Servant of God Francesco Costantino MAZZIERI was born on March 25, 1889, in the village of Abbadia di Osimo, in Ancona Province, Italy. He was the second son of Francesco and Teresa CURSI. The day after his birth, Francesco was baptized under the names Costantino, Giuseppe and Sante, in the Church of Santa Maria in Cirignano in Abbadia. On October 6, 1895, he received the sacrament of Confirmation at age six and a half.
When he was old enough for schooling, he went to primary school in Cerretano-Castelfidardo, Ancona Province, together with one of his brothers. At that time, his family had moved to be closer to his maternal grandparents. While in Castelfidardo, he met the Conventual Franciscans who were serving at the Church of San Francesco. The young Francesco Costantino became acquainted with a priest who invited him to join him on his visits to families in the surrounding countryside. Thus, Francesco Costantino’s vocation with the Franciscan family began to grow and he prepared to enter the seminary.
On April 6, 1904, his life began a new phase. He arrived at the Friary of San Francesco in Montalto, Ascoli Piceno Province, Italy, where he put on the religious habit of the Conventual Franciscans and began his novitiate year. In 1905, his year of probation concluded and he professed his religious vows. He then was transferred to the friary in Montottone, in Ascoli Piceno Province, where he studied high school-level philosophy and theology until 1911. Meanwhile, in 1909, he made his solemn profession. During his last year of studies in Montottone, he received the tonsure; the four minor orders; and the sub-diaconate. In 1912, he was ordained a deacon and soon after, a priest. His first obedience was to serve as the Rector of Youth Formation at the Conventual Franciscan seminary in the Republic of San Marino. He spent five years there and went on to become the Superior of the community at the seminary in Montottone and then became the Secretary of the Laurentine Province of the Marches, which had its headquarters in Osimo.
In 1930, open to doing missionary work, he responded affirmatively to the appeal of the superiors to found a new mission in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. On May 22, 1930, he and six other confreres received the Crucifix in the Basilica of San Giuseppe da Copertino in Osimo and left shortly after for the mission. He became the Superior of the Conventual Franciscan mission, and showed great faith, wisdom and courage in organizing this new entity. In 1938, by decree of the Holy See, the mission was promoted to the rank of Apostolic Prefecture and the Servant of God was appointed Apostolic Prefect. After spending eleven years in this capacity, Friar Francesco Costantino was named Apostolic Vicar of Ndola, Zambia, and titular Bishop of Celiana. On February 13, 1949, he was ordained a bishop at the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome. In 1959, the mission became a diocese and the Most Reverend Francesco Costantino MAZZIERI was elected first Bishop of Ndola.
April 24, 1966, the Most Reverend Nicola AGNOZZI, OFM Conv., (the former auxiliary) took the leadership of the diocese. At that time, Friar Francesco Costantino asks to remain as a simple missionary friar in a rural mission, and was transferred to the mission of St. Teresa in Ibenga, Zambia. He left his successor a diocese with 110,000 Catholic Christians spread among twenty-six parishes, with churches and oratories, over forty out stations with smaller chapels, fifty priests, eighty seminarians, more than a hundred nuns, twenty-five elementary schools, seven high schools, four hospitals, two orphanages and a leper hospital.
Now a simple friar, he was away from the spotlight and the demanding activity of guiding so many people. In the last years of his life, he made himself available for any job. He did pastoral ministry at the mission out stations. He was a spiritual director for two convents of sisters, and he visited the sick. In community life, he was a model for the other friars- during prayer, when he worked on his own-he was skilled at making Franciscan Rosary Crowns- and during fraternal recreation.
On August 19, 1983, absorbed in this community experience, Francesco Costantino encountered Sister Death, while he was getting ready for prayer in church. He was buried, as he wished, in the cemetery of the St. Theresa Mission in Ibenga. His tomb almost immediately became a place of pilgrimage for those who had known him and had experienced his affection and protection.
The investigation into his cause for beatification was opened on April 14, 1999. After the conclusion of the diocesan phase, the entire dossier arrived in Rome where, after a long work process, the Positio was published. It is now awaiting examination by the Theological Commission.
Friar Damian-Gheorghe PĂTRAŞCU, Postulator General