Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Rest in peace: Msgr. Cornelio Stefani
the Inland Register
(From the September 17, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Msgr. Cornelio (Cornelius) Stefani (IR file photo, 1959)
Msgr. Cornelio (Cornelius) Stefani, a priest formerly of the Spokane Diocese, died Sept. 3 in Italy. He was 91 years old.
The funeral Mass was celebrated Sunday, Sept. 6, at Cristo Re Catholic church in Pordenone, Italy.
Msgr. Stefani was born in Lussingrande (Yugoslavia) March 3, 1924. After 13 years of seminary formation, he was ordained a priest on June 27, 1948 in Pordenone, Italy, for the Archdiocese of Zara (Dalmarzia).
Between 1948 and 1955 he served in two small parishes, but fell victim to post-World War II prejudices against Italians. He was expelled from Yugoslavia and immigrated to the United States and the Diocese of Spokane where he was incardinated in April 1954 by Bishop Charles D. White. By incardinating he became a priest of the Spokane Diocese. (As a side note, three other priests of the diocese – Fathers Breznik, Breznikar and DaLio – came to the Diocese of Spokane around the same time, and under similar circumstances.) According to his niece, Isabella Doxon, he was responsible for building a new church for the parish in Kettle Falls.
Father Stefani, known in the United States as Cornelius, served in the Spokane Diocese as assistant pastor of St. Joseph and St. Augustine parishes, Spokane; administrator of Pure Heart of Mary Parish, Northport; Vicar Assistant at St. Patrick Parish, Colfax; and pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Dayton.
During his time at Colfax he oversaw the care of 64 Cuban children refugees who had come to the United States as a result of the Castro Revolution. They were housed in the parish’s former St. John Academy, once staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
These children were parentless here in the United States until they could be placed with relatives, foster families, or until their parents could join them. Some children were there for four years. Father Stefani kept a loving, watchful eye on them. Many still communicated with him and visited him in Italy up until his death. Some still communicate with Father Stefani’s family.
Father Stefani returned to Italy in July 1972 to care for his aged mother. There he ministered in nursing homes, assisted as a chaplain at the Air Force base in Avion, and built assisted living homes in Pordenone, Italy and Cunsky, Croatia, both named Casa Betania (Bethany House).
He ran a mountain retreat in the summer months and built a church for summer tourists in Artatore, Croatia.
On May 13, 1996 arrangements were finalized under Bishop Skylstad for Father Stefani’s incardination in the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone (Italy).
He was active as director of the Pordenone Bethany House up until a month before he died. His niece reports that the family knew the best time to reach him was at 9 a.m. in his office and never to try at 3 p.m. when he would be having his Italian afternoon riposo (nap).
He was a servant of God and God’s people his entire life, and many will miss him.
Msgr. Stefani is survived by siblings Armando Stefani, Federal Way, Wash.; Ezio Stefani, East Setauket, N.Y.; Anita Della Valentina, Pordenone, Italy; by eight nieces and nephews, and nine grandnieces and nephews. His brother Luciano Stefani preceded him in death.
Memorial gifts may be made to St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1018 S. Main St. Colfax, WA 99111.
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