Marcelo Morsella remembers “La Finca”
(Excerpt from Soy capitán triunfante de mi estrella: perfil biográfico de Marcelo Javier Morsella by Fr. Miguel Fuentes, IVE)
Toward the end of 1984, we began to look for a house where the seminarians could live to have an experience of religious life. The seminary on Tirasso Street was entrusted to the Institute, but religious life could not be imposed on the diocesan seminarians, nor could proper formation be delayed any longer to those who desired to live religious life. In the summer of 1984-85, the idea was finalized for a proper house. They called it “La Finca.”
La Finca, as it has always been called, is a plot of land six hectares located in El Toledano, five kilometers west of the city of San Rafael. It is very close to the airport on El Chañaral Street, which runs alongside the railroads on which the trains at that time would create clouds of dust whenever they passed by. La Finca was baptized “Villa de Luján” (Village of Lujan). In more flourishing times, it was a very calm and beautiful place, full of pear, olive, apricot and peach trees as well as vineyards, according to elders; today, it is impoverished due to inclement weather, the hail (which San Rafael locals call la piedra, or “the rock,” because of the incredible sizes it can reach, destroying everything), and the general maladies of the country. From there one can see the “Blue Mountains” which would so call the attention of Marcelo and which are the hills of Valle Grande and the slopes of Terneros, along with El Carrizalito and the hills of El Guardia; but also one can see (especially on clear, frosted days) the mountains of Cordillera, which are impressive when snowcapped.
The purchase was made at the beginning of November and December 1984. When it was bought it had only one large house, practically on the street, behind a pigsty and an adobe barn; in the back were dried up fruits and a lot of wasteland; on the other side was an abandoned vineyard. The house originally had an entrance hall, four normal size rooms, two antechambers, a bathroom and kitchen, rod ceilings, and a zinc-sheeted roof. The house was baptized with the name “Saint Peter.” The most illuminated room (entering the hall to the left), which had two windows, was designated as the chapel and was given the name “Chapel of the Annunciation,” the first of which the Congregation could call her own. It remains as such to this day, albeit remodeled. The First Mass was celebrated on February 22, 1985, the feast of the Basilica of Saint Peter.
At first, and for some time, the inhabitants came (that is to say, more than usual, because even up to now, not much has changed). At one point there were not only bunkbeds, but triple bunkbeds and even a quadruple bunkbed, three or four beds firmly stacked together. (The man at the highest level would sleep only a few centimeters from the roof frame, unable to sit up without hitting the roof with his head). At one point twelve seminarians lived in a room four meters long and four meters wide. Upon arriving, Marcelo had to sleep in what is now the entrance hall, on a bed which had to be taken out every Sunday so that lay people could enter to attend the Holy Mass which was celebrated in the adjacent chapel with open doors. (In other words, the Mass was so full that some people had to stand outside in order to attend Mass.)
Marcelo moved in during the first few days of August 1985, the final days of winter. He wrote to His mother:
“A few days ago I moved to la Finca with a few more companions. We are a little tight, but this Saturday, some guys are coming from Buenos Aires to build a prefabricated house that we’re putting up in the back. The base is already done…it is a little cold here, but these are the final days of winter. The house at la Finca, though small, is a lot warmer than the seminary.” (Letter To His mother: August 8, 1985)
And to his Father:
“I also moved to the Institute of the Incarnate Word seminary at la Finca. I think I already told you that there we were being formed. Well, now we seminarians that want to be religious are living in a farm near the seminary and in the morning we go there for studies.” (Letter To His mother: August 8, 1985)
During these first few days he writes one of many letters to your aunt tell her about your well-being:
“I am really happy here. Pray so that I may be a Priest like the one Christ wants me to be. I always pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary for you and the Family.” (Letter To His mother: August 8, 1985)
Marcelo was very happy. He also wrote in his letter, “Life here is an anticipation of heaven.” He was very happy even under the many hardships and the poverty that was lived during those times – not him alone but in all of them-, and the first religious of the institute always attributed the fruitfulness of their vocation with what God blessed them.
