Congregation of Oblates of 

Mater Orphanorum

Who is Father Giovanni Antonio Rocco?

Father Giovanni Antonio Rocco, c.r.s. was born in Cercemaggiore (CB) Italy, on April 28th of 1913, son of Gianvincenzo Rocco and Carmela Cantarini.


His studies of Primary Education were carried out in his hometown, and since he was a child, he showed a great religious spirit, so immediately after his elementary school, in October 1923, at age of 10, he joined the community of the Somascan Fathers as a candidate of Religious Life, in Velletri. Then, he attended his basic studies in Rome and in Milan.

In September of 1928, he started his Novitiate in Rome where he made his Vows of simple Profession. From the year of 1929 to the year 1935 at the Seminary of Genoa, he dedicated himself successfully to the philosophical studies. In April of 1934, at only 21 years old, he made his final Profession, and in July of the same year, he obtained his bachelor's degrees in Theology, in the city of Como. On July 26th of 1936, in the Basilica of the Most Holy Crucifix, in Como, he was ordained Priest by the hands of His Excellency Archbishop Alessandro Macchi c.r.s.




In September of 1936, the General Superior of the Order, Father Giovanni Ceriani CRS, sent Father Antonio Rocco, to the Corbetta student body in Milan, Italy. The following year, with special permission of the Holy Father Pius XII, because of his young age, he was elected director of the Novitiate. In November of 1940, he obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Milan,  with the highest marks and the highest honors, which allowed him to teach Philosophy, Theology, Psychology, and Mariology to the young people of the Theological and Philosophical Seminary of the Somascan Fathers.


In the year of 1945, the war ended, full of mourning, ruins, piles of rubble, much misery and despair; in the midst of the difficult and problematic post-war climate, the Spirit of the Lord let's fall in the heart and mind of this faithful son of St. Jerome Emiliani his seed that will resume the Work and the Charism: the care of the orphans and abandoned youth. The concern that most impresses the heart of Father Antonio Rocco is that of orphans and abandoned youth, in the cities and the countryside.


Father Antonio Rocco devoted and in love with the Blessed Mary, being already the director of the Somascan Clergy of Corbetta, and helping the principal of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Miracles, right there, in front of the image, he feels the strong impulse and inspiration that since a while was in his heart. There he had the clear sensation of hearing a voice, "It's me who wants it."


Father Antonio Rocco and the Orphans  


Immediately after the war, Father Rocco was shocked by the many orphan children and abandoned youth. From this situation is born the will and desire to found a charitable institution that he called “Mater Orphanorum,” which means Mother of Orphans.


He started the institution alone, and without any resource and protection, except the blessing of the General Superior of the Somascos and the approval of the Bishop of Milan. Immediately, two young women joined him, which were the first two Oblates of Mother of Orphans: Sr. Rosetta Pastori and Sr. Mariuccia Tonetti. Later Sr. Giannina Fornaroli joined the new community. The four of them started the mission in absolute poverty. They rented a house in Castelletto di Cuggiono, and in that place, they started to welcome the orphaned girls. It was on September 8, 1945, and since then, from the first house of "Mater Orphanorum", founded in Castelletto di Cuggiono until today his Work has been uncontainable.


The stages of Mother of Orphans 


In SEPTEMBER 8th, 1945: Father Antonio Rocco, in Castelletto of Cuggiono, began the order by opening the first house, for rent, where many abandoned girls without someone and nothing during the Second World War were welcomed. Miraculously, in a short time, several Institutes were founded in Italy, and later,  around the world.


In the historic site of the Battle of Legnano, was built the first Temple in the world, "The Most Holy Mary, Mother of the Orphans", dedicated to  "Mater Orphanorum". In 1955, the Bishop of Milan later Pope Paul VI, blessed the temple, which is until now, the greatest and most beautiful temple dedicated to the Mother of God with the sweet name of Mother of the Orphans.


“Mater Orphanorum is a missionary by birth, by ideal, by the generous conquests." These words taken from the Constitutions of the Oblates of the Mother of Orphans are the "presentation card" of the praiseworthy Institution. They trace an apostolic program even for the present time. Our "Missionary" possibilities is an open field for everyone.

Since September 8th, 1945, when the first Oblates met with the name of "Mother of the Orphans," in Castelletto di Cuggiono (MI), to the Decree of Canonical Erection (18-04-1968), the mustard seed has become a tree: a dozen of Institutes, hundreds of girls in need who have found a house and a smile. We have now mission centers in Latin America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia. In Africa: Touboro and Ngaoundéré, Cameroun, and in Angola in the Diocese of Uije.

The Reverend Father Antonio Rocco, CRS, Founder of this wonderful Institution, passed away on July 16, 2003, in Legnano. His mortal body rests in the Orphanis Matri Sanctuary, (Mother of the Orphans Sanctuary) that he built by himself in Legnano.

con superiori
padre rocco con un gruppo di suore

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me”

(Matthew 25:40).