposals, the Father General wrote a negative reply to the Sicilian Provincial insisting that he could not be received again as a Jesuit.  However, the said Provincial was requested to discuss this matter with his counsellors. Rev Surdo continued writing letters to the Father General insisting on his acceptance as a Jesuit.

On 15 January 1654 the same Father General infomed Fr Surdo that although it was impossible to accept him within the Italian Province, he wrote the Provincial of Aragon to find out whether he was ready to accept him in the Novitiate of Malaga. On 24 September 1654 the Jesuit Father General informed Surdo that he could proceed to Spain and was to join the Province of Aragon. Fr Surdo was extremely delighted with this news, but this ray of hope started to fade down soon afterwards. In April 1655, other problems cropped up, and Fr Surdo decided to proceed abroad and go to Corsica, but Fr General disuaded him from this project on account of the hot weather he would have to face. On the following 2 September Father General wrote another letter to Fr Surdo in which he expressed his disappointment for all that had happened and informed him that he was still ready to accept him in the Society of Jesus. On the following days, something strange seemed to have taken place. On the 9th of the same month, Father General wrote to the Sicilian Provincial informing him that Fr Surdo was excluded from joining the Society. On the last day of that month he communicated his decision to the man who had been involved in these tiring vicissitudes throughout three long years of letter writing. It seems that Franciscus Surdo had tried to go to Genoa and the Provincial of Lombardy seemed inclined to receive him in his Province. On 21 October 1655 Father General instructed the said Provincial to withdraw any permission which he could have taken in this matter.

Once these decisions had been taken, Fr Surdo decided to leave Malta and settle down in Rome. On 31 December 1657 he was already parish priest of Santa Lucia di Tinta at Campo Marzio. In 1659 he had as his curate a Maltese priest Fr Joannes Baptist Borg.

Fr Franciscus Surdo died in Rome on 14 May 1668 and was buried in his parish church in front of St Francis Xavier’s altar. Here it was stated that he was seventy years old. With him the Surdo family became extint.

His father was a Roman Patrician and Senator, a privilege granted to him in 1590.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.

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