We lived, as we always have, with donations, almost without any comforts. During the winter there was not much heating except for a salamandra (wooden stove), whenever there was one. As was common in San Rafael, the water used for bathing was heated with a quematuti (wooden water heater). Marcelo was not very practical in managing it, as demonstrated in a testimony given by Brother Jorge Pedernera, the first perpetual brother of the Institute: “I remember –as if I were talking with Marcelo- when you turned on the quematuti, and called out, ‘Brother, Brother, Help Me!’ and saw you run with a bucket full of water to throw on the quematuti. I saw you come out covered in ashes and you told me: “The walls were shaking.” I ran to the bathroom and told you: ‘Marcelo, I turned on the hot water’, then we saw steam running out of the faucet. I went to the bathroom, and saw that one of the lids was all wrinkled because hot water along with cold water were flowing through the cold water pipes.”
At this time Marcelo helped Father Buela as his personal secretary. His companion noted that he performed his office great responsibility, without indiscretions, always keeping secret how much he did, wrote, and read for work.
During his vacations in May, and after having to sell a hundred liters of olive oil in Buenos Aires to pay for his fare home – which which is to say, not having a dollar to spare – the first congregation bus was purchased thanks to the donations received in only two days. A Mercedes 3-11, 1969 model, dilapidated and nearly worn out, for which we had to buy spare tires, a battery, wrench, insurance, gasoline and twenty liters of oil, made the trip to San Rafael a 36-hour one. They suffered a flat tire six times. A rubber worker encountered along the way told them: “put repellant on these rubber tires, because even the mosquitos flatten them.” Further up, after painting it with the papal colors – white with yellow strips – everyone called it “Moby Dick,” or simply “The Moby”, to spontaneously invoke the white whale; these are the names that appear in the Marcelo’s letters.
On May 17, Fr. Reynaldo Anzulivich, Fr. Carlos Morales and Fr. Jose Hayes, all having been recently integrated into the congregation, were placed in charge of the parish of Suncho Corral in the Diocese of Añatuya. It was the congregation’s first parish and had great importance for Marcelo in that it belonged to the village of Matara, a fact that always remained intertwined in the memories of Marcelo (as will be mentioned later).
During the middle of 1985, by means of Don Juan Mazzeo in Buenos Aires, we received a donation of a prefabricated house 80 cubic square meters. It was built as soon as it arrived in San Rafael, about 100 meters away from the house of St. Peter, heading towards the backend of the farm; it was christened “St. Paul’s House.” Marcelo worked with his companions in building the cabins which they had put up themselves, tired of waiting for the builder who was supposed to come and build it for them. Fortunately the builders arrived when they were fruitlessly trying to join the wooden walls. Soon afterward he wrote to his mother:
Thanks be to God, we here at La Finca are now occupying a prefabricated house that we built in back about 60 meters behind the original house. Here in La Finca we are around 40, and in the seminary, about 50; in total, there are approximately 90 seminarians.
To his grandmother he writes that the prefabricated house in which they live “is very good”:
“Thanks be to God, it’s not so cold here anymore. The prefabricated house that we built behind the already existing house in La Finca in which I’m currently living is very good.”
“Here at the farm of the Congregation of the ‘Incarnate Word’ that we are forming, we are all very well, thanks be to God. I live in a prefabricated house which we ourselves constructed; we really did put it up, even though the parts came in already made, as you know.”
Father Gasper Farre, a companion who lived with Marcelo for several months in 1985 in St. Paul’s House and slept in the adjacent bed, says that Marcelo was very organized with his things; he perfectly kept “Grand Silence,” the silence kept by religious at night; and when he couldn’t hold in a laugh because of the jokes by some companion, he would place his smiling face into his sheets, but without saying a word. One day, walking from the back end of the farm towards St. Peter’s House, talking about the birth of the Congregation, he said, “We are the first … and we have to be saints.”
On those dates he writes: “Providence overwhelms us with gentleness.”
“Here the weather is incredible; it’s not cold anymore, and this place has transformed itself into an orchard.”