Mother Leonia Milito was born in Sapri, Italy, on 24 June 1913. Since her childhood, she was known for her love of God and neighbour. In her adolescence she joined the Catholic Action where she opened her spirit to great and noble ideals. Later on she felt called to the consecrated life and, after much prayer and reflection, in the midst of struggles, sufferings and opposition, she entered the religious state at the age of 22. Moved by the Holy Spirit, she placed herself totally at the disposal of the Church. Under the guidance of Msgr. Gerald Fernandes, she founded the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony M. Claret, to take care of the poor, motivated by a vibrant missionary zeal. On July 22, 1980 death caught up with her on the road, but her work continued alive, faithful to her religious and missionary ideal.
Drawing inspiration from the ideal of St. Anthony M. Claret, the Congregation’s spirituality is grounded on the devotion to the Eucharist, which is the secret of its perennial vitality. In front of the tabernacle, the life and apostolate of each member is transformed into an oblation, together with Jesus, who sacrifices himself for the glory of the Father and the salvation of humankind, becoming one with Him.
Msgr. Gerald Fernandes was a dynamic and fervent apostle, concerned only with doing the will of the Father always and in everything. Being a Claretian fully convinced of his vocation and of his mission, full of zeal for the spreading of the Reign of Christ, he manifested a special concern for the poor. He took upon himself to be a true father and spiritual guide of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony M. Claret. Born in Contagem (State of Minas Gerais), in Brazil, on 2 February 1913, he joined the Congregation of the Claretian Missionaries, and went through the stages of preparation for the priesthood with great dedication and fidelity. He was ordained a priest in 1936. In 1957 he was appointed Bishop of Londrina, and made Archbishop of the same diocese in 1970.
As the Father of the Congregation, he followed up its development for 25 years, giving it orientation and ample proof of his pastoral concern. He consumed his life in the service of his people whom he always loved and guided, aware that “this world could still be happier,” as he states in his spiritual testament. Msgr. Fernandes left for the Father’s house on 29 March 1982, in São Paulo, Brazil.