Klaus Vella Bardon writes...
On January 20, Malta lost one of its most outstanding men with the death of Fr Hermann Mizzi OCD who lived to the venerable age of 91.
As was the case of most Maltese his age, his youth was tempered by the horrors of WWII when the Church in Malta was still a pillar of strength and religious vocations were numerous. He joined the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in 1940 and was ordained a priest at the age of 23 in March 1948.
I had the privilege to get to know him in early 1985 when he turned up for dental treatment. I was captivated by his unassuming demeanour and infectious sense of humour. Little did I know what an adventurous life he had already spent and what greater challenges awaited him.
He started his missionary life in 1949 when he went to Abadan, in Iran and joined four other co-nationals in the same order. They were very shabbily treated by the police and he was unceremoniously expelled one night, wearing only his pyjamas. A friendly boatman ferried him over to Iraq, accepting his word that his colleagues in Basra would foot the bill of the crossing.
He remained in Iraq until 1975 where he learnt Aramaic and was also directed by the Sacred Congregation of Oriental Churches to celebrate the sacraments in the Chaldean Rite. This enabled him to offer pastoral work to Armenian, Chaldean and Maronite communities.
During the preparatory stages of Vatican Council II, he was appointed as one of the experts on the liturgy as celebrated in the eastern rites.
He was also interested in archaeology, which he studied in the University of Malta and remained a keen member of Din l-Art Ħelwa. He applied his archaeological skills working with a team in a project to conserve and restore the site situated in the Wadi ‘ain es-Siah on Mount Carmel close to Haifa. This is the location where the first Carmelite hermits settled and lived and is the cradle of the Order of Carmel.
However, his most dramatic chapter of his missionary vocation took place in Kuwait as he was there shortly before the Iraqi invasion. Along with the formidable Maltese Bishop Mgr Francis George Micallef OCD and five other priests, he remained in Kuwait during that harrowing time. Throughout, he did his best to help and offer support to one and all. Some of his exploits are referred to in the book by Fr John Caruana on Maltese missionaries.
I met him after he left Kuwait when he was now already 66 years old. He was as energetic as ever and on his way to Egypt to found a hospital in Alexandria and upgrade to professional standards one in Cairo.
He was studying hospital management and even Polish to be able to communicate with Polish nationals on the medical staff. I asked him to give me the secret of his tireless enthusiasm. He jokingly answered: “The mind leads and the body follows.”
He returned to Malta in 2010 at the age of 86 and spent the remainder of his life in pastoral work at Cospicua and then Birkirkara where he was a much sought after confessor.
The legendary life of this remarkable man in the service of God and his fellow men makes us proud and should be an inspiration to us all.
One hopes that religious orders in Malta will take the time and effort to chronicle the amazing life histories of their heroic members who devoted their lives to serving others and spreading the good news in the most demanding environments.