Malta's first Saint and founder of the M.U.S.E.U.M.
The first canonoised Maltese Saint, son of Vincenzo and Natala née Ceravolo and direct line with Michelangelo and Antonia Debono, Ġorġ Preca is one of the outstanding figures of Catholic Malta. His greatest merit is his vigorous effort in the Christian education of boys and girls through his Society of Christian Doctrine (popularly known as M.U.S.E.U.M.).
Ġorġ Preca was born in Valletta, and from Valletta his family moved to Birkirkara, and then to Ħamrun. Preca was educated at the Lyceum and the Seminary and on 22 December 1906, he was ordained priest.
Still a seminarian, Preca had many contacts with young people. On 7 March 1907 he opened the first small house, at no. 6 Fra Diego Street, Ħamrun, for the teaching of catechism to youngsters. His right-hand men were Eugenio Borg and Ġannina Cutajar, who respectively became the first general superiors for the male and female branches of his society, which was soon called M.U.S.E.U.M. (The word is formed of the first letters of Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus: ‘Master, would that the whole world follow the Gospel)’.
The co-workers of Dun Ġorġ were called ‘Papidi’, ‘Apostles’, and then ‘Soċi’. The first years were difficult. Dun Ġorġ directed a society of laymen who, while teaching catechism, needed to be instructed themselves, in order to give them a hand, Dun Ġorġ began to write several books which, in due course, were revised and printed.
The Church in Malta felt the need for this society but feared that its members were not sufficiently trained. In 1909, Dun Ġorġ was ordered to close down all his houses. But soon the Curia’s order was retracted. After many years, in 1932, Archbishop Mauro Caruana approved the Society. After that date, Dun Ġorġ guided his Society with greater calm. Everyone revered him as a saint.
World War II affected Dun Ġorġ and the Society adversely but the Society eventually continued to expand. In 1952 it spread to Australia. That same year Dun Ġorġ was nominated a Papal Secret Chamberlain, with the title of monsignor. But he never donned a monsignor’s vestment and never bothered to have his nomination confirmed.
Dun Ġorġ continued to teach in all towns and villages of Malta and Gozo till the end. Many were enchanted by his words and deeds. In 1961, after a whole lifetime in Ħamrun, he was constrained to move to St Venera where he died in the house named ‘St Cajetan’ in Canon Road.
Dun Ġorġ throughout his life, enjoyed a saintly reputation and was sought after for counselling and for recourse to divine intervention in desperate cases.
His prolific pen using the native language and word of mouth were his main medium. He was a forerunner in the use of the Bible in Malta and was responsible for the spreading of numerous devotions that have been treasured by many ever since, Archbishop Michael Gonzi, on 24 June 1975, issued the decree starting the process leading to Dun Gorg’s canonization.
It was on 28 June 1999 that Pope John Paul II declared Dun Ġorġ Preca Venerable. This was formally declared in a ceremony at the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican in the presence of Archbishop Joseph Mercieca, who headed a delegation, including high ranking officials of the Society of Christian Doctrine.
On 27 January 2000, Pope John Paul II signed the Decree which spread the way for the beatification. The ceremony was presided by His Holiness Pope John Paul II which took place on the Granaries at Floriana on 9 May 2001, together with Blessed Adeodata Pisani, and Blessed Ignatius Falzon.
On 10 January 2007, the Congregation for Sainthood Causes in Rome approved a second miracle, which led to the canonization of the Blessed Ġorġ Preca. Just over a month after his beatification, an inexplicable medical recovery took place after prayers were said through the intercession of Blessed Preca for the recovery of a baby boy.
On 14 February 2007, the Archbishop of Malta, Mgr Paul Cremona, during a meeting of the Christian Doctrine Society, (M.U.S.E.U.M.), announced that Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree of The Congregation for Sainthood Causes on the miracle that led to the canonization of Blessed Preca. In fact, on 23 February, the Pope declared that Blessed Dun Ġorġ Preca would be canonized, together with three other Blesseds, during a ceremony at the Vatican in Rome on 3 June, 2007. The declaration was made during a solemn meeting at the Vatican’s Sala del Concistorio. Present at the Vatican to receive the news was a delegation, led by Bishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca, Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, and M.U.S.E.U.M.’s superior general Victor Delicata and Phyllis Falzon, superior general for the female section, amongst others.
In November 2008, Archisbop Paul Cremona declared the village of Swatar a new parish dedicated to St Ġorġ Preca, and in May 2016, a life-size bronze statue of San Ġorġ Preca was installed on the niche of the facade of St James Church, Independence Square, Victoria Gozo.
This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.