Roncalli’s prophecy has come true

The words of Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, then Pope John XXIII, on 23 October 1956, at the laying of the foundation stone of the “Opera della Provvidenza Sant’Antonio” (OPSA) in Sarmeola, part of the municipality of Rubano, were prophetic: “We are gathered here, lay and ecclesiastical, to collaborate in the construction of a new temple of God - Hospital House of God - Hotel Dieu, the noblest expression of our religious and civil maturity that honors the great Christian message, engraved in the two words that summarize the thought and life of the Church: ‘fides et charitas’, the faith splendor of intelligence, ‘fides quaerens intellectum’, the exultant charity in hearts and works”.

The prophecy of Saint John XXIII has become reality because in the souls of the whole of civil society the respect and promotion of the human person beyond all disabilities have sprung up. This splendid reality has been financially supported since its inception by our Association, which has also documented its prodigious development through the magazine “The Saint of Miracles”, until the OPSA itself began publishing its own monthly bulletin. We talk about it with Dr. Emanuele Vignali, Health Director of the Home.

The “Opera della Provvidenza Sant’Antonio” Home, born thanks to Bishop Girolamo Bortignon, wanted to give a concrete response to a serious human and social problem, that of people with serious disabilities, abandoned, without adequate health and social welfare protection. At that time the priority was the need to welcome these unfortunate people by offering them serenity and a family atmosphere. Has the type of people welcomed changed? “Over the years, in the territory of the Veneto Region, an articulated system of services in favour of People with Disabilities has been created, characterized by the inclusion in educational programs in compulsory school and phased integration into the world of work, by the activities of Day Care Centres and by the birth of small residential communities. The OPSA, therefore, faithful to its mission of dedicating itself to the last among the last, has been specialising in the reception of People with Disabilities in adulthood and old age with high health and care needs and, starting from the first years of the new millennium, has begun to develop activities in favour of people suffering from cognitive impairment, which represent one of the major social emergencies of our day. In 2006 ‘Madre Teresa di Calcutta’ Centre was founded, with its two day centres and two residential units, for the benefit of people with early or moderate cognitive impairment. A few years later, the ‘San Massimiliano Kolbe’ Home, for people with advanced dementia, was born. In them, we try to slow down the evolution of the disease until this is possible and, in any case, to guarantee care and dignity to the person even in the terminal phases of his or her life. Another service that characterizes the OPSA is that of ‘Mons. G. Bortignon’ Home, which for many years has welcomed priests and religious who are no longer self-sufficient in a context of life consistent with their past pastoral experience”.

Is the OPSA continuing its service to the disabled? “Even now, of course, the Area of People with Disabilities is the one that most characterizes the OPSA: as of 31 December 2018, 406 people were included in the Services dedicated to them, the Healthcare Residence and the Reference Centre for Serious Disabilities. 2018 was a particularly important year for the Disability Area of the OPSA because in December the contractual agreement that will govern relations with the OPSA in the coming years was signed with ULSS (Unità Locale Socio-Sanitaria, Local Socio Healthcare Unit) no. 6 (the previous agreement dates back to 2001). Recently, finally, the Institutional Accreditation was renewed and, on that occasion, it was once again recognized the excellent level of assistance we give to our Guests”.

To cover the costs of the facilities and those of the 593 employees, who do you use? “The legislation provides that the costs incurred by the structures to guarantee the assistance are covered by regional and municipal contributions, by the Guests—within the limits of their possibilities—and, in the case of the non-self-sufficient elderly, also by their families. Unfortunately, all these contributions are not sufficient and therefore only the continuous help of Providence allows us to guarantee dignified assistance to the people received. The very survival of the OPSA is made possible only by the generous daily help that comes from the many benefactors”.