The intersection of life and death couldn’t be more poignant than Fr. Andrew’s death on Easter Sunday following a serious head injury. You might not have thought that his slight frame could have supported such a large, abundantly flowing heart. But it was his heart that guided the movements of his life, from his early call as a labor organizer to his later, lifelong vocation as a monk and priest.
Born in Bellusco, Italy, Andrew worked for years as a machinist and advocate for workers rights. He entered the Camaldolese Order on October 27, 1970 and proceeded through the novitiate to profession in 1972, making his golden jubilee – 50 years of monastic profession – this year. Andrew’s deep friendship with Fr. Robert Hale dates back to these years when Robert was studying and teaching in Rome and Andrew was studying for the priesthood. Andrew was ordained in 1979 and gained early leadership experience at San Gregorio where he was in charge of formation and the monastery itself for awhile. Also formative in these years was Andrew’s relationship with Prior General Benedetto Calati, who along with Robert, encouraged Andrew to travel to California. Calati’s focus on love was a perfect match for Andrew’s most fundamental way of being.
Though his first trip in 1980 was ostensibly just to learn English, he soon joined with Robert at the new Episcopal/Catholic Community in Berkeley, Incarnation Priory. Andrew took on leadership responsibilities early and was well positioned to become Prior of the joint community in 1988 when Robert became Prior of NCH. Andrew went on to become the first Prior of Incarnation Monastery. Andrew in many ways, was Incarnation Monastery: there from the beginning, caring for people, meeting pastoral needs and building the vibrant community we have today. For Fr. Andrew, it was important that there be, and continue to be, a Camaldolese Benedictine presence in the diocese of Oakland, witnessing to the current and future needs of Berkeley and the entire diocese.
Andrew’s loving presence and humility served him well. To earn a living, he worked as a Sacristan and even a house cleaner at times. He led retreats, did parish work – most notably for ten years at St. Catherine of Siena in Burlingame – and soon became chaplain for the Italian Catholic Federation. His role there included celebrating the mass in diverse venues around the Bay Area ranging from community centers to the vineyards in Napa. When Andrew retired from the Foundation after nearly 30 years, his loving, pastoral presence had earned him many lifelong friends.
Andrew said in an old newsletter column: ‘It seems to me that if we are able to penetrate the core of Benedict’s teaching on Humility, not in a pious way but as God manifested to us and all creation in Christ, in the Gospel, then we will be able to love our own faith, yes, and also accept the others who seem different from us’. And it is that spirit of radical hospitality that guided Andrew’s heart and the growth of Incarnation Monastery.