Ciceri was born to poor farmers in northern Italy in 1900. He was the fourth of six children and, after the death of an aunt, Ciceri’s parents also brought her 13 children to live with them.
From childhood, Ciceri knew he had a vocation to the priesthood. He would go often to the local parish and attend religious functions, serving as altar boy.
With the permission of his devout parents, he left to begin studying at a seminary high school while still in grade school. His achievements earned him scholarships, which allowed him to continue his studies despite his family’s limited financial means. Ciceri was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan at age 23.
As a new priest, he was responsible for the parish’s catechism classes and helped with the Catholic Action youth group. He founded and directed a schola cantorum for young people. Ciceri also helped to repair the buildings, acting as a carpenter, bricklayer, and electrical engineer. The priest also used these skills to build a small reproduction of the Lourdes Grotto.
One young man at the parish wrote that the priest somehow found time to do these activities while also never neglecting his priestly ministry and was “always in church.”
The man said: “Yet if you go to the hospital, you can find him there at any time; if you go around the country, wherever there is a material or spiritual need, a pain to soothe, a need to help, you will find him there. Where you are sure not to find him is at his home, which really is not his home, but that of the young people.”
Ciceri cared for and encouraged the poor, the sick, former prisoners, and the young men who were soldiers fighting at the front during World War II.
In February 1945, while riding his bicycle home from a neighboring parish, where he had helped to hear confessions, he was hit by a buggy and fatally injured. He died two months later, on April 4, at the age of 44, after offering his suffering for an end to World War II and the safe return of soldiers.
In contrast to Ciceri, there is Fr. Alfonso Ugolini, who spent most of his life serving the Church as a layman, before being ordained a priest at age 65. He was declared “venerable” by Pope Francis Nov. 23.
He was born in France in 1908 to a once wealthy Catholic family. After losing everything, they moved to Sassuolo, Italy. Ugolini’s parents were deeply religious and taught their son the values of faithfulness, honesty, and love of neighbor, despite their poverty.